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Old 08-15-2005, 10:04 AM   #1
Jenn
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VERY Beginner Ukemi

As I mentioned in my introduction I have been taking Aikido for only 6 weeks in a beginner class. Of those 6 weeks, we have only been really 'taught' our rolls the last two.

It's funny because one of our instructors kept giving us dire warnings to stick it out when we got to this point, because apparently many students routinely drop out of the class around week 5 or 6.

Well I don't think it's as bad as he made it out to be, but I am definately struggling with it! I know I shouldn't compare myself to anyone, but I do feel better when I look up and see half the class sprawled out on the mat in frusteration.

The biggest problem I have is shoulder pain. My shoulder gets jammed into the mat when I roll. I've gotten to the point now where if I do a forward roll starting out on all fours on the mat, I can consistently do it without hurting myself. Any higher though and I smack myself, and my back rolls are pretty uncomfortable as well. The instructors will show and tell me how to do it more correctly but without much luck so far.

Part of the problem I think is it just takes one major flop to hurt my shoulder and then I get timid for the rest of the session.. or between sessions, I'll think my shoulder is just fine and all I do is one roll and I get a big "reminder" of exactly how I whacked myself two days ago.

I'm sure it also doesn't help that I'm still working on regaining abdominal strength after abdominal sugery (c-section) three months ago, not to mention about 40 pounds of extra baby weight.

Anywyas I'm sure it's just a matter of time and practice, but I was wondering if anyone had any words of wisdom, insight, or experience to share that might be helpful in the interim.
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Old 08-15-2005, 10:11 AM   #2
James Davis
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Get those feet over! You're "sticking" yourself into the floor because you're allowing gravity to pull your roll downward, instead of forward. Kick with that front foot to send yourself over. Try not to be timid about it and don't give up.
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Old 08-15-2005, 02:33 PM   #3
Nick P.
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Keep that front or leading arm curved, do not let it collapse. That should solve your shoulder issues.
Also, if it helps, lower you butt as far as possible for now; it helps reduce the sense of "falling from high up".
The feet hint given above is completely true; think of your feet arching up over your butt, which also archs up over your head (imagine watching someone roll away or towards you). Most problems arise from letting the feet, butt and head get out to the sides (i.e. not stacked one over the other).

Good-standing
<head>
<butt>
<feet>
during roll
<feet>
<butt>
<head>

BAD-standing
<head>
<butt>
<feet>
during roll
<feet>
<butt>
<head>

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Old 08-15-2005, 02:47 PM   #4
Paul Kerr
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Jennifer,
You could also ask a senior student to very gently "throw" you in ways that will encourage you to safely and naturally improve your ukemi. After all, ukemi is done in response to/with a partner's technique. IMO, too much solo ukemi practice can build the habit of disconnecting early from nage.

Bottom line though, just keep training and it will improve.

Paul Kerr
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Old 08-15-2005, 03:19 PM   #5
Nick P.
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

oops, the tabs in my "bad roll" layout did not carry over; they should appear as not above each other.

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Old 08-15-2005, 05:07 PM   #6
Daphne
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Ooof! I know what you are experiencing, having recently gone through it myself (I started in March). I had the worst time with forward rolls, and my shoulders were in constant pain for a couple of months. I am still struggling with rolling out of throws. Here are some tips that have helped me quite a bit.

1. Keep your head tucked in when you roll. This is very important. One handy trick is to look at your belt knot as you begin the roll and continue looking towards it until you come up. Trust me, this helps a lot.

2. Start your roll low. Don't bend your knees over your waist, but bend forward as you begin your roll, so that you start out low to the mat.

3. Brace the hand of the side you will be rolling on with your other hand. Place the palm of the other hand on top of your rolling arm hand. This will help support the arm, and help you maintain your form through the roll.

