A breakfall or ukemi is a movement preformed to prevent one from injuring themselves when landing. Breakfalls are necessary in martial arts that utilize grappling, takedowns and/or throwing techniques (such as Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido, or Judo) in order to prevent injury from a fall. Rolls are preferred in many martial arts as they dissipate energy but allow the martial artist to quickly get back up on their feet; however, rolls require forward momentum, making them useless when falling straight down. If a roll cannot be used, the best way to land is to make use of "slapping" breakfalls to absorb the impact.

Types of breakfall[edit | edit source]

Rolls[edit | edit source]

Rolls dissipate force by switching the martial artist's momentum into rotational energy. This provides the advantage of quickly getting them back on their feet but can only be preformed with significant forward momentum. They are used in most martial arts that incorporate grappling and in Parkour.

  • Forward roll Rolls over the shoulder, across the back, and to the opposite hip. Many martial arts also roll over the arm (of the same side shoulder) to produce a slower but safer roll.
  • Side roll Rolls over one arm, across the shoulders, and over the other arm. The hips stay off the ground.
  • Backwards roll Exactly the same as the forwards roll but in reverse, rolling from one hip, across the back, and to the opposite shoulder.
  • Dive roll Similar to a forwards roll except the feet are in the air when the shoulder makes contact.
  • Rolling breakfall A roll going into a side breakfall rather than back onto the feet.
  • Somersault A roll in a straight line across the spine from below the neck to the hips. Rarely used a breakfall; instead it is most commonly used for acrobatic purposes.

Slapping breakfall[edit | edit source]

This form of breakfalling can be used to redirect the energy of a straight drop. These type of breakfalls absorb the impact by "slapping" the ground and spreading the impact over as wide of an area as possible.

  • Front breakfall The forearms are placed in front of the head with the palms facing away from the head in a triangle shape, with hands close together and elbows wider apart. The feet should preferably be spread apart. The head is turned to the side as to avoid striking the face. Contact with the ground is only made with the hands, forearms, and feet.
  • Side breakfall The chin is tucked in and the entire side of the body including the leg contacts the ground. The arm on the striking side of the body is held out at a downwards angle and used to absorb the impact.
  • Back breakfall This breakfall is preformed with the chin tucked in tight and falling onto the upper back, with both arms striking the ground off to the side to absorb the impact.

Warnings[edit | edit source]

  • Breakfalls are meant to avoid pain and injury, not cause it. If a breakfall hurts, practice it lower or on a softer surface until your technique improves sufficiently.
  • When rolling, make sure you have enough forward momentum. Not having enough can cause you to strike your shoulder rather than rolling over it.
  • A common mistake when rolling is to do so too straight, causing your Posterior Superior Iliac Spine, or PSIS (the little bone that sticks out just above the back of your hip) to strike the ground.

Videos[edit | edit source]

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