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Don_Modesto 07-11-2004 03:14 PM

When to introduce breakfalls
 
For the last couple of months, I have been following instinct, instead of conventional wisdom, and teaching my students breakfalls almost as soon as they come into the dojo. I'm wondering when others introduce it.

FWIW, I introduce breakfalls gingerly using a two inch spongy mat which I pull out over the regular Swain/Zebra style mats after warm ups for 10-12 reps. I take the students' hands in a cross grip and cradle their head in my other hand. On the count of 3, they go over with my lead and support. In class, I take care to demonstrate how to back roll, forward roll or breakfall out of each technique and how they go is their choice. I'm seeing students gravitate toward breakfalls much earlier than I would have thought.

(Also, FWIW, my first experience with UKEMI was at about 8 yrs old in summer camp when the counselors had an hour to kill and took us into the judo room to teach us OGOSHI. That falling ability served me very well for years into my aikido training. When younger, I always found breakfalls easier and less painful than rolls. In the last few years, my neck after a couple of injuries, doesn't like the impact and I've had to correct my rolls. In the last five years, I have seen about as many people take time out of training or even quit because of shoulder injuries trying to learn to roll. In most of the cases, I attribute most of these to the instructor demanding that students roll before they were ready (i.e., from Day One.) Other common denominators were middle age and overweight.)

Thanks for your responses.

aikidoc 07-11-2004 04:54 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
I too have introduced them the first night with no problems. I used Toribio's concept of rolls to high falls in 7 steps.

PeterR 07-11-2004 08:37 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Day 1 - but in stages.

Jeanne Shepard 07-11-2004 09:02 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

John Riggs wrote:
I too have introduced them the first night with no problems. I used Toribio's concept of rolls to high falls in 7 steps.

Could you share those with us who are struggling to learn them?

Jeanne :p

Jorge Garcia 07-12-2004 05:37 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Don J. Modesto-"For the last couple of months, I have been following instinct, instead of conventional wisdom, and teaching my students breakfalls almost as soon as they come into the dojo. I'm wondering when others introduce."

In the last school I was student in, the sensei didn't like breakfalls nor did he teach them. When my son and I would be practicing them before class, he would always say something critical in class about it and he called breakfalls "showing off". He really respected though the concept of nage throwing uke "for real". In other words, when you didn't take ukemi but were really lifted and thrown without helping it and without the knowledge of what happened to you. The problem with that is that he rarely threw anyone that way because even he had sense enough to know that if you had no experience falling like that, you could be seriously injured so basically, breakfalls weren't taught or learned by the students unless someone who already knew them who came in from another school did them. I taught them once in a while to students who used to ask me how to do them. In most cases, those were first kyu students asking who didn't know how to do them. In that school, we actually had people go from 5th kyu to yudansha who never took a breakfall in their life and one woman who left the school is an instructor now who I never saw take an advanced fall in that school.
When I became an instructor, I took a different approach. I had read in an article written by a scientist that said it takes 10,000 times to become good at a movement and 20,000 times to become an expert at a movement and the instructor used high impact mats to teach breakfalls to his students. He used the mats so that while they were learning to roll and breakfall, they wouldn't be injured and quit.
Since the beginning of our program, I have taught all beginning students to roll on a high impact mat and within the month, to breakfall on that same mat. Then, I graduate them to rolling on the regular mat and then to breakfalling on the regular mat. I have students ranging from age 6 to 58. All beginners and they all breakfall on the regular mat except for the 58 year old. We start every class with breakfalls into the high impact mat. I let them practice the kotegaeshi breakfall but I don't do any others like iriminage or shihonage and I won't until they have the body control to do those. Since koshinage depends on the nage and not the uke as much, I throw them all koshinage (just the adults) into the high impact mat as well. I then let them practice their falls on the mat of their choice. They are all doing fine and have no fear of it. Also, I don't let them throw each other that way for now so there won't be an injury. For their future reference, I explain the need for nage to remain upright and even to pull up slightly thus keeping uke's head from going into the mat. I have been very pleased at their progress. None of them have tested for 5th kyu yet.
Best,

Yann Golanski 07-12-2004 06:04 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Just as Peter, ukemi are the first thing we teach to beginners. We practice break falling at the start of all sessions, just after the warm up. Sometimes we do a few, sometimes we do a lot. It all depends on who's teaching.

At the end of their first session, beginners are asked to do randori (a very cut down version and we are careful) in which the two main things are: Avoid and Break fall.

