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Old 06-08-2007, 02:11 PM   #1
Tatsukage
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Teaching Rollfalls

I'm new at the whole "teaching" aspect, so please forgive the ignorance. I'm currently trying to teach my friend aikido. I'd refer him to the official instructors here, but his finances can't afford it at this time, so i was going to get him started on the basics of ukemi and what not. I don't claim to be shodan, nor an instructor, but I don't want someone's finances to hold them back on a great experience. Well, during this period of time, he's gotten the hang of the basic falls, but I can't seem to find a method to teach the rolls. I learned through Tomiki Aikido, and I've tried teaching him as such, staring from the kneeling position, the unbendable arm, etc...and the standing as well, but nothing seems to work. His problem seems to be with the unbendable arm, and he keeps landing on his elbow or shoulder, which in turn causes him to roll along his side instead of across the back. Is there anything i can do, or should I just leave the teaching to the professionals?

Last edited by Tatsukage : 06-08-2007 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 06-08-2007, 04:54 PM   #2
Jeff Sodeman
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

I couldn't make a good guess without actually seeing the fall, but you might want to try having him start the roll by lifting his back leg off the ground and tipping into the roll instead of diving into it.

Waite and Amdur both have ukemi tapes you can check out.

Honestly though, I don't know any instructor that would turn a student away from not having enough money. There's a lot of other ways a student can support a dojo than just financially.

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Old 06-08-2007, 07:28 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

I would stop. How would you and your friend feel if your attempts to teach him led to him having a shoulder separation?

Janet Rosen
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Old 06-10-2007, 09:23 AM   #4
jennyvanwest
 
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Having just broken my collarbone from a bad roll (and this even with excellent instruction): Stop what you're doing and help him instead to find a way into class with the sensei. Despite your intentions it's entirely possible you are doing him no favors right now.

Good luck!
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Old 06-10-2007, 02:20 PM   #5
Mark Uttech
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Hmmm... Leave it up to the professionals. Rolling is a serious business.

In gassho,

Mark
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Old 06-10-2007, 06:16 PM   #6
Hanna B
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Quote:
Donovan Faulkenbury wrote: View Post
Well, during this period of time, he's gotten the hang of the basic falls, but I can't seem to find a method to teach the rolls. I learned through Tomiki Aikido, and I've tried teaching him as such, staring from the kneeling position, the unbendable arm, etc...and the standing as well, but nothing seems to work.
So what do you consider "basic falls" - breakfalls? What about backward rolls?

On what kind of surface do you train? Most of the time one does not have budo mats or the equivalent outside of an actual dojo. Good rollers can roll on hard surface, but for most people it is almost impossible to learn unless you train on a softer, more forgiving surface. Giving up on it certainly is on option, and if you don't have a good training surface I would actually recommend it. If you have mats and if both of you are young and don't easily get hurt or injured... well well.

It sounds like you yourself were taught in not so careful ways, otherwise you could just have adopted the way they teach beginners in your home dojo. If you have a good surface to train on, still don't be careless. For safety reasons I very much recommend
  • Don't do rolls from standing until then work from kneeling.
  • Leave the front rolls for a while and do back rolls instead.

This is how many dojos teach rolls. A skilled instructor can do it differently, esp. if teaching small groups, but you are in a different situation. Actually, for most people backward rolls are a bit more tricky to learn so don't think it is a shortcut - but they are safer. Once one has gotten the hang of backward rolls, much of it can be transferred into front rolls. Well, not the "unbendable arm" thing maybe. Something that helped me my first term in aikido was to hold my both hands together, to form a rounded "wheel" to roll on. Letting the arms touch helps in maintaining the structure. That is a good image for the mind, maybe. The mat comes along and presses the arm from various points; the arms' job is to maintain their form, nothing more nothing less.

Last edited by Hanna B : 06-10-2007 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 06-13-2007, 02:16 PM   #7
Shannon Frye
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Get one of those HUGE inflatable exercise balls, and have him hold it when rolling. If held correctly, it will show proper body shape.
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Old 06-13-2007, 03:13 PM   #8
fullerfury
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Hello Mr. Faulkenbury.

I concur with some of the previous posts in that ideally he figure out a way to make the finances work or offer services for membership, so he can be a part of the dojo and learn there. There is no substitute for this experience.

With that said, a number of years ago a colleague showed me this as a means that he uses to teach his brand new students to roll, and I have used it ever since with continued success with my brand new students.

