Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning to roll

I've been thinking a lot lately about rolling.  In Jiu Jitsu we spend quite a bit of time learning how to break-fall and learning how to roll.  Both are an art in and of themselves.

Many arts do not practice how to do either.  I think this is a mistake. Rolling is a skill that every martial artist should learn, regardless of style.  I think everyone should learn at least the basics of break-falling as well, but that's a topic for another day.

Any time you involve yourself in an encounter, the possibility exists that someone will get a hold of you.  In my style, many techniques are practiced from this in close range.  Trips, take downs, throws and body drops are all skills we learn in addition to locks, breaks, kicks, strikes etc.  What I have noticed is that often when you add the component of your opponent resisting or really trying to execute an attack on you, they have a tendency to hold on.  If you aren't properly balanced, when you take them down, they may pull you over with them.  I have actually used this technique and gone with a throw just so I could pull my partner over with me, rolling them over and ending up on top of them.

If you find yourself in this position, knowing how to roll is invaluable. It is less injurious to you than a break-fall on a hard surface, it is quick and it creates both time and distance.  You end up back on your feet before your opponent knows what's going on.  It also looks cool.

It is for these reasons that I recommend anyone to at least learn the basics of rolling.  Go slow and learn how to roll safely.  Once you've got it down, you can do it pretty safely on concrete with minimal discomfort.  Even if you've only got the basics, you're more likely to emerge with only bumps and bruises vs. broken bones.  Training with resisting opponents has shown me that this scenario presents itself more often than I would have theorized.

Food for thought.


  1. I absolutely agree with you. Even in karate breakfalling is essential if you want to train in the full range of techniques that the art offers. A lot of karate styles don't do this and just omit to teach throws and takedowns. For me, learining to breakfall has been an enourmous confidence booster.

  2. Sue,

    Conquering the natural fear of falling can dramatically improve your confidence. It opens up new areas of technique to explore and it also increases the chance of avoiding injury inside and outside of the dojo. It's nice to hear that your system includes rolling and break-falling.