4. Push off a bit with your back foot to give you momentum enough to come out of the roll.

5. I think the most important thing is to relax, but I haven't managed to do that yet!

More experienced aikidoka, please correct me if I'm handing out bad info. These are things that I found have really helped me. In any case, my shoulders don't hurt (much) anymore.
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Old 08-15-2005, 06:41 PM   #7
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Bend your knees, bend your knees, bend your knees.....the # 1 most detrimental thing you can do while falling is keep your knees straight. That's why you slam the shoulder. That's why it's intimidating.
When you start to learn how to due Ukemi (either Mae or Ushiro), you need to feel just like your falling down. Try to think back to when you were a kid doing somersaults down the hill. That is all it should feel like. Ellis Amdur has a real good video out on Ukemi. It is a bit unconventional in the Aikido sense, but he makes some salient points. I learned a lot from it and it influenced how I teach folks to roll.
When I teach Mae Ukemi (forward Rolling) from a standing position, the first thing I have folks do is get into a crouch. Bend both knees, shift the weight to the forward leg, place both hands on the mat inside and to the front of the forward foot making a nice circle with the arms. Then I have them raise the back leg, so they are completely balanced on the front leg and where the hands meet the mat. I have them continue to raise the back leg until gravity takes effect and they "roll over".
Its nice and easy and controlled, no hard impacts. It also generally flows with most forward momentum Kokyunage throws you'll find as well.
Daphne's point about keeping the head tucked in should be well heeded, but tuck it in as you change you weight distribution so you can make sure that your going in the right direction.
Nick's point about the body alignment is also good (even though his "tabs" didn't work ). Quite often folks will turn their hips or shoulders too much which causes the body to move along a horizontal and not a vertical axis. Your legs kick out side-ways and not up and over. Not a sound move. Most of your body weight then lands on your upper-back shoulders as the hips and legs cannot really follow through.
Keep trying though, I'm sure you'll get it eventually, and remember, bend them knees!
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Old 08-15-2005, 07:37 PM   #8
Lyle Bogin
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Are you actually taking any rolls while being thrown? If not, perhaps rolling should be left until later. Rolling is not very beginner ukemi, IMO. It is much harder than people make it out to be . Also, a roll on your own is harder then a roll with help from nage. You have to supply all of your own energy.
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Old 08-16-2005, 06:48 AM   #9
giriasis
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Quote:
I've gotten to the point now where if I do a forward roll starting out on all fours on the mat, I can consistently do it without hurting myself.
Then that's what you keep practicing until you feel more comfortable doing them from standing. And when you do them from standing bend forward and bend your knees so you are practically doing them from on your knees.

Last edited by giriasis : 08-16-2005 at 06:48 AM. Reason: typos, grammer...

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 08-16-2005, 07:33 AM   #10
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Dear Jennifer,
it is a funny advice "don't get timid", when your shoulder hurts .
In fact one reason is that your shoulder is not strong enough. Good mae ukemi needs muscles, you had never thought about. So push-ups or other workouts should help. In the meantime you might use tricks to relieve pressure from your shoulder. Some were already said:
Forward roll means "forward", not only front-side. So move forward.
Kick the back-side leg in the air and jump with the other one. Then you nearly can roll in the air without using your shoulder.
Form your arm sickle shaped and keep your shoulder firm.

All this means also: "Don't get timid!" Try and try and try and one day you will succeed

Have much fun


Dirk
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Old 08-16-2005, 12:54 PM   #11
Mark Uttech
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

the Donovan Waite ukemi vhs tapes are the perfect solution.
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Old 08-16-2005, 01:26 PM   #12
Jenn
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Thanks for all the advice.. keep it coming!

Goodness.. VHS tapes.. in the age of DVDs I don't even have a VCR hooked up anymore!

I do try not to be timid. However there does come a point in each session where I am just at my limit and can't handle it anymore. Fortunately a good chunk of the rest of the class seems to have that same limit, and the instructor moves us on to doing something else when he notices the majority of the class can't bring themselves to do another roll.

Good point about the shoulder strength. I know that could definately use some work.

Last edited by Jenn : 08-16-2005 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 08-16-2005, 01:31 PM   #13
petermavrik
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

I was in the same exact situation you were a little over a month ago. In my dojo they suggested that while rolling I start breathing out. That was the number one thing that changed my rolls from noisy and painful to much quieter and painless.

When you roll, you're bending at the waist. If you don't breathe out properly, you're compressing your lungs, which are full of air. Since your body naturally likes to protect it's parts (especially parts like lungs), maybe you're stiffening up without being too conscious of it. I think I was, and it made a big difference when I remembered to breathe out while starting the roll.

Incidentally, I've also found if I breathe back in while I'm coming out of a roll, I can come up to standing easier. My rolls are far from perfect, but they're getting better each time I train, and they don't hurt anymore. Stick with it. You'll get there.

塵も積もれば山となる
even grains of sand can form a mountain
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Old 08-16-2005, 02:12 PM   #14
Mark Uttech
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

on another thread there is talk of the Donovan Waite tapes being converted to dvd. There are some postings in the 'supplies' forum.
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Old 08-16-2005, 05:23 PM   #15
Daphne
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

If you can get your VCR hooked up again, I second Mark's recommendation of Donovan Waite's tapes. I've found them to be useful. Also, as a side note, I believe his ukemi series was shot in your dojo! Maybe they have them in the dojo library?
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Old 08-16-2005, 08:13 PM   #16
giriasis
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

I will third the Donovan Waite tapes, the first one will really help out. It really is worth it to re-hook up your VCR.

Also, if you just want to practice rolling over, seiza rolls really helped me when I had a hard time learning to roll. While sitting in seiza put one of your shoulders down on the mat and then push up as if you were going to stretch your shoulder. The just let yourself flop over.