Oh, break falls are on the first grading where they have to perform all of them from standing. This grading is generally taken in the first 3 months.

happysod 07-12-2004 06:08 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
With PeterR - as soon as possible while keeping it safe(ish). Introducing it later seems to add a "wow, this is special and is going to be really really hard" barrier that's unnecessary.

Oh yes, admit it's going to hurt at first is a good idea, as is showing the standard ways of doing it wrong (yes, this hurts the instructor a bit, but I've found it's worth it in terms of getting the message through quicker)

Yann - ditto to standing breakfalls in first grading

Yann Golanski 07-12-2004 07:32 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Ian, did you notice as well how most UK folks start doing forward rolls over their neck. What I mean by that is put both hands on the floor and roll, you neck being the first point of impact. I hear this was how school were teaching forward rolls. Insane if you ask me...

So, my question is how do you get people out of that habbit?

I tend to make sure they understand that you need to roll on your arm first. But more tricks are always good.

happysod 07-12-2004 07:55 AM

Re: When to introduce break falls
 
Yann, unfortunately you're correct on this one - generations of our school teachers seem to have been infiltrated by anti-aikidoists for the express purpose of making it almost impossible to teach our little darlings ukemi easily.

The only thing I've found that helps (other than pain) is making it a bit of a game where you have relay ukemi races but any ukemi done over the neck rather than along the arm mean the person has to start again. It's terrible, but even in an aikido dojo, peer pressure and competition can go a long way at the start... anyway, it appeals to my need to act all powerful and stern in the dojo (for which I am still taking the medicine)

Yann Golanski 07-12-2004 08:57 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
*laughs* Ian Ian Ian... don't you know that competion is a sin in Aikido... Oh wait... </SARCAMS> </JOKE> </DON'TTAKETHISSERIOUSLY></ENOUGHWARNING>

We used to do tags in Judo when i was a kid. One person was a tagger. If he touched you, you had to drop on all fours and be as close to the floor as possible. If somone ukemi over you, you were free to go. The game ended when either everyone was frozen or time ran out. Add more taggers if you have lots of "victimes". Great game.

John Boswell 07-12-2004 09:43 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Speaking as one that is intimidated by high falls, I'm all for Sensei Modesto's idea of teaching high falls right away.

I'm two years into aikido and still hesitate big time on doing high falls. I've taken 3 or 4 over the last two years, all of which seem very disorienting and intimidating. I am VERY impressed with how it looks and I can see how with some techniques... it would be better or even nessecary to take a high fall rather than rolling out. BUT... I let my worry get the best of me.

Encourage your students early and often to try high falls. If it is just too much or too painful (arthritis?) then let it pass. But encourage it otherwise and let's hope they fly! ;)

MaryKaye 07-12-2004 10:05 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
My senior instructors take the attitude that breakfalls are seldom necessary and can just be picked up gradually as you go along. What actually happens is that the sempai quietly teach them to the kohei when they express an interest. It means, though, that I don't have names for the ones I know, nor do I have a clear idea how to teach them. I think more formal attention would be a good thing.

I think our main concern as students is that at a seminar, or even in regular training, we might get thrown in a way for which our rolls aren't adequate. I did my first breakfall in a regular class totally by surprise ("gosh, look how far down the mat is! I don't think my arm is getting down there....") and my next several at a seminar. I was surprised how well I did, just from rolling experience, but I would have felt a lot safer with training. And I've proven painfully to myself that while I know the breakfall from koteoroshi in theory, I don't know it well enough to launch into it without hesitation. This means that if someone torques my arm hard in koteoroshi (our kotagaeshi variant)--which we are not supposed to do, but accidents happen--I'll probably get injured. The ikkyu just fling themselves out of this, but I'll never get that down without a lot more practice.

I think if I were revising our curriculum I'd teach rolling, then breakfalls as a progression from there, and try not to make a big deal of it. I'd be reluctant to start with them right away. We're a dojo of mainly older people, and we have enough dropouts just with rolling...

Mary Kaye

akiy 07-12-2004 10:49 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Hi Don,

I think it's great that you're starting to teach breakfalls (which I'm taking to be the "mid-air flip fall" in this case rather than its other definitions) from the beginning. When done correctly, I think almost everyone can learn how to take them safely. I also think that introducing them early to the concept is a great idea in that it doesn't take on an aura of difficulty (the same kind of thing that happens with koshinage, for instance). Not to cross-pollinate between threads, but if judo folks can teach their students how to do breakfalls (and koshinage) pretty much from day one, I don't see why we can't do so in aikido.

