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Old 07-16-2015, 05:28 PM   #1
Peter Wong
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The unbendable arm in ukemi

I know how to do ukemi, but my body seems to disagree. As soon as my pinkie touches the mat my arm collapse and I end up landing on my forearm, elbow or shoulder. I'm starting to pickup bad habits like rolling to the side and doing barrel rolls. I've only seen one video on YouTube addressing the problem. Any suggestions?
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Old 07-16-2015, 07:56 PM   #2
mathewjgano
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Quote:
Peter Wong wrote: View Post
I know how to do ukemi, but my body seems to disagree. As soon as my pinkie touches the mat my arm collapse and I end up landing on my forearm, elbow or shoulder. I'm starting to pickup bad habits like rolling to the side and doing barrel rolls. I've only seen one video on YouTube addressing the problem. Any suggestions?
Your sensei or sempai would be better sources because they can see what's happening more easily and they will be more familiar with how you move than any of us here. However, two things that helped me was to make sure I don't collapse my arm (maintain roundness) and to think of how to get my body weight onto the other side of my contact point with the ground.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYYce-c5QlA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCNztP6iJoU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxkOHw0PKjk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM1Ps9I_ba8

Last edited by mathewjgano : 07-16-2015 at 08:08 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:29 PM   #3
Peter Wong
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

My sensei is old school, he tells me to practice, practice, I know what wrong, my arm collapses. The why and how to stop it I don't know.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:33 PM   #4
kewms
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

What Matthew said. I'd also suggest starting very low to the ground, so low that you can put your whole arm and shoulder on the mat. Once you can roll from there comfortably -- on both sides -- you can move your starting point upward bit by bit.

Also, I dislike the "unbendable arm" description of ukemi for two reasons. The first is that beginners don't really understand unbendable arm yet anyway. And the second is that it tends to sound like you are supporting your body weight on your arm, which you're not. Rather, I would describe it as making your body into a wheel, with your head inside it.

Katherine
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:37 PM   #5
robin_jet_alt
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
What Matthew said. I'd also suggest starting very low to the ground, so low that you can put your whole arm and shoulder on the mat. Once you can roll from there comfortably -- on both sides -- you can move your starting point upward bit by bit.

Also, I dislike the "unbendable arm" description of ukemi for two reasons. The first is that beginners don't really understand unbendable arm yet anyway. And the second is that it tends to sound like you are supporting your body weight on your arm, which you're not. Rather, I would describe it as making your body into a wheel, with your head inside it.

Katherine
My thoughts exactly. If your arm is collapsing, it's probably because you are using it to support your weight. Don't do that.
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Old 07-16-2015, 10:55 PM   #6
dps
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

You do not put weight on the arm. It is a guide for you to roll over. We use to practice rolls by having one student get on hands and knees with their back to the ceiling. Then the person rolling would reach over their back and lightly touch the mat with their hand on the other side.. To do a roll they would have to do a jump over students back while maintain hand contact on the floor. The arm was a guide ( no weight applied ).
dps
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Old 07-17-2015, 03:39 AM   #7
JW
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
I'd also suggest starting very low to the ground, so low that you can put your whole arm and shoulder on the mat.
I've seen this method work really well for beginners. To emphasize how unique and specific the positioning is in the method I've seen:
1. Sit in seiza
2. Lean forward, place one hand on mat in front of you for support
3. WIth other hand-- reach BACK between your legs, toward your feet
4. Try to reach past your feet, let your shoulder meet the mat
5. Only now do you start the roll, by shifting weight forward.

So your shoulder is actually pressed into the mat before you start.
It's a very distorted position at first, but you slowly change it to match a normal roll's shape, by gradually inserting space between shoulder and mat in the intial position.
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Old 07-17-2015, 06:41 AM   #8
robin_jet_alt
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

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Jonathan Wong wrote: View Post
I've seen this method work really well for beginners. To emphasize how unique and specific the positioning is in the method I've seen:
1. Sit in seiza
2. Lean forward, place one hand on mat in front of you for support
3. WIth other hand-- reach BACK between your legs, toward your feet
4. Try to reach past your feet, let your shoulder meet the mat
5. Only now do you start the roll, by shifting weight forward.

