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Old 01-11-2007, 11:08 PM   #1
Kevin Wilbanks
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Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I am curious if anyone has first hand knowledge of people being injured doing backward rolls. In the past, I have heard about incidents of serious injury and even one account of a death from mid-backward roll collisions, but I don't exactly have medical records and death certificates to prove them.

So, first question: does anybody KNOW about incidents of backward roll related injuries or deaths?

Personally, I have never felt safe doing them from throws and am pretty sure I have never done a single backward roll, except during exercises at the beginning of basic classes. Even without factoring in that you can't see where you are going and might collide, I feel like there is too great of a possibility of angling incorrectly or getting mixed up about which side is being chosen, which could result in neck injury. Before I learned soft ukemi, I just always flattened out instead of rolling. Now I mostly turn slightly sideways, lower myself on the ball of my foot, and do the butt/back wide leg thing. Occasionally I do a hard, flattening out style fall.

In 7-8 years of training, I don't recall ever "needing" to roll backwards in the sense of avoiding injury or even feeling a little awkward. The alternatives always seemed fine. So the second question: does anyone feel backward rolls are necessary in their training? Why?
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:16 PM   #2
Ryan Sanford
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I honestly have no idea what the potential injury risks are, but I would most certainly say that after I learned to do backwards rolling, ukemi was much easier. I was also able to spring up faster after being thrown too. I notice that the rolling helps to get rid of some of the momentum from the fall. Granted, I'm still only 17, so my body can take some punishment, if that means anything.
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:59 PM   #3
John Matsushima
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I agree with you that it is very dangerous. From my experience many Aikido practitioners don't pay enough attention to safety during practice. There are many potential risks for injuries, especially neck injuries. I think that all throws are dangerous and must done with great consideration to the uke's safety.

There was one person at my dojo who hit her head on another person's knee who was on the ground and she had to be taken to the hospital. But now she is practicing again.

I think it is the responsibility of nage to take care of uke especially, since, like you said, an uke being thrown backwards cannot see what's behind them.

I personally don't feel that any rolls are necessary, but I think they are better for your body, and they make practice a lot easier.

-John Matsushima

My blog on Japanese culture
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Old 01-12-2007, 12:43 AM   #4
miratim
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Kevin -

Great topic. I've only been training for a few years, but I haven't found them necessary for any techniques - backwards falls (half rolls) have been sufficient.

The only time I've found them "convenient" or less awkward was in line techniques, where nage throws a line of ukes one at a time. It tends to prevent me from gumming up the works if I take a full back roll out instead of doing a fall and reversing/stopping the motion.

On injuries, I haven't personally seen any serious ones from backwards rolls. However, I did slam my head on the mat doing one once a couple years ago due to uke stupidity - I anticipated the full roll when the throw was more straight down than a projection. That wasn't very exciting, and probably wouldn't have happened if I had just stuck with a simple back fall.
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Old 01-12-2007, 01:40 AM   #5
PeterR
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

In Shodokan Aikido we just don't do them and I think the main reason is safety.

In both kata and randori there tends to be a lot of very strong forward projections and the risk to the neck is just too great.

From a self defense point of view a backward role puts you in a vulnerable position whereas an ordinary back breakfall puts your legs between you and your attacker. Yes I'ld rather stay on my feet but if I have to go down I'ld rather be able to kick out than have my back to the person.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-12-2007, 02:10 AM   #6
xuzen
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

When I was in aikikai dojo, I used to do lots of backward rolls. But then the throws were less forceful compared to what my Yoshinkan brethens are dishing out these days. Currently, in my practice, I seldom do any backward rolls. Maybe as part of warm-up, but never in a middle of a high intensity jiyu-waza session. The risk are just too great as some posters said earlier.

However, some of my yudansha dojo-mates still do them, at their own risk IMHO.

Boon.

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Old 01-12-2007, 02:24 AM   #7
mjchip
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

In the Birankai we also do not generally do backward rolls. Safety is the primary reason.