Have new student get in seiza in right or left hanmi, with live toes.
Place front shoulder directly on mat and in front of front knee (left hanmi left shoulder left knee, right hanmi right shoulder right knee). Now, keeping shoulder touching mat extend same arm back towards back foot with eyes to follow. So student will be pointing back with arm towards back foot (right hanmi right arm, left hanmi left arm) across front of body. Now this should force the student to test his/her balance, by extending opposite leg and foot to keep balance.(right hanmi has left leg extended, left hanmi has right leg extended). All the while maintaining shoulder contact with mat (this is ESSENTIAL to prevent injury during roll). Now, have student point opposite arm towards ceiling (the arm not already pointing at back foot). While pointing arm at ceiling eyes should follow suit...also looking at ceiling. With opposite leg extended, balanced, live toes, student should learn to push off with extendend leg and roll forward. Note because the student is looking at ceiling, he/she will not roll over neck... thus protecting neck.

A bit long winded... but this technique I have found to be effective on 5 year olds...

Good luck!
Garrett

Last edited by fullerfury : 06-13-2007 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 06-13-2007, 07:08 PM   #9
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Any beginning to rolling should start as low to the ground, and as slow going over as possible.

The following is a necessarily wordy illustration of a rolling exercise.

Kneel with your forehead to the ground and your arms stretched straight up from the shoulders onto the ground in front of you.

Raise your head off the ground a little, and cross your right arm under your torso until your right elbow is resting on the ground in front of your left knee.

Let your head rest on its right side, and notice how your shoulder comes closer to, or rests on, the ground. Without such proximity to the ground the below occurs
Quote:
and he keeps landing on his elbow or shoulder
Do not roll at this point, just notice the body position.
If anything, maintain all the above in position, and extend your left leg. Notice the beginning of the roll. Relax the leg back down and notice your weight settle.

Extend and relax your left leg a few times and then as slowly as you can manage add enough extension to start going over. Tucking the leadoff leg in a low roll like this helps bring you all the way over.
Allow the right leg to relax through the roll. At this point right leg extension dampens the moment of inertia on your body that is amplified by the tucking of the leadoff leg.

Anyhow your mileage will vary quite likely. Just remember, ~~~~~ low and slow ~~~~~~
Simply reverse all rights and lefts as needed.

Do this exercise yourself after class, ask your teacher what sort of pricing schedule they have in place for people of diverse economic background.

cheers.

If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.

- Thomas Hardy
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:07 AM   #10
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Quote:
Shannon Frye wrote: View Post
Get one of those HUGE inflatable exercise balls, and have him hold it when rolling. If held correctly, it will show proper body shape.
I have also found this technique to be very helpful with some students.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:35 AM   #11
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

I'm kind of surprised at how many people are chiming in with helpful suggestions for teaching beginners, in effect supporting what I really think is an unsafe learning environment.

Janet Rosen
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:21 AM   #12
Bronson
 
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Just as a point of interest: I seperated my right AC joint from a poorly executed kneeling roll (outside of the dojo) after I'd been training about three weeks. I lived with a lot of pain for a long time because I thought I was better than I really was.

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:56 AM   #13
fullerfury
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I'm kind of surprised at how many people are chiming in with helpful suggestions for teaching beginners, in effect supporting what I really think is an unsafe learning environment.
With all due respect Janet. As stated in my earlier reply, there is no substitue for training and learning at the dojo, however if the poster is going to be teaching his friend how to roll and since he has solicited advice, I think there is potentially more harm in not giving helpful advice than in providing it. After all, the novice can go into any book store or video store and purchase a "how to" book on this topic and screw themselves up equally as well.
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Old 06-14-2007, 01:52 PM   #14
Hanna B
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I'm kind of surprised at how many people are chiming in with helpful suggestions for teaching beginners, in effect supporting what I really think is an unsafe learning environment.
I think I have too little information whether the training environment is unsafe or not. The guy who started the tread, and is trying to teach his friend to roll, began training in fall 2004 so although he has no teaching experience, he is not a complete newbie himself. In several dojos, someone with his amount of experience might be thrown straight into teaching a beginner's class when there's nobody else around who can do it, without any kind of introduction at all as to how to do it. I taught classes when the teacher was away after one term of training. It was a mess of course, but we felt cancelling class was a worse option.

Most people I know of who injured themselves severely during rolls are cocky young guys, who jump over several people in a row before the roll (not sure what that is called . Diving rolls?) and do not know their limitation. Their rolling technique is not up to it, so eventually they crash land. If Donovan tries to go easy on his friend, and learn better methods for teaching, IMHO his friend is in less danger than the cocky lads in the dojo doing diving rolls.

