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Falling with weights.

Description: Standard falling (ukemi) with weights, The aim is for smoothness not speed. You can develop good power and control this way.

Motions trained: Torso flexion (forward rolls), torso extension (back falls).

Main muscles used: Ooodles and oodles
   Other muscles:

How to do it:

I'll describe the back roll in detail. Grab the weight and pin it to one hip, say it is your left hip. You will be rolling over your left side (same as the side with the weight). Sit and do your roll, keeping the weight in place. You will need to finish the roll by putting your right hand by your left ear as shown. Be sure you practice coming over on teh ball of the foot first out of the roll rather than on the knee.

Getting ready for the side fall. Starting a shoulder roll.
For the side fall, pin it to one hip before sitting down. Note that the side with the weight is not the side onto which you are falling. Be sure to tap. For the shoulder roll, the weight is at the hip again and your free arm is the side you lead with. In this case, you cannot tap, but just have to roll.

How to work up to it: Regular falling. You should not consider this until you are proficient at falling. Fall a practice or two with one hand plastered to your side to get the form down. Then start with the smallest handweight you can find for the first few. Work up in stages over several weeks. Do not exceed 15 lbs tops, since the momentum of the fall will tend to separate your weighted arm from you. Always aim for smooth.

Ramping it up: Start twith 5 lbs. and gradually move up increments over several weeks to, at most 15 lbs. More than that could work with a weight vest. No, I haven't tried it but might one of these days, so this is theorizing. After about 15 lbs., there is too much momentum in the weighted arm to control well. The purpose of the exercise is to get you to have good power and form on rolls not on taps.

Do's and don'ts: Always keep the weight pinned to a hip!! If you have the weight in the free arm (such as the lead arm on a forward roll) you can get hurt. This is simple common sense, since your full body weight will be in play and 10 lbs. is more than enough to stick your arm to the mat at some point when it should move, causing shoulder tears, elbow sprains or any of several other possible problems. No, you cannot do a foward fall (looks a bit like a belly flop if you aren't familiar with the name) with weights, since you would violate having it pinned to a hip.

Comments: You will find that this will help your form quite a bit making it smoother. Or rather, whatever you are doing it will make it smoother. What I'm saying is that you should not jump the gun on doing this until your regular falling is in good order. Doing this with bad form can get you hurt. This is, however, an under-used training tool and it is well worth adding to your toolkit.