Justin Smith wrote:
Apparently some people think using the hand to slap in ukemi is inferior to using the hand to come behind the head and cradle the head.
Can they defend their claim?
Can they give a reason why the vast, vast, vast majority of throwing-related arts use the hands to slap?
If you need the hand to slap, than how can you use it for other things while you are falling? I tend to use my hand to "look" behind my head when I take falls to check out what is back there, to distribute force in other ways, or to act as or maintain a tool to attack with.
I'm not sure how slapping is dealt with if it is needed when there is a weapon in the hand.
I've never cradled my head with my hand when I fell, but I guess that could have its uses.
There are many people I've met in Aikido who have had ukemi training in other arts before they get to Aikido (typically Judo, or Jujitsu). I haven't known them to be more or less likely to slap than Aikido people - so I disagree that this is standard training. It seems to be a function of how you were raised in your specific dojo.
I do admit that I think slaps on forward rolls are gratuitous.
I just don't see any reason to slap if you can avoid it.. but if you can't... well, then slap away. I slap sometimes on breakfalls, but only when I have to. I used to slap less often, when I was in better shape, and was more confident in my ukemi and conditioning.
I've consistently found the slap useful for measuring height off the ground (and so timing landings) in koshinages or other "long" breakfalls.
However, in general I don't slap hard even when I slap because it makes my hands hurt, and my hands are more fragile than my back, thighs, etc. I guess I could condition them to be otherwise, but that is a low-priority item for me.