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Old 05-12-2005, 08:33 AM   #1
Joost Korpel
 
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Dojo: University of Iowa Aikikai
Location: Iowa City, IA
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Youth and breakfalls.

My son is 12 and has been practicing aikido for 6 months with my club. At the last Aikido seminar he was asked a copule of times by partners if he could do breakfalls. He can't. He has practiced slapping out of front ukemi but certainly no high falls. Being a University Dojo we don't have a lot of experience with kids, in fact my son is the only under 18 member of the dojo.

I'm concerned about him taking breakfalls while his body is still actively growing. I personally would prefer he not take any breakfalls till he is 16, but I have no scientific basis for that decision and I don't want to uneccesarily retard his aikido development.So my question is, at what age is it appropriate to teach breakfalls with regards to growth development and what criteria do you use for your decision? I'm particularly interested in hearing from dojos with active youth participation.

<Sigh> I used to think Aikido was the most challanging thing to learn in my life; then I became a parent
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Old 05-12-2005, 09:08 AM   #2
mj
Location: livingston, scotland
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Kids start Judo at 5 or 6, gymnastics at 2.

Relax. Your son will do breakfalls better than you after a short while training in them, I am sure.

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Old 05-12-2005, 09:12 AM   #3
grondahl
Dojo: Stockholms Aikidoklubb
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

They do breakfalls all the time in Judo. Lots and lots of kids do judo. In my own opinion I would teach him breakfalls straight away, feels like an safer option than rolls on many occasions.
Start slow and don't make a fuzz about it, people should start to teach breakfalls to beginners at their first class, why wait?
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Old 05-12-2005, 09:20 AM   #4
RebeccaM
Dojo: Boulder Aikikai
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Breakfalls are best learned when the student is ready. My bro was taking breakfalls before he knew what they were. He was seven when he finally started aikido and he was break-falling not long after. I didn't get up the nerve to try them until I was 12 or 13. Falling is best learned when you're a kid. Kids don't break. They bounce.
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Old 05-12-2005, 10:48 AM   #5
giriasis
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Your son is plenty old enough to learn breakfalls. We teach all the children in our kids program (ages 5-17) to breakfall. Actually, most of them love to breakfall. The impact isn't nearly as bad as you might think it to be. They do, however, need to be taught properly and at the student's own pace. Most kids almost do them naturally, but a few find them intimidating. This isn't weight training or elite gymnastics where you might risk stunting his growth.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:00 AM   #6
mj
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Please remember....learning breakfalls actually improves your childrens' safety.

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Old 05-12-2005, 12:14 PM   #7
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

My main concern with youngsters is joint controls, not breakfalls or ukemi. Anyone see John Goss's uke at the first aiki expo? I think he was about 14 or 15...his ukemi was some of the best I've seen!
RT

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 05-12-2005, 12:22 PM   #8
MatthewJones
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Not to bash but I thought his ukemi was some of the crappiest I have seen. I'll grant you that he was very athletic, but that was the end. He was trying to make the thows look big by taking leaping jumps for his ukemi, he also "splayed" out during a lot of his falls, ie spinning horizontally instead of vertically.

I agree with the general sentiment, really emphasize the slap out ukemi from front rolls, once that is ingrained start throwing in such a way that you can control where the hand is in relation to the ground.

Sumi otoshi works pretty well for this. Cheers.
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Old 05-12-2005, 01:46 PM   #9
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Well, different strokes for different folks. People who are interested can see a portion of the video in question here. http://www.aikidojournal.com/media.php?media=video

I believe what you refer to as 'splaying out' is a result of the throw...but then, I've been thrown by Goss Sensei, so that may influence my impression. The style of throwing he uses in his korindo aikido tends to whip you out into a breakfall. His Daito ryu technique can be similar. I'm not rolling gently out of those throws. I don't believe uke is jumping into the throws...the hanbo is actually lifting in a lot of them. 'Course, you could just walk up to Goss Sensei at the Expo this year and take some falls... Let me know what you think.

Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 05-12-2005, 07:13 PM   #10
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

If memory serves, there was an article and then a kind of letter war in Aikido Today Magazine many years back on this subject. The overwhelming opinion, including those who were M.D.s, was that breakfalls should not be done by kids still growing. However, I don`t have the magazines anymore and this was over ten years ago.

Charles
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:22 PM   #11
Hrvoje
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Hmmm, interesting. Well im 17 now, started aikido at 13 and started breakfalling within the first few months, not well admitedly, but i did do them. so thats about 4 years of breakfalling during what is a crucial development stage. Hasn't stopped my growth, im close 2 6ft no major physical damage, any that i do have is unrelated to aikido. from personal experiece breakfalling is not damaging for people of that age, then again maybe i'm just weird or its all gonna catch up with me :P
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Old 05-13-2005, 03:19 AM   #12
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Quote:
Joost Korpel wrote:
My son is 12 and has been practicing aikido for 6 months with my club.
<snip>
I'm concerned about him taking breakfalls while his body is still actively growing. I personally would prefer he not take any breakfalls till he is 16, but I have no scientific basis for that decision and I don't want to uneccesarily retard his aikido development.So my question is, at what age is it appropriate to teach breakfalls with regards to growth development and what criteria do you use for your decision? I'm particularly interested in hearing from dojos with active youth participation.
Hi Joost,

We taught our 12 year old student to breakfall at the same time as we taught all the adult newer students. She is the only one who can and will do them in general class now! She has been training for about the same length of time as your son.