Last edited by Hanna B : 06-14-2007 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 06-14-2007, 02:19 PM   #15
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

I assume dojos have mats and insurance.
It is a different feeling if somebody gets hurt in a dojo setting and if your friend gets hurt as a direct result of what you are teaching him at home.
Caveat emptor.

Janet Rosen
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Old 06-14-2007, 04:27 PM   #16
chriskuszmaul
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

There are two issues here: One is the interesting question of how to describe how to do a roll using only text. The other is whether it is wise for our young friend to be teaching Aikido.

Is it wise: No. The following key points are submitted for critique from teachers, not for someone to use as a basis for learning rolls. Perhaps through this forum we will work out the flaws in the directions such that they could actually be used by a beginner.

Now for the fun part: Keys to teaching rolls: Let us assume you are working on a roll over the right shoulder. Begin with 'small' rolls where you start in seiza. Now:

1: Get the lead shoulder all the way onto the ground before you even begin the roll.

2: Use the left arm to form an arch under which you pass your head .

3: Stick butt up in air, should be right above your shoulder, which is resting on the ground before you do step 4.

4: Kick (axe kick style!) left leg over the top.

The difficulty is that from this point a number of different possible flaws appear in the student's technique, requiring different solutions, ranging from "Do that again, but with much more gusto." to "I do not think you should do Aikido."

I would be interested in specific stories of what caused an instructor to decide to give a particular suggestion on the next step.

CLK
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Old 06-14-2007, 04:30 PM   #17
giriasis
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

There is also assumption of the risk.

But I agree to make sure your friend has a good mat to practice on. The foldout gymnastics mats should be fine. I'd avoid the puzzle mats for beginners.

As far as the arm collapsing, I think the solution is time and effort and don't push your friend too fast. He might have to work on his upper body and core strength, too. Start him slow and low to the ground. The seiza rolls really helped me. I was one of those people would fall just straight over onto her back or shoulder when I first started to learn to roll.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 06-14-2007, 05:14 PM   #18
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Chris, I agree fully w/ you and the others who teach rolls by starting w/ shoulder ON the ground. I'd add as part of step 3: pass your right hand and arm through the arch of the L arm, like threading a needle.
I've seen rolls taught a variety of ways, and this method seems to be both the safest AND the quickest in terms of getting the round shape and forward direction in newbie's bodies.

Janet Rosen
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Old 06-14-2007, 08:11 PM   #19
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

My invisible waza must be strong!

If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.

- Thomas Hardy
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Old 06-15-2007, 10:23 PM   #20
G DiPierro
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Quote:
Donovan Faulkenbury wrote: View Post
I learned through Tomiki Aikido, and I've tried teaching him as such, staring from the kneeling position, the unbendable arm, etc...and the standing as well, but nothing seems to work. His problem seems to be with the unbendable arm, and he keeps landing on his elbow or shoulder, which in turn causes him to roll along his side instead of across the back. Is there anything i can do, or should I just leave the teaching to the professionals?
Have him bend his arm? Seriously, forget about teaching forward rolls. If you want to show him stuff limit it to things you can do with no fall or at most a backfall. I don't even teach forward rolling techniques to people until they have already been training for a while. If you can't put someone who doesn't know how to fall on the ground safely in several different ways (and obviously without them having to take a forward roll), then why bother with any of the more fancy techniques that you can only do in a dojo with properly trained ukes?
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Old 06-16-2007, 09:52 AM   #21
Qatana
 
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

May I point out ,as Bronson did., the rolling from kneeling and putting your shoulder on the mat technique seperated my shoulder in my second class.And I didn't do it "wrong".
In my dojo only black belts teach front rolls. At four years experience I get nervous teaching someone iriminage, I wouldn't presume to try to teach ukemi.

Q
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:41 PM   #22
Don
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

I agree that you should not be trying to teach someone if you yourself don't have a good grasp.....as others have said.....That all said, you are probably going to go ahead anyway so here is what I do...to teach newb's....with ample thanks to a post from Ann Marie Girl....about how her sensei got her to roll.

First I will tell you that we do not have a Swain or Zebra Mat system, but foam blocks supporting a plywood subfloor with ample foam over that and a tarp cover...sprung floor but not too mushy.

I also start newbs on a second piece of the thick foam. So they are rolling on a very forgiving surface and that allays some of their fears.