Best,

Mark
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Old 01-12-2007, 02:50 AM   #8
Mark Uttech
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Tne main problem with backward rolls comes from beginners who roll straight back on their necks rather than their shoulders. That is why it is necessary to practice getting to know your own body.

In gassho

Mark
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Old 01-12-2007, 03:06 AM   #9
PeterR
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I was visiting a dojo in Canada once and was having trouble doing backward roles in a suave and sophisticated sort of way when one brown belt said loud enough for several people to hear - "you call that a black belt he can't even do a backward role".

The teacher (who at that time didn't know me from Adam) was pissed, and with his eyes gave me the go ahead. I knew exactly what he wanted. She did her role and half way through I was on top with a nice loud ki-ai.

The teacher trained for a couple of years with one of my sempai from Shodokan honbu - he knew my background and of course we had exchanged e-mails so it wasn't completely out of the blue.

A little story but the point is that I've never seen anyone able to do a backward role fast enough to beat rapid follow up by anyone with any training.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-12-2007, 03:20 AM   #10
seank
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

We regularly practice backwards rolling out of techniques, however I've personally found it takes time to know when to roll and when to break fall. The backwards roll is almost always from a more gentle and controlled technique whereas a breakfall is used in faster or more aggressive technique.

There is a risk of hyper-extension to the neck as well as associated muscle problems, but they can also happen from forward rolls.

I've had concussion from being accidentally dropped from head height backwards on to someones knee. I bit through my tongue in several spots and chewed my cheeks up pretty badly too. Not really roll related, but goes to show that anything can happen.

I wouldn't suggest backwards rolls are for everyone or every situation but they do allow you to regain your feet very quickly and to dissipate energy when being drawn backwards.
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Old 01-12-2007, 03:58 AM   #11
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Sean Kelleher wrote:
I wouldn't suggest backwards rolls are for everyone or every situation but they do allow you to regain your feet very quickly and to dissipate energy when being drawn backwards.
Ok, this is the second time we've gotten this answer. The problem with it is that both these benefits also accrue to the other alternative I mentioned: the backward side roll, or 'ushiro yoko kaiten'. In fact, I think it is actually superior in both these respects. In addition, the backward side roll also has the benefits of less danger to one's neck, more control over one's trajectory, being able to quickly turn in the direction one is going and see what is ahead, and being able to get up in two different ways.

The disadvantage of follow-up is shared to some extent by both the back roll and the backward side roll. I personally think this is not a very good argument against either, for training purposes.

To start with, the follow-up lacks inherent logic: if nage wanted to ground and pound you, why did he just throw you away from him or her? If this was the aim, a smart nage would hold on and follow you down in the first place.

Second, both rolls are designed for safely resolving a single throw in practice, for the most part - a situation in which a surprise follow-up is outside the parameters of the practice scenario. If you think nage is going to keep coming, then you simply choose the half fall and get your feet in between you instead of doing either roll.

Even assuming some validity to this criticism, I still think the backward side roll is better, as the roll can be modified during execution in several ways to address the problem of a pursuing uke.

***

It is interesting to know that the back roll is considered dangerous and not used in other Aikido schools. I have only trained in Aikikai. However, I'm still looking for reports of actual injuries or fatalaties.
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Old 01-12-2007, 04:49 AM   #12
grondahl
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
To start with, the follow-up lacks inherent logic: if nage wanted to ground and pound you, why did he just throw you away from him or her? If this was the aim, a smart nage would hold on and follow you down in the first place.
OTOH practising with a mindset where the both tori and uke always keep focus on the possibility of a follow up and where uke dont break the mental connection by rolling away seems like a good idea in my view.

Last edited by grondahl : 01-12-2007 at 04:59 AM.
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Old 01-12-2007, 05:06 AM   #13
PeterR
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote:
OTOH practising with a mindset where the both tori and uke always keep focus on the possibility of a follow up and where uke dont break the mental connection by rolling away seems like a good idea in my view.
Exactly - not to mention that trying to guess what you opponent is going to do is antithema to budo - mushin and all that.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 01-12-2007, 06:46 AM   #14
Keith R Lee
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I've never felt the need for them in Aikido, but backwards rolling comes into play while, err, rolling in Sambo/BJJ/grappling. However, it's only to maintain positioning or follow a person around, not to disapate the force of a throw or anything like that.