Once you get used to doing "the flop", then to make it more into a roll, when sitting in seiza make sure you have one knee forward and one knee to the side. They should be on a perpendicular in an "L" shape*. If your have left knee forward and right to the side, put your right hand down in front of your right knee and across from your left knee. This should form a square. Weave your free arm (the left arm) in between the right arm and the right knee. When you do this you should have your shoulder on the mat. Once your shoulder is on the mat, start pushing up with your foot (right foot in this case) and at the same time start looking at your armpit and then to the ceiling. (The looking at the armpit then ceiling helps you tuck your chin and by tucking your chin helps facilitate the roll -- the body will follow the head.) Once you push hard enough and tuck your head enough you will topple over. Eventually, you can make it feel like a real roll, but it really is more of an exercise to get used to going over without having to bang your shoulder.

Once you get this down you can move into rolls from a squating position, then a kneeling position, then standing.Once you get your rolls down, you can still do this a great warm-up.

*Note that the "L" shape is really crucial as it turns your body into more of the proper positioning. In the first exercise your legs are in a "V" shape, and you will just "flop" over like in more of a barrel roll. Do the "V" shape a couple of times to warm up your shoulder then move into the "L" shape of a seiza roll.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 08-17-2005, 07:16 AM   #17
Nick P.
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Quote:
Daphne Williams wrote:
More experienced aikidoka, please correct me if I'm handing out bad info. These are things that I found have really helped me. In any case, my shoulders don't hurt (much) anymore.
Any trick or hint that will help someone get past a stumbling block is good....as long as the person suffering the block remembers that
1- Change/try only one thing at a time; changing several at once usually causes more confusion.
2- How you do something today will not be the same later on, especially when and if a teacher or senior student tries to correct you.

Telling one student to constantly relax was not working; I convinced him his skills were sound and to imagine falling into his favorite sofa/chair or bed. The change was amazing.

Good luck.

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Old 08-17-2005, 01:20 PM   #18
Charles Hill
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

I am going to go against the grain here and say that I don't think Donovan Waite videos are going to help much with your specific problem. I DO think they are the best overall ukemi videos out there. Ellis Amdur, in his dvd Ukemi From The Ground Up, goes into great detail about the problems you wrote about and how to correct them. Again, I think Mr. Waite's videos are must buy, but Mr.Amdur's dvd would better serve you.

Charles Hill
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Old 08-20-2005, 10:56 AM   #19
Jenn
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

I want to thank everyone again for their comments. Yesterday's class I had a very sudden improvement, and I think internally thinking about some of this advice helped. I still need to practice a LOT, but I was no longer in pain - even when rolling from a standing position. I was even able to continue practicing a few minutes after class because I was pain free!

My rolls aren't very dynamic still, and I have one extremely gimpy side on my backroll where I flop over to one side - but it doesn't hurt. I think getting over hurting myself was a BIG hurdle and I can feel less timid and have more improvement from here.
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Old 08-20-2005, 02:54 PM   #20
David Thommen
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Charles,

Where can you pick up the DVD you refer to in your post?
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Old 08-20-2005, 08:47 PM   #21
James Davis
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Quote:
Jennifer Johnson wrote:
and I have one extremely gimpy side on my backroll where I flop over to one side - but it doesn't hurt. I think getting over hurting myself was a BIG hurdle and I can feel less timid and have more improvement from here.
Everybody has a "good" and "bad" side with their rolls, just like writing or anything else. Keep practicing with your bad side 'til it's your good side.

Have fun!!
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Old 08-20-2005, 08:54 PM   #22
Charles Hill
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Quote:
David Thommen wrote:
Charles,

Where can you pick up the DVD you refer to in your post?
ellisamdur.com. There is also a review of the dvd on this site.

Charles Hill
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Old 08-24-2005, 12:54 AM   #23
Hanna B
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

It sounds like somone should tell your teachers not to let the newbies to too many rolls in each class, since in hurts and is detrimental to self conficence.
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Old 08-24-2005, 04:33 AM   #24
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Ukemi should be taught gradually, allow beginners to get used to the tatami, if you will.
Nage (the one that throws) is (very likely) more experienced and must adapt his technique to the beginner. It is his (nage) responsibility to take of the beginner. This way the beginner can get a feel for the exercise (direction and speed) and gains trust in nage.

Training ukemi by yourself, common practice sad to say, is dangerous! Most (shoulder) injuries occur when beginners practice ukemi by themselves!!! Funny thing is they claim to do this to prevent injury.
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Old 08-29-2005, 01:49 PM   #25
Jenn
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Re: VERY Beginner Ukemi

Quote:
It sounds like somone should tell your teachers not to let the newbies to too many rolls in each class, since in hurts and is detrimental to self conficence.
You are probably right. Though I do think they made a good effort not to have us overdo ourselves, encourage us to start slowly, and no pressure to roll out of techniques if we didn't feel ready.

However that said, it's the Incredible Shrinking Class. We have 2 more days of the beginner class.. which was 8 weeks long. Week 1 there were probably 15-20 people in the class.. now there are about 6 I think. I do not think it is any coincidence that most of this shrinkage occured in the vicinity of when we started learning about ukemi.
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