Which reminds me that I should set up a one-house "breakfall clinic" at the dojo again some time later this summer...

-- Jun

suren 07-12-2004 12:55 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

Yann Golanski wrote:
Ian, did you notice as well how most UK folks start doing forward rolls over their neck. What I mean by that is put both hands on the floor and roll, you neck being the first point of impact. I hear this was how school were teaching forward rolls. Insane if you ask me...

So, my question is how do you get people out of that habbit?

Hi Yann,

I used to practice karate and that was one of the ways I was taught to do forward rolls - over the head onto your neck (actually not on your neck, but more on your shoulders).

I would not call that insane since if you are taught correctly you can do such rolls w/o pain. At the end I was able to jump over a chair and do that roll.

Anyway. But you are perfectly right that it was really hard to learn how to roll the way we do it in Aikido. I'm still practicing and my memory is pretty fresh, so I would like to share my experience.

First mistake I was doing is I was jumping over my shoulder instead of rolling. To improve that you should not hurry. Do that technique slowly and do not jump.

Second problem - I was bending my elbow after I start the technique (you do that when you do the forward roll on your neck - to compensate your jump and to land on your shoulders). Solution - after you placed your forward hand on the mat keep it round and do not bend more.

Third - face backwards all the time (even when you finish the roll). I can't explain why this helps doing the technique right, but it helps a lot.

When I started Aikido after couple of days I had terrible pain in my shoulders. Even small impact was a lot of pain. I asked my teacher. He gave me time to rest doing rolls on a much softer mat. He pointed the main errors and the rest I figured out myself by experiencing. Then I moved on a regular mat and was doing rolls from the position on my knee and now I can do it w/o having any pain in my shoulders.

I did not mention the last problem - the fear of pain. After you have that shoulder pain you can't imagine doing the roll w/o having it so you instinctively are afraid of it. Solution - after doing it right on a soft mat, ask your teacher to watch you on a regular mat and he will be able to point your errors. If you listen to his words and understand them you will be able to correct them after experiencing about 10 times (at least that was my case). Of course I felt the same pain couple of times during my experiments, but finally I was awarded by doing it w/o ANY pain!

If my teacher weren't so responsive I would probably quit Aikido not to injure my shoulders, but I'm lucky to have O'Quin Sensei teaching me :) Many thanks to him.

I hope this will help other beginners to overcome that problem.

Alfonso 07-12-2004 12:59 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
We started teaching ukemi for beginners in our intro cycle, sessions 1-4, based on Ellis Amdur sensei's ukemi seminar. Break falls on the 3rd session, but working on the final position on the first couple of session to reinforce body memory. I taught the first group of beginners (just in the door) with trepidation, since this was the usual all ages all backgrounds mix.

Starting with break falls before rolls makes a tremendous amount of sense, and the beginners are able to converge into regular practice much quicker now it seems o me, since they are much much less fearful of falling. So far, no problems.

giriasis 07-12-2004 01:42 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Don,

I guess I could tell you how not to introduce breakfalls. I'm pretty sure I told you before, but I gained a very strong mental block against rolls and breakfalls as a result of someone throwing me into a breakfall in my 2nd class (my pre-Florida Aikikai dojo). However, unlike what you're doing, I wasn't taught how to breakfall. I was told I was going to roll and then thrown hard into a breakfall (the one of Jun's definition). I was pretty freaked for a while after that. It took me two months to learn to roll. I learned to breakfall technically a few months later, but never really embraced breakfalls especially the koshi variety until recently.

But as you know, I come from a roll first, then breakfall, dojo. Peter, once told me that breakfalls are just a roll in the air so a breakfall should just naturally evolve out of the roll. This is very similar to Mary's experience except I was actually formally taught to breakfall by a couple of very patient sempai (Gene and Silvia).

I have a question for you. Am I to infer that you are saying that you believe people are less likely to leave if expected to learn to breakfall first? I took two classes of Karate in my Freshman year of college and quit because they were teaching us to breakfall, a high backfall actually, on the first and second nights and I just got too frustrated, and freaked. I was receiving a lot better guidance in that class than in my first aikido dojo, and still left. I know after my experience in college if I walked into a school, and watched a class and was told I would be learning to breakfall on the first night I would not have come back.

