I have been taking Aikido for a couple of weeks now and the ukemi is taking its toll on me.
The way our class is structured, beginners are put with advanced students and you learn your ukemi, breakfalls, and techniques through the class exercises. There is no beginner class to learn ukemi and basic techniques.
I see some of the wisdom in this type of training and I like my school and instructor alot but is a little rough on the beginner's body.
Does anyone know any good websites that have pictures/ video clips etc. of proper ukemi techniques that I could view to help me learn how to do right? In my class I have received alot of help but everyone seems to be telling me a different way to do it and I end up hurting myself trying to implement their advice.
Re: Beginning Ukemi
Of course if you go for a video - you potentially have one more source telling you a different way to do it.
One of the biggest problems faced by beginners is that from that end everybody is an expert or worse, from the other end everyone thinks they have something to teach. One of the reasons I like the use of coloured belts is there is at least a bit of a visual clue - but I digress.
As a beginner pick one or two or the more senior students and use them for specific questions if you think your sensei has their hands full. In fact for something like ukemi - pick one person only. Most likely your difficulty is because your are dealing with and trying to accomodate conflicting advice rather than using someone else's method to find what works for you. Ukemi is important - stay away from those that have just figured it out themselves.
Hi Michael, and welcome to the wonderful world of Aikido:)
Ukemi generally is the beginner's stumbling block, but it will get better, I promise. The problem with videos, websites, etc is they cannot watch you, and they will have as many points of view as you have already seen in your dojo. This would be my advice: pick one individual to help you. You can choose by how you relate to them, or if you like their ukemi (I'd choose this above all), or both. Ask them if they would come before or stay after class for a while to work with you on ukemi. If others give advice, thank them but explain nicely that So-and-so is working with you on your ukemi and you want to focus on just one person's advice right now (they should understand, we've all been there). Then practice. Practice. Practice.
I think it is a shame more dojos don't have a beginner's class that focuses on ukemi, and more ukemi as warm up. My first dojo did, and I am eternally grateful. It is difficult to focus on what you are feeling in technique if you are still afraid of falling. But in addition to the beginners classes and the ukemi-til-they-drop drills (literally) of my first dojo, my number one focus was ukemi (still is). I did rolls and falls before and after class everyday. I went to open practice and did ukemi for an hour. I offered to uke for anyone and everyone during open practice (this resulted in over an hour of shihonage once, and other time an hour of koshinage:confused: ).
I always tried to end practice on a postive note--if I had a good roll or fall near the end of a practice period I stopped there. If I had a bad roll, I do a few more until I got a good one, so I had a positive outlook on how they were coming to stay in my head til the next day. I tried not to push myself once I felt too tired...then mistakes can happen. Anyway, I hope this helps, good luck with those rolls.
Thanks for the advice, I will try and find a senior student that I can learn from.
Just to repeat what Colleen and Peter have said in different words, I advise you to practice ukemi on your own before and after class.
I personally advise you however not to ask too much advice. I think you learn much better from watching passively without trying to understand, and then from doing it yourself as many times as you can not caring if it's not really correct. The correct way, if there is such thing, will eventually come instinctively and you won't forget it or have problems breaking it down.
I personally think you have to try hard to understand. IMHO trying to understand and thinking everything through to concepts which you can understand is a crucial part of Aikido. That's why older beginners are in some period much better than younger ones - they think more. Ask, try to think which one of the answers makes the most sense, put them together as pieces of a puzzle - one senior teaches you that you have to be like a wheel, another says your arm must be strong, third one says if you move at a greater speed it's easier. It's all true. You just have to be very careful to pick out the knowledge which will help you.
Oh yeah... and last but not least - practice, practice, practice. Ukemi cannot be tought. It only can be learned.
I respect your opinion, but I think the worst thing to do for any martial artist is to try to understand techniques cerebrally.
The japanese way, I might call it the natural way, is to let your body understand while your mind stays passively receptive, if you see what I mean. Trying to analyse techniques into details will not make you do them better.
bucking the tide
Most of the damage and injury from ukemi is from the oldest problem in the book, resistence and tension.
Believe it or not, most throws, falls, and even breakfalls have a natual rythym.
I remember the first year I started Aikido after the rough and tumble Karate classes I had just come from ... some days I thought I was going to break some of the guys because they would use way too much force to bring about the pain needed to do a technique. In the manner which I learned to do jujitsu, you brought about pain to manipulate someone, but not enough to cause damage to your partner. My Aikido counterparts were not that adept in feeling the different degrees of pressure needed for manipulation because their ukes were always pliant?
The same goes for ukemi.
You can wait to be thrown, you can try to be ahead of the throw, or you can learn to go along with the throw ... the latter being the best of all situations for ukemi.
Maybe you are stressing out because you are concerned about looking silly, or you want to be as good as the advanced students?
Don't be concerned about what others think, you will advance as quickly as you are able to ... injurys from tensing up or falling flat are not gonna help.
I am sure you have already been told to fall into a round ball from right shoulder to left hip and left shoulder to right hip while never letting your head hit the mat keeping your chin tucked into your chest or looking at your belly button when you fall?
Sometimes I wish I had videos of all the people who were falling like crash test dummys because of tensing up, or simply needing to slow down to get the natural feel of ukemi? Now, after two years, you would think these same people could never have been that clumsy, with a lack of confidence?
One of the most important things about training is to not injure yourself further if you do fall incorrectly from ukemi. Don't be afraid to modify your practice to take a throw into a stretch, or take it up to the thrown or fall? The hardest part of Aikido is getting to the throw, the throw or fall is the easy part.
I, myself, have a problem with balance that makes the room spin after ten minutes or so, so I have to modify practice just to continue. It is not uncommon, however, to shorten a technique, or modify it to your partners needs if they are injured.
I can't tell you how many times I have been with sensei's who are at seminars and they have sprains, or joints that are injured that call for modifying a technique to allow for injury? So too, you must speak up when training with others more skilled, or should I say, less skilled in adapting to injurys and ukemi that needs to be practiced and polished. Speak up. You will find almost all your partners are receptive to your needs.
As for a quick way to learn ukemi?
You might get a whole lot of tips, advice, and insight as to how to fall ... but you are gonna have to become attuned to your body taking the falls as you clean off the rough edges in practice.
Just don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and slow things down until you can take faster and faster ukemi? It will happen, in time.
Just give yourself time, pay attention, and most of all, have fun.
I'm one of those who thinks that Aikido cannot be taught - it can only be learned. But sometimes a simple abstract guiding sentence or metaphor as "show me your palms" or "stand where I do not" can give such a huge push for someone who is trying to learn.
One's mind has to know what the body is doing and vice versa. That's harmony.
I have been taking Aikido classes for almost two years now (off and on--there was about a 6-8 month period in which I didn't go) and your explanation is very enlightening itself. I will take this to the mat tomorrow night. :) Thank you.
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