So your shoulder is actually pressed into the mat before you start.
It's a very distorted position at first, but you slowly change it to match a normal roll's shape, by gradually inserting space between shoulder and mat in the intial position.
I think this is roughly what Jonathan is talking about. Please let me know if you can't view the video. https://www.facebook.com/robin.boyd1...3275932889603/
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Old 07-17-2015, 11:19 AM   #9
jonreading
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

I am of two minds. I tend to emphasize ukemi is largely a practice of distributing the force of the fall with a revolution across the broadest part of your back. For me, the use of arms and legs during the falling process is to create a feeling of comfort and orientation. If you look at arts that contain a vertical force component to the throw, you'll find that falling instruction often advocates against putting your hands or feet on the ground. One just needs to YouTube judo throws to see any number of injuries related to the uke leaving an arm or leg in contact with the ground at the conclusion of the throw.

First, ukemi is a preservative act that should not be dependent upon and single body part. We want the ability to take ukemi (or sutemi) from a variety of positions. This is fairly athletic with some amount of discomfort during the learning process. Often, you have a partner that helps (and can even secure the offending appendage).

Second, there is a new style of aikido ukemi that is much easier on the body. For those of us with injuries, health issues or are victims of time, we can still safely train aikido. I think that when we see people who roll this way, they are doing so out of comfort. I am not a fan of learning ukemi this way, but I understand not everyone is healthy or athletic enough for the more physical exposure.

I would encourage you to think of ukemi as an athletic exercise that prioritizes safety over comfort, building up to the ability to safely fall from a variety of positions. Beyond that, you can also envision the ability to continue an attack or defend while in the process of the ukemi (which is hard to do if your hand is touching the ground).

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Old 07-17-2015, 11:46 AM   #10
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

I don't agree that getting close to the ground is the way to go. For starting ukemi it is generally good advice but there comes a point where is wont help break the collapsing arm - once that habit gets ingrained you need to try something else.

Grab the fingers of your leading arm with your other hand and imagine that both arms create a rigid wheel. Get off your knees but you don't have to stand completely up - if that worries you. Project your self forward with a little force and imagine rolling that wheel.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-17-2015, 05:14 PM   #11
rugwithlegs
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Some very good comments here, including that we cannot see what you are doing and might need help from people who can.

The unbendable arm exercise from Tohei Sensei is about learning to relax the bicep and extending with the tricep, not using antagonistic muscles in a movement gives you a faster response time, more speed, and more power.

It can help to connect unbendable to the shoulder for striking and blocking moves, but the connection to the shoulder in Iriminage, tenchinage, and rolling is very different than how you test for a basic shomenuchi strike. Also, there are many falls where your arm will never make contact with the ground until after you have landed. Your arm is a very small portion of the surface area that will make contact during the roll, and maybe will never make contact so I tend to not teach Uke to rely on the arm. Making yourself into a ball involves the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back, spine, hips and knees. You want to make contact with the fleshy parts of your body and avoid landing on bone; muscles bruise but bones break; so I wouldn't recommend thinking of catching yourself with your pinkie first.

The whole idea is that your skull misses the ground, and the actual spinal contact with the ground is minimal. Doing a seated backward down and up to standing I find informs me of where I have a corner to break off or where I am bleeding momentum.

Good luck, it'll come.
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Old 07-17-2015, 05:47 PM   #12
JP3
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

I tell my beginner students struggling with the arm-bending problem this:

Q: You ever had to move, or help someone move?
A: Sure.

Q: Ever had to move something big, like a refridgerator by yourself? Or, maybe help someone push their car when they ran out of gas?
A: Sure.

Q: OK, when you moved the fridge, or helped a person who had run out of gas move their car, how did you approach the fridge or car? I mean, how did you walk up to it, how did you place your arms?
A: Uh... well.. (typical student response, right...) I just sort of straightened them out and leaned into it, you know. Pushed it.

A: OK, did you shove it? Meaning, did you push using your arm muscles?
A: Oh, no. I pushed using my legs and stuff.

Q: So, your arms were sort of locked out feeling?
A: Sort of, I guess.

Q: Come over here to the wall, and push the wall like you pushed the fridge/car, OK?
A: Sure.

Q: Look at your arms... (*looking*). Does that look like they are actually locket-out to you?
A: Well, no. Not really.

Q: Right, come here and push me like you pushed that fridge.
A: OK.

Q: *push happens... I move back as I'm forced to do - it's not a centering thing, it's for them*
A: OK, so?

Q: OK, how did your hands and arms feel? Strong, or sort of relaxed?
A: Relaxed I guess.

Q: Now do this for me. Grab your right (or left, whichever) thumb with the other hand.
A: OK

Q: Now that you've got it grabbed to get the feeling, open the grabbing hand, but keep the thumb inside the palm of the grabbing hand, so to speak, so that your arms are sort of linked up.
A: Got it.