Don_Modesto 07-12-2004 01:58 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

John Riggs wrote:
I too have introduced them the first night with no problems. I used Toribio's concept of rolls to high falls in 7 steps.

I'd be interested in what these 7 steps are. Thanks.

Quote:

Jorge Garcia wrote:
In the last school I was student in, the sensei didn't like breakfalls nor did he teach them. When my son and I would be practicing them before class, he would always say something critical in class about it and he called breakfalls "showing off".

Jorge Garcia
Username: Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston

Huh! Funny, I had a similar experience in a dojo near Houston over twenty years ago. I was a one-night visitor and the deliberately audible comment was, "Yeah, Aikikai people like to beat themselves up." The teacher also admonished me not to used a jo in the way I'd been taught in Saotome's dojo. Looking back, I suspect they didn't practice aikijo per se, but Shindo Muso Ryu. I wonder why they let me train there in the first place if they were so xenophobic. I wonder if it was the same dojo.

Thanks for detailed comments on your UKEMI training.

Quote:

Mary Kuhner wrote:
My senior instructors take the attitude that breakfalls are seldom necessary and can just be picked up gradually as you go along. What actually happens is that the sempai quietly teach them to the kohei when they express an interest. It means, though, that I don't have names for the ones I know, nor do I have a clear idea how to teach them. I think more formal attention would be a good thing....I think our main concern as students is that at a seminar, or even in regular training, we might get thrown in a way for which our rolls aren't adequate.

In a situation where all are concerned for each other, you may not need breakfalls. But when you have some hotdog more interested in getting jazzed whipping people around, it's real nice being able to breakfall out of a SHIHONAGE which would otherwise rip up the soft tissues of three major joints, so I guess I agree in principle, disagree in practice (as you seem to with your final sentence, above).

FWIW, I don't know the names of falls, either. As for teaching them, searches on this site will offer tips as well as the book Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training by C. M. Shifflett and UKEMI videos by Bruce Bookman and Donovan Waite.

Thanks, all! Interesting comments. Look forward to more.

suren 07-12-2004 02:39 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
I guess I was a little bit out of topic in my last reply...

Quote:

Mary Kuhner wrote:
What actually happens is that the sempai quietly teach them to the kohei when they express an interest. It means, though, that I don't have names for the ones I know, nor do I have a clear idea how to teach them. I think more formal attention would be a good thing.

That was exactly what happened to me couple days before. I was not officially introduced to breakfalls so far by my teacher, but one of senior students helped me to feel what it's about on a soft mat after I finished practicing my forward rolls and that was amazing. I did not have any problem with them partially because I like to jump in a similar way into the pool and partially because the guy who was helping me was very supportive. I'm not sure if I like them on harder mat though.

I'm pretty sure senior guys has been taught the breakfalls since they often do them and the guy who showed me knew how to teach it and I'm going to ask my teacher when he plans to teach me that (I hope he will not interpret that as an impatience).

I suspect the reason I was not taught it yet is that I don't need them so far. When I'm uke, the person who works with me is usually a black belt and knows how not to harm me. Therefore I usually finish in a forward roll or land w/o any pain.

Michael Neal 07-12-2004 04:03 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
I never understood why breakfalls were not taught earlier on in Aikido. Just trying to learn them as you go can be dangerous and develop phobias in people about taking falls. I saw a few injuries in Aikido because of this phobia, people start sticking their arms out to brace themselves and stuff.

It also keeps people from wanting to learn koshinage. Rather than having separate classes for Ukemi I think it is a good idea to borrow from the Judo class structure and integrate breakfall practice consistently into the warmup session.

This is also a good example of one of the faults I see with how Aikido is sometimes practiced. There is too much emphasis on doing things in a traditional manner rather than being practical. There needs to be some evolution. The way O' Sensei did it is not necessarily the best way for most other people to learn it.

akiy 07-12-2004 04:55 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Here's a poll I took a while back:

How long into aikido training did it take for you to be able to comfortably take breakfalls (highfalls)?

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=62

16% (a bit more than 1 out of 6 people in the poll) responded that they can't take breakfalls...

-- Jun

NagaBaba 07-13-2004 11:06 AM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

Don J. Modesto wrote:
. I'm wondering when others introduce it.

FWIW, I introduce breakfalls gingerly using a two inch spongy mat which I pull out over the regular Swain/Zebra style mats
Thanks for your responses.

