13 posts / 0 new
Last post
Hannu Leinonen
Hannu Leinonen's picture
various techniques in breaking a fall

Hi, i am planning to write an article about differnces in teaching different ways of breaking a fall. Idea can to me after getting to know a little Han Moo Do which is a Korean style. They taught usiro ukemi with a littel hand push to increase a roll. In other styles it not allowed in fear of breaking a wrist. I think there might be other differnces too.

So help is needed to find differnt instruction on how an ukemi is developed and the application.

Here is a youtube playlist of ukemi http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL804501FC20C2643D

Tau's picture

I think there's no substitute for finding a good Judo / Jujitsu / Sombo / Aikido club and traing with them for a while.

I've never encountered wrist injuries from breakfalling, but then I do styles in which breakfalling is taught from day one. My club covers it to some degree nearly every lesson out of necessity. A.C. joint injuries aren't uncommon, however.

Hannu Leinonen
Hannu Leinonen's picture

Thanks Tau,

my idea is to write an article about differences of various ways of teaching ukemis and first solution is to look at how ukemis are developed in teaching. It would be noce to hace time to go around different clubs and follow their teaching, but I'm not going to invest so much time to this and I'm not sure that I'd find so much differences in one town.

I've done some aikido and judo and my basic style wado has some throws and you need to make some kind of ukemi after them. I also to bjj and did Han Moo Do so my question is not about learning an ukemi. It's about finding material to evaluate how it is taught. It's better to write an article with references than just refeering to own experience.

but for learning ukemis, it is very good to go to local club an learn there.

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

I am no expert in breakfalls but have had quite a bit of experience with how they are used and taught across various arts, namely judo, aikikai style aikido, hakkoryu aikijujutsu, nippon kempo and modern jujutsu. 

From my experiences the basic technique is largely the same wherever you go although there are differences in ethos. For example the slamming down with the arm onto the mat and stopping the motion dead is more favoured in judo circles and a lot of aikido guys frown upon it. Also the backwards roll has largely been discarded by mainline aikikai people in favour of a more sideways motion, ostensibly becasue it is safer (less chance of catching the neck if you do it wrong). 

As far as teaching methodology goes I have seen a lot more step by step instruction and logical progression from aikido where many jujutsu and judo dojos will do the bare minimum and then let students develop falling themselves. This seems ironic to me in some ways as judo has much more falling from whole body lifting throws were aikido and aiki jujutsu techniques generally take the opponent down from an off balance standing posture.

Also, the word "ukemi" is often used to mean just breakfalls but it actually covers a hell of a lot more than that and basically encompases all defensive motions taken to lessen the effects of an attack and get into an advantageous position to counter. Stepping to regain your balance as an opponent tries to pull you off it is technically "ukemi". 

Finally, some competitive judoka I have known advise against taking any basic ukemi at all because it makes it more obvious to a referee that your opponent has landed a good technique. I personally find this to be a bit foolhardy (like refusing to tap out of a lock) but it is undeniable that such a practice has won it's proponents  more than a few judo matches!

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

None Of my Karate Sensei taught me breakfalls, I had to learn breakfalls by practicing Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido for a period of time.

Strange as Ashihara Karate Kata have many techniques where throws are part of the application so I would have presumed breakfalls should be part of the training.

Breakfalls are part of My Syllabus now in my Dojo although I personally am unable to perform the rear rolling breakfall (just never was able to "get it").

But looking forward to some Judo Training once my knee is stronger

Hannu Leinonen
Hannu Leinonen's picture

I think ukemis or breakfalls have an important function in training. Ofcourse it makes it safer, but also strengthen your core and bones. also improves mobility in core. Skill to fall without injury can be helpful in everyday life too:)

Thanks for pointing out that karate does not teach ukemis - not in every dojo and not in my experience either. and that slamming the ground might be one difference in different ways of doing an ukemi. (need to check what ukemi means - is it same as "nak sul" and what does that mean...)

Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture

Like many others, breakfalls weren't part of my karate training growing up.  However, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (at least as my Shihan teaches it) puts an enormous emphasis on ukemi.  We normally try to get students to work up to applying their ukemi out of techniques.  We first teach forwards rolls and sideways breakfalls from hands and knees, backwards breakfalls from a squatting position, and forwards breakfalls from the knees.  We first practice techniques slowly to ease students into this idea of utilizing ukemi.  In my Bujinkan club we put a large focus on balance corruption and manipulation.  We don't spend a lot of time on loading throws or hard take downs that entail the uke slamming into the ground.  This allows us to ease our students into applying ukemi.  Of course, nothing I've said implies that people who train a lot of loading throws can't begin with newer students by throwing them lightly.  They certainly can.  It's like with everything else.  The only way to really develop the capability to do it is to do it.  While you're practicing ukemi on the mats without a launching technique, you are only practicing the theory.  Theory is necessary at the beginning of a student's career, but an instructor must spend some time workshopping a student's ukemi when the ukemi is performed out of a technique. 

As far as the actual characteristics of our ukemi: rolls are favored over breakfalls.  We put a strong emphasis on rolling from hip to shoulder instead of down the spine.  Breakfalls are viewed as a last resort technique because of the amount of force you're body is enduring.  Even though breakfalls are better than hitting your head, they still carry a great risk of damaging your arms when on concrete, which would hinder your ability to protect yourself.  A well executed roll will often result in only very slight injury if any injury at all.

We roll by creating torque in our spines.  Our forwards roll looks a lot like the first video in the playlist (as one should expect) except we emphasize stretching the front hand out to the point where you feel like you are going to fall on your face before we thread our hand through.  We also like to tell students to look at the ceiling as they roll because it opens up the gap between their shoulder and the ground some more, and reduces the chance of bumping. 

Because Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu focuses strongly on skeletal structure and balance manipulation, I often find that ukemi serves as an introduction to these concepts for many students.  Ukemi contains and transmits the principles of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (as we practice it) in a really profound way.

I don't speak Japanese, but I can tell you that "ukemi" is somehow derived from the verb "to receive".  It shares this root with the word "uke".

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

Drew, is your style Karate or a form of Jujitsu. I studied Wado Ryu (Karate/Jujitsu mix) and again even though this has Jujitsu roots Breakfalls weren't taught.

In perspective

Karate is Japanese. Now I can understand why Break falls are not taught for possibly this reason

Judo is compulsory in the school curriculum and therefore every Japanese School Pupil will have possibly 5-6 years’ experience of Judo so teaching them break falls is not required as they already have the skills needed.

So when Karate was brought into the Western world to be taught to the “Gaijin” the same principals were adopted, they didn’t teach break falls because the presumed they should have judo training anyway.

Just my 2pence worth

ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

sounds like Drew is a Ninja wink.

I found the Aikido Ukemi way smoother than the Judo Ukemi. I find the techniques per se very similar but in Judo Ukemi I find myself hitting the floor much harder. I think it is the way I get thrown by a Judoka that makes the impact harder while the Aikido throws tend to not slam the opponent onto the ground.

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Gavin J Poffley wrote:
Finally, some competitive judoka I have known advise against taking any basic ukemi at all because it makes it more obvious to a referee that your opponent has landed a good technique.

This is the approach my judo coach advised for higher level players. Break falls were are taught in detail to beginners, and time was spent on them as part of the warm up of every session. They were however considered to be a “safety in training” method, and were advised against in higher level competition for the reason stated above. It should be noted though that while trying to avoid landing in such a way to give victory to your opponent was endorsed, the rules of judo prohibit (by immediate disqualification) deliberately landing in such a way that likely to result in injury.

