Judo and aikido rolls
are somewhat different. They help the person falling
roll out of an armbar projection, cork screw, throw
or certain wrist locks (sankajo, yonkyu, etc.). In
aikido, for example, the roll is usually an elliptical
fall rather than circular. Elliptical falling causes
your body to speed up and hit the surface at a different
angle. But, because they generate substantial centrifugal
forces, the faller's ankles can sustain damage or
pain when hitting a hard surface.
Modified judo and aikido rolls (no slapping), and
just contacting the bottom of your feet and shoulders,
result in high pressure contacts. On hard surfaces,
this could cause injury to the feet, shoulders and
the small of the back.
Another often-taught technique in judo and jujitsu
is just to fall forward (without a roll) to absorb
the fall on your hands, forearms and toes. On hard
surfaces this can also cause injury.
While these techniques might work for some, I prefer
the combat roll when the direction of the fall is
directly downward. When using the combat roll, your
downward energy is compacted and the tight roll
causes a slight flowing impact.
One arm (two optional) also protects your head,
and by curling into a small circle, you become a
small ball close to the hard surface. Thus, centrifugal
force on the ankles is minimal. Your hand (palm)
is facing the ground to give more support (the arm
and elbow are locked). If your palm is facing your
head, it is weaker and the elbow may give way or
bend, causing your head to contact the cement.
The purpose of the arm is to protect your face
or head from contacting or hitting the cement. Since
you have controlled your fall downward with your
leg or legs, your arm should end up near the ground
and is only about six inches away from your forehead
to provide a safety or give factor. You will roll
in a circle over your head, to the flat of the back
(not the shoulder), the hips to the bottom of your
feet and up to a standing position.
I know the combat roll is very different from what
most aikido, judo and jujutsu practitioners have
been taught, but don't reject it outright. Try it
and you will see that is a viable alternative in
situations where you find yourself falling directly
This article is an edited and enhanced version
of one first printed in the American Jujitsu Association's
Newsletter, Fall 2001.