falling in Aikido

Free form ukemi training

o-sensei,throw,Training in how to safely receive technique (ukemi) is something that is particularly emphasised at our dojo.  In every class time is set aside to develop and refine our ukemi skills.  Everyone participates, however, the level and intensity of the practice varies consistent with each student’s experience and skills.

One form of ukemi practice  that we have a lot of fun doing is what we call “free form ukemi training”.  Basically the uke repeatedly receives different variations of the same technique which, depending on the variation, result in unpredictable and different falling outcomes.

Ian Grant - Aikido UkemiRyotadori seoi otoshi is a favourite technique for this sort of training. Subtle changes in the application of the technique result in the uke having to unpredictably roll or breakfall from the left or right hand side while in an unbalance position.  They also result in alterations in the space between the uke and nage, as well as the extent to which the some or all of the nage’s body operates to sever the uke’s connection to the ground.

The use of ryotadori seoi otoshi  for this sort of training is demonstrated in the video below.



  • Video Library: Falling and uke arts

For further videos and posts on ukemi training, including how to forward roll, see Video Library: Falling and uke arts.


  • Ryotadori seoi otoshi – the basic elements

In the below video, Peter Kelly Sensei, International Instructor for Aikido Yuishinkai, demonstrates the shape and footwork for ryotadori seoi otoshi as practised in our school. As noted in the lead-in commentary for the featured video, in order to produce different ukemi outcomes for training purposesparticipants made subtle (and maybe at times not so subtle) amendments to the execution of the technique.


  • Training methods for learning to breakfall

For examples of training methods that we use to develop our breakfalling skills (one aspect of ukemi) see the below video.  More detailed information on ukemi training can be found in the Video Library: Falling and uke arts.


Have a great week.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Exercise – Forward rolls and learning to relax

UkemiFor many beginners to Aikido, learning to forward roll is one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of Aikido training.  Further, once the mechanical skills of rolling are learnt, first from a kneeling position and then from a solo standing position, the next challenge is to learn to relax when rolling.  The more one relaxes the easier rolling is to do. The lumps and bumps that also come with learning this skill also quickly disappear.

In the below video Master Koretoshi Maruyama, Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai,  demonstrates a fun way to learn to relax when solo forward rolling.  Essentially, it involves the practitioner pretending to stumble and walk around relaxed (as if drunk) prior to executing the roll.

As bizarre as it may seem, this exercise actually works.  In fact, at our dojo the exercise is done as part of our regular solo ukemi practice at the beginning of each class and has proven beneficial to both seniors and newcomers in developing relaxation in not only forward rolling but also other forms of ukemi (e.g. backward rolling and opposite leg rolling).


Needless to say this exercise should never be practised by people actually under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


  • Other ukemi articles and video

See: Video library: Falling and uke arts

  • Maruyama Sensei’s comments on receiving ukemi from O’sensei 

Ueshiba 5“After I became a full-time instructor in 1967, Ueshiba Sensei used me as his uke. As a deshi (student), it was important to take ukemi. One deshi didn’t know how to take ukemi from O-Sensei and went down with a bang. I already knew that Ueshiba Sensei used ki. I wondered, “How to take ukemi from O-Sensei?” So I decided to extend ki to him. He said, “Come, Maruyama!”, and I attacked him.

After taking ukemi from him, Ueshiba Sensei looked at me, and said, “Good ukemi!” He then asked what rank I held and I told him I was a 5th dan. He gave me a 6th dan and told me to go to the office to get the certificate! I thanked him but I never picked up my certificate. However, I had learnt an important lesson, “Extend ki to your opponent!””

Source: http://www.shinsei-dojo.co.uk/koretoshi-maruyama-sensei

Have a great weekend

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Ukemi options – Shiho nage

ShihonageUkemi (falling arts) is something that we give a lot of emphasis at our dojo.  Apart from the training insights it gives us into our Art, learning to safely receive technique is critical.

As we progress in our studies and begin to receive techniques in a more fluid training environment, the need to learn more options to receive techniques becomes paramount.  In short, we need to be able to safely fall regardless of the technique variation that is applied or the fact that it may not be strictly text book in execution.

By way of example, the below informal video shows seniors at our dojo receiving various forms of ukemi from yokomenuchi shiho nage (4 corners throw), including rolling and breakfalls.

Have a great day.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Good to be back – Aikido Warrior Dojo class album – 28 June 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter 6 weeks of usually being no more useful than a ceremonial hood ornament at the dojo and finally on Friday getting a medical clearance for “light admin duties”, today was the day I had been waiting for –  the chance to get back on the mat for an attempt at some serious training.