Keith Lee
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Old 01-12-2007, 07:12 AM   #15
Ketsan
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Interesting topic. How are you defining a backwards roll because I know of two ways?
We do backward rolls across the shoulder as in tuck foot, sit down, kick out stretched leg over opposite shoulder then push ourselves up with our hands. So uke does a complete 360 degree roll to standing.
The second way I've seen is described in Aikido and the dynamic sphere and is basically a half roll back followed by a half roll forward which to me seems dangerous.
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Old 01-12-2007, 07:15 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
It is interesting to know that the back roll is considered dangerous and not used in other Aikido schools. I have only trained in Aikikai. However, I'm still looking for reports of actual injuries or fatalaties.
In my dojo, students do the back roll as part of general ukemi training at the beginning of the class. So we do forward rolls and backward rolls in a straight line from either side, the backward roll being a mirror image of the forward roll. I think this is also the general custom in most Japanese university dojos. I think this general ukemi training is beneficial in various ways and the students themselves have a tangible sign of progress: they are able to roll progressively better and in some sense they know 'where they are' during a complex movement over which they do not have total control. Some students do not have anything like total control and injure themselves in the early stages of their aikido training. But these cases are rare, in my experience, and this is the only evidence I have of injuries caused by back rolls.

However, I have rarely resorted to the back roll in my own aikido training with partners and consider that it is virtually unnecessary. So why do we do it? I think it is a useful training exercise, but in actual aikido practice, I think there are very few waza where the back roll is possible.

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Old 01-12-2007, 08:11 AM   #17
raul rodrigo
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I only manage to do a back roll when being thrown by the beginners. When thrown at full speed by my teacher or seniors, it never comes up.
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Old 01-12-2007, 08:41 AM   #18
Adman
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
So we do forward rolls and backward rolls in a straight line from either side, the backward roll being a mirror image of the forward roll.
This is also how we will practice at our dojo. The only time I can think of this particular ukemi coming into play, is during slower training with less impact, but still only done as an exercise. However, I'll pay very close attention to always "seeing" in the direction of my roll. If I'm not fully aware, the only blind spot might be the immediate two to three feet, directly behind me.

As an exercise, I like to see just how slowly I can perform a backwards roll, beginning from standing. Trying to take momentum out of the equation is very interesting.

thanks,
Adam
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Old 01-12-2007, 09:07 AM   #19
creinig
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I tend to do backward rolls pretty often when thrown from iriminage variants. Depends very much on the energy and direction of the throw -- it sometimes just feels more "natural" to me. It's definitely a habit rather than a choice though, and I'm trying to get rid of it.

Heck, I've even done a "shoulder stand" (one shoulder on the floor, rest of the body straight upwards) for a few seconds while trying to decide which kind of roll/fall to do. Not something I want to have as ingrained reaction
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Old 01-12-2007, 09:57 AM   #20
Larry John
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

It seems to me that rolling during a stand up engagement is primarily a means of safely extending maai, whether to run away or to re-set the engagement on more favorable terms--as in "select zone 5 and extend" (OK, I know it's really humiliating for an Air Force guy to be quoting a Navy movie, but most folks are unfamiliar with the term in any other context).

Assuming my view is correct, it would seem that it is, therefore, at least useful, if not critical, for martial artists to be able to execute any roll in any direction when the tactical or strategic situation demands an extension. If the opening to extend is to your back and you need to get away, that's the way to go. If you have the time to turn to face the back, do it as a forward roll. If the hole's top the side, go that way.

Of course, any attempt to extend can be followed and exploited by a determined adversary, but ya do what ya can. If you've never trained rolling in a particular direction, though, you've already limited your options in a way that can come back to bite you. If training accidents are your concern, structure training so that the probability of an accident is minimized--one way is to have a general rule to always throw to the outside edge of the mat.