Q: OK, sort of looks like a triangle, sort of... but rounded at the elbows a bit, eh?
A: I guess.

Q: OK, now that you've got that, think about pushing the fridge again, or pushing me. But, this time, tilt the arms, trying not to turn the shoulders, but obviously having your right arm above the left arm, if you are stepping with your right foot, see? *demonstration*
A: Right.

Q: Now, I want you to think about rolling, and the entire time you roll, think about pushing that fridge. You can't move it, or anything else, with loose, flabby arms, and that's not strength, it's framework, structure or posture, you pick a word that you think fits.
A: OK, structure works...

Q: OK, now, go practice your kneeling rolls forward, while still thinking more about pushing that fridge than the rolling itself. See what happens.

Generally, I fix most unbendable BUT still bending arm problems this way in one class abut 4 out of 5 times. If you get that 5th person, the technique still works, but it seems to take much longer as their proprioception is not picking up the cues as well.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 07-17-2015, 06:19 PM   #13
Riai Maori
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

The head placement has a lot to do with the roll setup.You should be looking under the arm that is not being used for rolling. This will change your body structure so the shoulder will be the first contact point on the mat not your head. The completed roll should be diagonally across your back. Some styles use the wheel technique for rolling. This safe guards the student, should their extended arm collapse (thanks Bob Nadeau for that tip) A major beginners fault is not throwing the legs directly over their head in a large circle motion.As other people have said, the extended arm to roll on is just a guide. Once you achieve a good roll the arms become extinct.

Last edited by Riai Maori : 07-17-2015 at 06:29 PM.

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Old 07-17-2015, 07:03 PM   #14
Cliff Judge
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

I tell beginners to stop looking at the ground when they go to take a roll. It ain't going nowhere.
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Old 07-18-2015, 02:07 AM   #15
crbateman
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Peter, I think visualization may be a key for you here. In fact, you may be visualizing the point of contact in a manner that infers a collision of sorts, and that is going to be detrimental to holding your arm position. Instead, visualize your arm as a solid piece, and try to deal the mat a glancing impact. As a "person of size", I pretty much had to learn it this way out of sheer self-preservation...
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Old 07-18-2015, 06:13 PM   #16
JP3
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
I tell beginners to stop looking at the ground when they go to take a roll. It ain't going nowhere.
I say the exact same thing.

"Why are you looking for the ground? Did you think it's going to move?"

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 07-18-2015, 08:40 PM   #17
Walter Martindale
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Peter,
Mr. Powell's 'dialogue' coaching a beginner through - transferring a normal experience into aikido ukemi lesson is one of the best step-by-step lessons I've "seen" in getting someone to relate a real-life experience into something you'd do in aikido. I hope it works for you - coaching/teaching using analogy is often very helpful - and learning by transferring other experiences into your new experience is a great way to learn.
Cheers,
W
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Old 07-19-2015, 11:39 AM   #18
JP3
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Richard, you said, "Once you achieve a good roll the arms become extinct."

Extinct? Absent, sure. I don't want them to think that their arms fall off or wither away to nothing, they need those arms for other stuff.

J/K

It IS neat to watch a student's progression through ukemi. They start out with so much fear of something falling-related. It's only natural. And to watch them seek to understand, and learn to embrace the feeling of gravity and to shape themselves to accept the fall rather than fighting it is just plain old cool.

When you get someone who had the hardest problem ever just learning a kneeling forward roll up to the point where they are teaching a new student and the person is unconsciously rolling around the floor without thinking about while talking to the newER student, that's something special.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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Old 07-19-2015, 12:40 PM   #19
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Not enough forward motion. Can you roll with no arms? If you start learning how to do this you will realize that you need more forward motion. When you roll, don't go straight down onto your arm, go forward.

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Old 07-20-2015, 01:34 AM   #20
Riai Maori
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Quote:
John Powell wrote: View Post
Extinct? Absent, sure. I don't want them to think that their arms fall off or wither away to nothing, they need those arms for other stuff.
LMFAO. Thank you for the correction. Bad England, I mean English.

I enjoyed your above comments. I had to read them several times over before the message sunk in.

Motto tsuyoku
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Old 07-22-2015, 07:06 PM   #21
JP3
 
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Re: The unbendable arm in ukemi

Glad to make people chuckle a bit, life/training is difficult enough if you aren't laughing at it.

I try to use that metaphor-analogy teaching method as much as I can. It really does help people intake a new concept if they can bring it in via a relationship to an already known concept, though sometimes you bring unintended baggage with it because of other associations with the known concept. Still, two steps forward and one step back will still get you where you are headed.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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