So I guess we could say there is a way of landing in training for the less experienced, and a more advanced way of landing for the elite that is still safe, and within the rules, but is less likely to concede the bout. I think it would also be fair to say that higher level players tend to fight other high level players who are therefore far less likely to throw in a way were injury is likely (again, a disqualifiable action). When I was training with the full time guys, they would slam you into the mat hard, but I can’t recall one instance where I landed badly; which was more down to their skill in throwing than my skill in landing.

It would be dangerous to advise the less experienced people to follow the methodology of the elite, but avoiding “formal ukemi” could still be safe and advisable for very skilled players.

Gavin J Poffley wrote:
Also, the word "ukemi" is often used to mean just breakfalls but it actually covers a hell of a lot more than that and basically encompasses all defensive motions taken to lessen the effects of an attack and get into an advantageous position to counter. Stepping to regain your balance as an opponent tries to pull you off it is technically "ukemi". 

Did not know that! Very interesting! Thanks for sharing Gavin.

All the best,


Tau's picture

Various thoughts:

Context, context, context! Judo "players" (and God I hate that term) are usually consider their ukemi in the context of competition, points scoring, the presence of mats and so on. For Jujitsu, in theory at least, we take a more pragmatic view so Ukemi are essential for protecting you from damage in landing on a hard surface. I disagree that Ukemi would cause damage if performed on concrete. This shouldn't happen if they're performed correctly as this is exactly what they're for!

I'm aware that some Koryu styles practitice Ukemi in such a way as to re-take the initiative. I don't know quite how they do this.

For Judo, think of throws that are designed to ideally place uke flat on their back or if not partially on their side. There are exceptions, such as the Tomoe Nage, of course. Aikido throws will very often end up in a roll, either forwards or backwards. In the Jujitsu style I teach we do both (we're Aiki-Jujitsu.)

And then there are subtlties. The forwards breakfall that I teach in Jujitsu and the "falling leaf" breakfall often done in Aikido will look very similar to the untrained eye, but they are quite different in mindset and force distribution.

We should consider sacrifice throws in considering Ukemi, although again, I refer to context.

We do quite few breakfalls in our dojo but they all have purpose, for example in taking tomoe nage. We've been known to do some for fun but not too often. Our organisation have banned a few as well as they cause more injuries than they save, for example "cutaways."

Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture

Black Tiger wrote:

Drew, is your style Karate or a form of Jujitsu. I studied Wado Ryu (Karate/Jujitsu mix) and again even though this has Jujitsu roots Breakfalls weren't taught.

My style is karate in spirit.  Our lineage contains a hodgepodge of techniques from various sources, most are karate schools and practicioners, some are Jujitsu schools, and others are little murkier, but they've been a part of our school for at leat seventy years so it would be heartbreaking to do away with them at this point.  I've experienced a similar situation to yours, Black Tiger.  Although we'd practice various throws and takedowns, we rarely practiced ukemi.  (We had a seminar in which we learned basic forwards and backwards rolling many years ago, but that has not done students who've joined in the past 10 years any good.)  Although throws and takedowns were part of our curriculum, we never had mats to work on and still thought of karate as an almost exclusively striking art.  Since then, those of us who have cross trained in Jujitsu or Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu have worked together to explore those throws and takedowns in greater depth.

Hannu Leinonen
Hannu Leinonen's picture

I've tried to find the exact usiro ukemi or breakfall backwards that was taught to me in Han Moo Do, but can't find it in internet. Not even applied in a compination. All backfalls are similar than in Judo or aikido - hard or rolling.

I think that ukemi might be an interesting subject for an article, but I need to change my point of view a little. Maybe take just one case like backwards ukemi and discuss it with teachers fromvarious styles...maybe ask how it is taught and for what.. context. If there is some principles stated that kind of makes the technique work, it would be Nice too.

My previous idea was to compare documented instructions, but there is not enough material to go from. Cllps that I have found are not of equal standards - some teachers seem to know what they are doing and some are just learning as they teach:)