Larry
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Old 01-12-2007, 12:23 PM   #21
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

OTOH practising with a mindset where the both tori and uke always keep focus on the possibility of a follow up and where uke dont break the mental connection by rolling away seems like a good idea in my view.

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
Exactly - not to mention that trying to guess what you opponent is going to do is antithema to budo - mushin and all that.
I call BS on both these answers. I've heard variations on the first one lots of times and I just don't buy it. In most Aikido training, we are doing training exercises that have specific rules and parameters. Having an awareness of your partner between throws and being in a constant state of expecting crazy anomolous things are not the same thing. Saying that you should always do every exercise with the awareness that your partner might suddenly do something outside those parameters is absurd. Why stop at constant vigilance that nage might pounce on you after every throw? What if they grab hold of your testicles and try to tear them off as you go down? What if they quickly whip out a knife from their gi and try to slice open you abdomen as they throw? What if they secretly conspired with another dojo member to break from training with their partner, run over and attack you while you are falling? What if they contracted a hit man to break through the front door with an assault rifle? Are you keeping all this in mind every time you practice an ikkyo? It's ridiculous.

As for the second dismissive comment, of course you do some cognitive extrapolation on what you think your opponent is going to be doing next. You size up the situation, look for signs that indicate their mindset, where they seem to be moving, take into account how they behaved earlier in the exchange and in prior exchanges... and most important to this topic, keep in mind what the specific exercise is that you are performing and what its rules and parameters are. This is all basic tactical thinking. Mushin is not about becoming stupid. If you cleared your mind of all thought whatsoever every time you started a repetition, you'd still be busy wondering where you were and why everyone around you was wearing silly trousers as you got punched.
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Old 01-12-2007, 01:00 PM   #22
Lan Powers
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

I roll out of backwards ukemi fairly often. When in a training rythym of being the sole uke for someone as we do jiyu-waza, it helps keep the "flow" going better to have less delay in the time for my next attempt at the prescribed attack.
Probably not my first choice if we were fighting for real, but very viable for the training rythym.
It keeps you in motion
Lan

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Old 01-12-2007, 01:19 PM   #23
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Quote:
Why stop at constant vigilance that nage might pounce on you after every throw?
Why not indeed? Some styles maintain focus and kamae throughout...the waza is not considered completed until both partners are back in kamae and about 6 feet apart after the ukemi.

Quote:
What if they grab hold of your testicles and try to tear them off as you go down?
While I haven't seen this one, I have had partners reverse me when I throw when I don't pay attention to certain details of position and balance. So I get tossed. Same for breaks in attention.

Quote:
What if they quickly whip out a knife from their gi and try to slice open you abdomen as they throw?
I've known people who have trained with a tanto onboard, and whipped it out to make just such a point.

Quote:
What if they secretly conspired with another dojo member to break from training with their partner, run over and attack you while you are falling?
One of the preperations for yudansha tests is that you walk into the dojo, and suddenly a senior is striking you with a padded shinai. You are supposed to evade. The idea is to show just this sort of awareness.

Quote:
What if they contracted a hit man to break through the front door with an assault rifle? Are you keeping all this in mind every time you practice an ikkyo? It's ridiculous.
I actually had an instructor (while making a point that what we train in is not warfare) who brought in a rifle wrapped in a blanket (disabled) and asked who thought they were well prepared to defend themselves. I don't find the idea of being alert and focused during training rediculous at all. I think it's a good idea, if not carried to paranoia. I believe you may have misinterpreted Peter's intent and meaning.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 01-12-2007, 01:41 PM   #24
Mark Gibbons
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

Back rolls can be good for stopping if you have too much momentum going downhill. If you do a forward roll that takes you into a series of forward rolls, converting to rolling backwards may help you stop. Probably best practiced on mats first.

Sort of obscure, but lots of fun.

Mark
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Old 01-12-2007, 05:33 PM   #25
Avery Jenkins
 
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Re: Backward Roll - Risks and benefits

A backward role is just another option in your ukemi "arsenal." Options are good. The more options I have in a conflict, the happier I am.

The backward role has never struck me as being any more injury prone than any other move, and I don't see any reason why it should be.

Avery
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