I think it will be smart to leave decision to students themseves. Some are ready(mentally and physically) after 1week, some after 1 year.

In a dojo where I practice, usually we teach 15 minutes introduction to high breakfalls every beginners class once students are confortable with rolling forward and backward.

This introduction is composed with few exercises:
1.preparation for landing: student stops normal forward rolling in the end(instead of getting up) with powerfull slapping hand and special position of his body(2 different positions for two basic kind of breakfalls). This reinforces certain muscles in his body, teachs correct position for landing, teachs control and coordination of his own body and allow to get use to impact.

2.Flip over low obstacle. Usually obctacle is another student kneeling and with his body bended on his knees with face close to tatami. Instructor helps flipping student and assure that his head is secured during flip.

3. High breakfall form standing position, where instructor holds hand of student.

Evey of this stage of introduction is free to choose by students in every training, and they can stay at this stage as long as they feel confortable.
hope it helps
nagababa

edited: ps. we don't use any special tatami overposed on normal mats. I don't think it is good idea.

Don_Modesto 07-13-2004 03:07 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
This introduction is composed with few exercises:...hope it helps
nagababa

edited: ps. we don't use any special tatami overposed on normal mats. I don't think it is good idea.

It does help. Thank you.

As to the mats, it seems to be working for the students; they're telling me they want to try breakfalls on the regular mats.

Thanks for the thoughts.

kironin 07-13-2004 04:34 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

Michael Neal wrote:
I never understood why breakfalls were not taught earlier on in Aikido. Just trying to learn them as you go can be dangerous and develop phobias in people about taking falls. I saw a few injuries in Aikido because of this phobia, people start sticking their arms out to brace themselves and stuff.

It also keeps people from wanting to learn koshinage. Rather than having separate classes for Ukemi I think it is a good idea to borrow from the Judo class structure and integrate breakfall practice consistently into the warmup session.

This is also a good example of one of the faults I see with how Aikido is sometimes practiced. There is too much emphasis on doing things in a traditional manner rather than being practical. There needs to be some evolution. The way O' Sensei did it is not necessarily the best way for most other people to learn it.


two problems with this from my experience.

1) some people are not physically able to take breakfalls because for example they are not yet fit enough or some other reason to make the mistakes that are inevitable when learning breakfalls or because their bodies are already broken up because (as in a couple of cases I can think of) for example they are older judoka whose bodies are too battered up to take the kind of warmup you are suggesting.

2) most of the throws we do don't require breakfalls except for dealing with weapons. Not only do we not start new students on something like
O-goshi, koshinage is not even in our syllabus. Also our breakfalls are based on our rolls. There is supposed to be a seamless continuity between the two and thus the progression. Trying to go splat without understandingthe mechanics of our rolls would likely just teach bad habits. by the way, by the time my students are doing breakfalls, they understand the mechanics in their bodies both because of well practice rolls and simple exercises. They don't have phobias because it's continuity with rolling. Except for one guy who started elsewhere and wasn't even taught to roll properly. Just thrown in (that's a pet peeve of mine when I see it - non-teaching). Of course the way we do things is hardly the way what you are talking about in terms of tradition.

It would be kind of pointless to train judo style warmups on the off chance a student might want to go spar a judo player.

Nailing people into the mat is not exactly consistent with our Aikido philosophy anyway.

Craig

kironin 07-13-2004 04:46 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
Quote:

Mary Kuhner wrote:
I think if I were revising our curriculum I'd teach rolling, then breakfalls as a progression from there, and try not to make a big deal of it.

Mary Kaye


Hey Mary, tell those guys up there, I said that's what they should be doing!

:cool:

Craig
Houston Ki Society

Benjie Lu 07-13-2004 08:06 PM

Re: When to introduce breakfalls
 
In the Aikido style that we practice, after the students are comfortable doing their front and back rolls we gradually introduce breakfalls. Initially, we ask them to do a standing roll into the finish position of a breakfall. This is to teach them the proper way of landing from a breakfall. Afterwards, we hold them one handed and "throw" them over the held hand by the neck. The sempai who is doing the throwing makes sure that the neck and head of the student is safe from hitting the mat. After a few sessions of this training, majority of the students can perform standing breakfall.

The more advanced students practice breakfalls over obstacles, e.g. kneeling students, 1 up to 3 students, depending on the skill level of the person taking the breakfall. We also practice doing breakfalls from suwariwaza techniques or kneeling breakfalls.


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