I wasn’t sure how I would go after 2 abdominal surgeries and some major scar tissue still on the mend, but I figured it was time to give it a go and give things a test.  Muscle memory combined with some strategic ukemi landings and the occasional gritting of the teeth, kept me in one piece and I had a great time.  Big thanks to everyone for making sure I didn’t end up on the receiving end of a front or awkward breakfall, let alone an unexpected strike to the stomach!

Those who were there know that Eden dropped down to take some photos. While I think by looking at them I appear to have aged 10 years in 6 weeks – they make a nice addition to the dojo’s photo memorabilia.

All the best


Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo


Training Notes – Ukemi and maintaining connection

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis training note examines the importance of maintaining connection when receiving ukemi, from both a safety and self-defence perspective.  The video extract is from a class given by Peter Kelly Sensei (7th Dan Aikido Yuishinkai) at the Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane,  on 17 May 2014.

Ukemi practice and the development of high level ukemi skills are an important part of Aikido Yuishinkai. In this video, Peter Sensei highlights the self-defence folly of adopting a “runaway” ukemi approach where the uke ceases to look at the nage throughout the receiving of the technique and subsequent ukemi.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

One Saturday morning – Aikido in stills

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are plenty of blogs on the internet devoted to reports about Aikido seminars and other special events.  However, what is not seen so often, are blogs dedicated to a regular Aikido class. That is, the type of class most of us train at each week.

This month’s blog is about one such class that I lead at Everton Hills Dojo on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia. The date: Saturday, 7 September 2013.

I was going to write a detailed overview of the class.  Then I thought, “what the heck”, a picture (or in this case a photo) paints a 1000 words, so I did a photo library instead.

When you look at the pics, keep in mind most of us are over 35 (some into our 50’s), hold full-time jobs and practice Aikido around our life commitments. Also, those without a hakama (i.e. the black Japanese pants) have been practising less than 2 years.

All in all – I think we do pretty well.

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Ian Grant

Avoiding injury in Aikido training

It is only natural for anyone interested in taking up a martial art to be concerned about the potential for injury.  Fortunately, serious injuries in Aikido are quite rare.

Ian Grant (a) On its face this probably seems strange given that Aikido is a full contact martial art which amongst other things involves techniques where the attacker almost always ends up being sent to the ground.  The outcome can largely be attributed to the higher emphasis on safe practice advocated by the vast majority of dojo’s.

While safe practice is a without doubt everyone’s responsibility in the dojo, there are many simple things that an individual can do to minimise their chance of injury during training practice.  These include the following:

  • Always warm up

Make sure you get to class in time to participate in the preliminary warm up exercises.  If for some reason are late, take responsibility and do some warm up exercises prior to starting active practice.

  • Make learning ukemi (the art of falling) a priority

It cannot be emphasised enough that learning to fall and roll correctly out of techniques (i.e. ukemi) is absolutely critical to the practice of Aikido.  Practitioners who for whatever reason decide not to learn ukemi not only place themselves in a position where it almost impossible to become proficient in our martial art, but also place themselves at high risk of harm.

  • Learn to relax

Always easier said than done when you first start, but if you can maintain a relaxed state of mind and body during practice, your chance of injury significantly decreases.  Remember its much easier to snap a twig than a pillow.

  • Listen to the Sensei (teacher)

Your safety is the Sensei’s priority.  If the Sensei points out that a particular technique has the potential for risk take note of this and the stated ways of avoiding it.

  • Be aware of your surrounds

When practising techniques, remain aware that others are also sharing the mat – in short do not set yourself up to be thrown on another person.  Conversely, do not linger on the mat after receiving a technique.

  • Be honest about your abilities

Don’t train beyond your abilities.  If you need your partner to slow down or take it easy because you are getting out of your depth – be upfront.  Further, if your training partner for some reason is starting to rely on physical strength rather than technique or for any reason is getting rough, speak up and bring it to their attention.

  • Practise more than once a week

I recently read a report that a research study undertaken for a master’s thesis found that persons who practice Aikido less than twice a week or more than 5 times a week experienced a significantly higher injury rate than those who practised between 2-5 times a week. This is something you may wish to keep in mind when planning your training schedule.

  • Other factors 

In a study by Phillip Smith published in the Spring 2009 Edition of the Journal of Sports Therapy it was found that there appears to be no correlation between injuries in Aikido and any of the following factors –

  • grade of the student;
  • age of the student; or
  • years of practice.

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo