When teaching rolls to beginners, I find there are three categories that students fall into.
- The student is a natural. They can either already do rolls, or they pick it up so naturally it's as easy as walking.
- The student is a worker. They learn at a steady pace and improve through practice until they become competent and confident at their rolls.
- The student is a worrier. They see the rolls, and immediately think "I can't do that." This is often linked with a perceived (or actual) physical impediment. As a result, they are afraid to practice and often lack motivation.
So how do we get this student to the point where they are making progress? Increasing their motivation is a big factor. Some things that we can do as instructors:
- Learning as a group: Seeing other people learning and enjoying themselves make people want to do the same.*
- Positive feedback: Make sure they know when they have successfully achieved a goal.
- Training environment: People will feel physically safer with extra or thicker mats.
- Physical support: They will feel safer if they know that there is a physical "net" to reduce injury potential.
Some of these points come down to general instruction principles, but I feel they are worth re-enforcing with rolls. The perceived daunting nature of rolls, the physical risks if a roll is not confidently learned and their fundamental importance as ukemi-waza (receiving techniques) makes them a "hump" for some students.
*NB: But be careful not to single them out! Three ways you might single them out unknowingly:
- Putting them in a group of people who already know how to roll.
- Making them perform their roll while everyone else waits or watches.
- Coaching them to the point that they feel "special."
Forward and Backward Rolls off Mokuren Dojo