Now, forget the unbendable arm supporting you crap. No one can SUPPORT themselves in midair on their arm in an unbendable arm position. The point as I see it and having learned the hard way is that the supposed unbendable arm is a guide to keep your form circular. I will repeat . YOU CANNOT SUPPORT YOUR BODY WEIGHT with your arm. Incidental contact is one thing. Expecting support is another.

So okay....if I can't support myself, how can I possibly roll. As Ann Marie Girl's sensei (unnamed but a smart dude) said to her, (more or less - and what I tell new students) the object of a front roll is (a) not to go head over heels but diagonally across your back, and (b) making the first significant point of contact, your upper back (around the scapula region or at the upper end of the lattisimus dorsai)

Well that certainly seems a nebulous instruction... Well yeah, but when I touch the place when they are supposed to first touch down, they understand intuitively. So I start them in a crouched position, explain that the arm acts as a guide for circularity, and then tell them to visualize pushing off and twisting their body so that the first point of contact is as described above. Works EVERY TIME. I have yet to not get anyone male or female doing decent basic front rolls in any more than 20 minutes. And they are condident because they start on double foam, and understand how to move their body to have their back take the roll. Students intuitively understand that "unbendable arm" ain't and they as a result are not scared.

I then have them do front rolls slowly for a while on double foam and then have them do them on the regular mat. I also show them the difference in feeling of pushing themselves over and being given energy. I use Kaiten-Nage. Now they aren't ready for full blown technique rolls. But they can quickly learn this way and it gets them over what I think is a big fear factor, especially for older students and smaller women.

Try it. See if it works for you...
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:50 PM   #23
Don
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Smile Re: Teaching Rollfalls

Oh yeah, and THANKS AGAIN Ann Marie Girl......!! Best post I ever read on aikiweb!
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Old 06-16-2007, 09:09 PM   #24
Don
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

This post has generated a lot of thoughts so here goes a heretical one. As I said in a previous post on this thread about rolls, I think teaching the use of "unbendable arm" as a key part of a forward roll is crap. I say this having learned it that way and spending years trying to find a better way to teach rolls. It wasn't until I read a post by Ann Marie Girl that the light bulb went on and I started really watching what was going on in a good forward roll. And substantial weight-bearing support by the "unbendable arm" wasn't a part of it. Turning your body to get your back smoothly making first contact (apologies to Trekies) is the key, in my view. So, the heretical part of this little diatribe is that, just because we are taught with a certain concept does not make the concept viable or even particularly useful as a teaching tool. Unbendable arm in a front roll is one of those in my opinion. Perpetuating a bad concept should not happen, and persons who have learned from a bad concept, progressed and gotten into a teaching position should review all the stuff they learned and critically review whether the concept is good or not, or at least talk with their CONTEMPORARIES. I say that with emphasis, because sometimes, if you go to your sensei, they may have been the one who taught you with a bad concept. My sensei didn't like me doing away with the idea of unbendable arm as part of a front roll until he saw my success rate. (100 %). Now I admit this could be a problem if a sensei has an ego that can't admit that something they were using to teach was bad, but then perhaps that says something too.....All I am saying is that at some point in teaching development, all concepts have to be reviewed for their efficacy and the bad ones modified or discarded. Then again, bad concepts aren't bad for everyone or in every situation, but rote transmission of TEACHING CONCEPTS isn't justified, in my view. Someone may try to chew on me for this "heresey", so chew away....I've reached an age and longevity where that doesn't bother me. Teach me something....I'm always willing to learn/modify if it makes the teaching job better.
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Old 06-17-2007, 04:57 AM   #25
Hanna B
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Re: Teaching Rollfalls

The dojo I saw that was quickest in getting all newbies to roll was a Bujinkan dojo. They started with squatting somersaults, then said "and now we do somersault at an angle". Nobody had any problems, arms were not used. But then, the average Bujinkan roll is slightly different than the average aikido roll - they don't use their arms the way most aikido people do; their rolls are lower, and the diameter of their roll is smaller. I never heard anyone explaining the "roll arm" in terms of "supporting my body weight" but indeed it does help in changing the direction of by body, and get the roll starting. These are two different ways of rolling IMHO, and for many aikido techniques such as most kokyunage it makes sense to roll from the higher positions and use your arms, rather than go lower and make a smaller diameter roll - at least in aikido as I know it. I can not use a Bujinkan roll from most kokyunage unless I let go of the contact earlier and that is something I don't want to. Not in aikido.

I've seen some aikido people - not very skilled people but still - who rolled without using their arms much but still tried to teach newbies the "unbendable arm" etc. Obviously they found the other way of rolling easier, but did not know that was how they actually rolled.
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