I had a discussion the other day with some of my classmates about the use of the crash pad, and it brought about an interesting point that some may miss in the course of our training. There are two main reasons why I like to use the crash pad, not only when teaching and leading class, but when I myself am training.
The first reason, is perhaps the most obvious one: landing on a crash pad over and over is a lot easier on uke than landing and the harder mat over and over. And if we learn more the higher number of reps we do, it makes sense to do it in a way that will allow us to do it with less ware and tear on our bodies.
If you're just learning ukemi, say as a white or green belt, the crash pad can not only protect you when you're fall isn't 100% right, but it also takes a lot of the fear out of falling. Let's face it, the last thing we want to do is walk into a dojo and break something within the first couple of months.
When you ease that fear a little with a crash pad, uke can relax. And we all know tensing up is probably the worst thing you can do when taking a fall.
But even though I'm still relatively young, and have pretty decent ukemi, my theory is, if I want to keep doing this for another 30 years or more, I think I'm going to pace myself.
Now, the second reason, may or may not be so obvious. Using the pad also takes the fear out of a young, inexperienced tori. After all, the next to last thing we want to do is walk into a dojo and break our partner within the first couple of months. I think newer students, if throwing on the regular mat, hesitate, knowing that they aren't going to throw correctly, and while worrying about not hurting their partner, self-sabotage the technique, in effect making it worse.
If they're working with an advanced player, of course, who has great ukemi, they needn't worry about it, but then they tend to think their sempai is "jumping" for them anyway.
With a crash pad, younger students can throw each other without some of the anxiety.
And, well, besides all that, it's actually kind of fun.