Thursday, September 27, 2007

To tuck the foot or NOT

Well, I got several comments on the rolling video I posted a few days ago. I wanted to break these two rolls apart and discuss them, so I'll start with the back roll. First, what is excellent about this form of rolling? As several folks mentioned, it is very smoothe. Potatoe Fist also mentioned the demonstrator's awesome ability to roll smoothly to standing without apparently stopping and orienting in a kneeling position. This is very difficult to do - at least, I can't do it. But there is one glaring problem with this form of back roll, and that is the tucked leg.
First, the leg is not made to bear weight with the top of the foot against the ground. Rather, it is made to bear weight with the bottom of the foot against the ground. This means that once the leg is tucked, it cannot be effectively used to slow the fall down.
Second look at what we are trying to do with these falling exercises. We're trying to build a reflex that will save you when you are surprised and forced to take a fall from an awkward position. In order to execute this form of the backfall, you must first be in a prepared position, then you have to shift your weight forward, tuck the leg, then fall. There are a lot more steps than it first appears. What happens when you internalize this skill of this way and then you are placed in an awkward position in which you don't have time or control enough to do the weight shift and foot tuck?
One more point against the foot-tuck fall. It is somewhat against the "Budo Spirit." By that, I mean by placing yourself into a weak, helpless position, you're giving up before it is necessary. What if, during the technique, something happened and tori lost control of the technique? Could uke reverse the fall and stand back up? IF you tuck the foot you commit yourself to the role of uke. Falling without the foot-tuck offers you the option of reversing the technique for a longer period of time.
The way we teach this back fall is to take a half step backward, squat onto the heel bearing your weight on the ball of the foot. This way the foot becomes a smooth extension of the curve of the back. Then you just allow the foot and back to act like the rocker it is shaped like. This way your bottom leg is in a much better position to help you slow the fall.
I used to think that this backfall was just a superficial difference between judo and aikido training methods. Judo guys tend to teach to fall like i'm talking about while the foot-tuck fall is most often seen in aiki classes. But then I saw an interesting thing - The non-foot-tuck fall is demonstrated as the basic form in Gozo Shioda's book, Total Aikido. You also see the non-foot-tuck fall in old videos of Tomiki. So, The old, "hard style" aikibudo guys were doing non-foot-tuck falls. I don't really know where this foot tucked fall originated from?
I've had students who had started learning this backward fall in other classes and it is a difficult habit to break, but once broken, they have all admitted that falling from a crouching position with the bottom of the foot on the ground is much better than falling with a tucked leg. One even mentioned that he broke his tailbone learning to do that tucked-leg backfall and never knew why. Well, it's because you can't use that leg to slow your fall, so if anything goes wrong with the smoothe curve of the thing then you just plop down onto your coccyx. I'm surprised you don't hear of that sort of thing more often.

1 comment:

  1. Being the student who broke his coccyx, I can say that the expe3rience really but the damper on my backward rolls. Also my knees are weaker than they were 20 years ago. Should I go to Physical therepy?


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