Make sure you find a good teacher who can inspire, give your son confidence, and ensure that he is taught safely. We used a big crash mat to get our students used to falling this way, then got them to use thinner mats until they were doing breakfalls on the regular tatami.

12 year olds are usually flexible, and tend to fly and bounce well. The most important thing for your son to learn is confidence in his own body's ability to take these falls. With confidence he can do anything!

All the best,

Ruth
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Old 05-13-2005, 03:27 AM   #13
grondahl
Dojo: Stockholms Aikidoklubb
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

I learned breakfalls when I was 11. No problems, breakfalls are the only possible ukemi for many throws (Hip throws in particular). Just throw him in some koshinages where you can help him by controlling the impact.
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Old 05-13-2005, 07:07 AM   #14
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

I've been doing every kind of ukemi possible (it seems like...) for the past fifty-two years and it hasn't done me any harm. I have knee problems, but they are directly related to two things. Really stupid training methods in the early years (didn't we all??) and two accidents. One of them was getting hit three years ago while in a crosswalk by a pick-up truck. Ukemi saved my bacon that time.

My son has been doing similar ukemi practice (without the stupid training methods) for the past 30 years and has no problems other than the results of one training accident. He started training and doing ukemi at a younger age than I did.

Of course, your ukemi training must be based in good principles, etc.

Best of luck in your practice.

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 05-13-2005, 07:57 AM   #15
Joost Korpel
 
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this issue. It has helped greatly.

I have never doubted the value of break falls, they are a critical part of injury free ukemi for many techniques. We have excellent instructors with decades of aikido experience, so proper teaching technique is not a problem either.

Chuck, thanks for sharing your story about the pickup truck. I've had a similar experience, 15 years ago, jogging at night and getting tripped up by kid's toys left on the sidewalk. I didn't see them and ended up flipping forward though the air and landing patially on concrete. Hurt like h**l, but breakfalling saved me from serious injury.

RebeccaM, hrvoje, ruthmc, giriasis thanks for your personal testimony, it carries a lot of weight with me. I started Aikido in my early 30's, so I didn't have personal experience to draw from.

Charles, I vaguely remember the article you refer to. I'll have to dig through the club archives of ATM and see if I can find the article and followup mail. What a shame ATM is closing its doors with the 100th issue

Joost
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Old 05-14-2005, 10:59 AM   #16
bryce_montgomery
 
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Quote:
Mark Johnston wrote:
Please remember....learning breakfalls actually improves your childrens' safety.
Here, here!

Bryce
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Old 05-14-2005, 08:55 PM   #17
Daniel Blanco
Dojo: Suffolk Aikikai
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

I feel everyone should learn how to break fall when they are ready but using this fall depends on who your nagi/partner is , this fall should be used to keep up with your partner if he is moving fast.breakfalls being used all the time is not good for your body and you will not be training very long in this manner.students must use rolls,breakfalls as needed.Rolls will save your body it is a fact.
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Old 05-15-2005, 12:42 AM   #18
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

I just got Bruce Bookman`s Teaching Aikido to Children video. He has them do breakfalls and some of them look real good.

Charles
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Old 05-15-2005, 10:42 AM   #19
Anat Amitay
Dojo: Nes- Ziona, "the red house"
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

You got just about as many answers as there can be, I just want to refer to your saying that you wonder if you should wait until your son is 16. Well, boys grow until the minimum age of 18 and today there are studies saying that they continue to grow until 21-22. So 16 wouldn't have made any difference except that he will be less flexible at the time with less co-ordination between the rate growth of his bones (fast) and his muscles and soft tissue (slow), so I think teaching him now will only help him later on.
As his father, you will have to give the final decision, so don't take any of it lightly, you can always check with doctors (preferably sports related doctors) or find medical articles on the topic. Always remember that 10 years (the article you were talking about) is a long time in medical terms, so try to find if any new research contradicts that information.
In any case, enjoy Aikido!
Anat
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Old 05-15-2005, 12:10 PM   #20
Joost Korpel
 
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Re: Youth and breakfalls.

Again, Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. Just wanted to followup with you all.

Last Night I went to class early and pulled out the big crash mat. I worked on breakfalls with my son for 1/2 an hour. As you all predicted, he picked up on breakfalls right away. The class instructor for the eveining, was watching us practice. Much to the surprise of the rest of the class, she decided to change that class from the planned weapons class and have everyone work on breakfalls. So we did a one hour class of breakfall practice. By the end of the class my son was doing breakfalls on the regular tatami from kokyunage techniques.

Afterwords, he told the instructor it was the best class he had taken yet, which in 12 year old terms means it was the most fun. Go figure I know a number of the newer students appreciated having a dedicated class on breakfalls, some of which have been in Aikido for over a year but were just not comfortable with high falls. Myself and the other, ahem.., older students had an opportunity to polish our ukemi

Another AIkido success story,

Joost
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