Jeff Tibbetts wrote:
one thing that hasn't been mentioned is what to do with your head. For many of us I think the problem is that we think the head and neck will slam into the mat. This was one of my problems, but one day the instructor just simply told us to keep our head and ear pressed up to the arm that we're starting the roll on. In this way your head never touches the ground at all. This is important to me becuase one day when I first learned to do a front roll, I was practicing at work... on the cement floor! I hadn't learned about the haed thing yet, and while on the mat my head was hitting the ground but it didn't hurt. Try it on cement sometime, I thought I had a concussion at first. Needless to say I figured that trick out pretty quick. Hope that helps.
For this, i find the 'look at the knot of your belt' trick useful (i saw it described in either in "Total Aikido" by Gozo Shioda or in a work by K. Tohei - don't remember which)
Regarding rolling - during last practice, I did the second batch of near-pefect rolls in my life
and now I see a pattern emerging. I did the rolls after having been told to relax my ikkyo(nage) more - and doing so. Suddenly, rolling became very easy. I was still thinking about ikkyo when I was rolling and how I should be relaxed for it - and suddenly, my body was round & relaxed. . .
That is, simple relaxation won't do in the beginning when you have to figure out where to put your hands and head and everything, but, once you've got past that hurdle. . .of course, relaxation is of utmost importance in all areas of aikido