View Full Version : Proper way to Breakfall

Please visit our sponsor:

Chris Tan
05-19-2002, 03:21 AM
Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum (and to Aikido) so I hope that all the sempai out there can help me with this.

My sensei had put us through some vigorious ukemi over the last 2 months to prepare the 2nd Kyus for the 1st Kyu exam. The 6th Kyus who were going for the 5th Ku exam were not spared the breakfalls either.

However, a few of the 5th and 6th Kyu students have experienced some pain near the shin/ankle area when doing breakfalls, myself included :dead:.

My question is: What is the proper way to breakfall without experiencing this pain?

05-19-2002, 05:39 AM
Hi Chris,

welcome to this forum.

A lot of aikidoka experience some kind of pain when learning to do breakfalls.

Unfortunatly through this writtem medium that we call internet it is only possible to give some rough directions on breakfalls.
The risk with technique orientated questions on the internet is that a lot of people are willing to offer a solution. Their solution might actually not be the solution to your problem!!

To help you properly it probably necessary to see what you are doing. Only then can you expect the help you really need.

Best thing to do is ask one of the sempai (or if they cant find the problem your teacher) at your dojo to look at your breakfalls and ask him/her to help you to do it in a non-hurting manner.

Maybe not the answer you hoped for, but aikido is often best learned in the dojo.

05-19-2002, 06:37 AM
I'd agree with Erik, things like this are best learned with a senior in your dojo, for many reasons:

1. They need to see what you do, so changes can be suggested
2. Different places do thing differently, even ukemi
3. Until you are proficient, you should work with a senior for safety's sake...breafalls can do serious damage if done incorrectly

Further, if your feet or ankles are hurting even when not doing breakfalls, see your doctor. In general, pain in the ankles and feet usually mean they've received too much of the fall's energy (rather than the parts of your body that should be adsorbing it), and it is possible to get a stress fracture of some bones in the ankles and feet from repeatedly wrong falls.

Finally, don't let the fact that higher kyus need to do breakfalls on their test intimidate you in your learning of them: I was taught after a couple of months of Aikido, all you need is an understanding of how you roll, and confidence in your ukemi. There is nothing particularly complicated about them (and I think they're the best thing about Aikido:confused: :D ) Have fun!

Bruce Baker
05-19-2002, 07:13 AM
Pain in the ankles and shin?

This would suggest that you are trying to stop your fall with you feet, causing trauma to the ankles and shin area, or that in mimicing the higher kyu with sound and effect you have exceeded the muscle developement that supports these areas.

I can't see how you are falling online, but I would suggest, as Colleen and Erik have, that you ask for some more personalized instruction either before, during, or after class to work out some of the kinks in your falls that are causing injury.

The old joke of telling the doctor it hurts when I do that, and the doctor says don't do that applies to not only healing, but in many ways to learning to distribute the force of your fall when thrown uncontrolably as you "breakfall". Sooner or later, even the best ukemi will be neutralized by pain, injury, or loss of balance from something ... and relaxing your tension, going with the fall will be your best friend to avoid injury.

This may not be relevant, but many time I find it becomes relevant with beginners who are stiff and starting to feel pain from falls or ukemi ... A loud sound of hitting the mat, or slapping the mat, does not mean it is good ukemi.

By that I mean, that many of our junior practitioners in their twenties and early thirties make a rather loud noise in breakfalls or ukemi, while many of us older practitioners, and many over 250lbs like myself, are rather quiet in rolls, falls, and much quieter in breakfalls that those much lighter, why?

One reason, is that in meeting the mat we try to distribute as much force throughout the body as possible in the most relaxed manner possible. If you follow the two basic rules of falling, relax and distribute the force, then finding the fault of force that is causing the pain might not be so hard to find and correct.

Not everyone says this but, we can't always see on the inside what is happening on the outside so getting input from someone watching is all the more valuable to correct what ever is not right.

Still, your practice to achieve the correct timing, and allowing your body to distribute the force of hitting the mat will take lots of practice until it all becomes second nature. Don't aggrivate an existing injury, but then don't let minor muscle soreness stop you either, the mechanics still depend you timing and co-ordination that you must practice until it becomes your own.

I guess my advice is to sit out the heavy breakfalls, or have them modified so you can do them slower in a controled environment to avoid pain turning to injury.

Remember what I said about loud falls not being the efficientcy of correct falls, in many circles that noise is considered the stoppage of energy, and energy stoppage is not only innefficient but causes pain and injury.
There are a whole host of videos on ukemi, but in the end your own inner balance and relaxtion are the key.

Think about what everyone says, but take what works for your own.

Good practice to you.

05-19-2002, 08:32 AM
As I was taught, it is important that you do not let your "bottom" leg slap the mat as it will eventually lead to pain during a period of heavy breakfalling (say in the case of daily practise, a seminar or a summer camp).

There are two ways, that I know, to prevent this. First you can rotate your bottom foot with the leg slightly bent so that only the pad of the foot just behind the toes meets the mat. This will generally keep your leg away from the mat. Second you can take the impact with the pad of your top foot and keep the bottom leg slightly off the mat during the initial impact.

Hope this helps

05-19-2002, 10:33 AM
Hello my fellow Singaporean!! welcome aboard!!
hehe :D

Chris Tan
05-19-2002, 07:25 PM
Hmm...lots of good advice from everybody here.

I tried asking a nidan and a 1st Kyu how to do it correctly after training last week.

The 1st Kyu asked me to try to relax my body by exhaling when I do the breakfall. The nidan, on the other hand, said that it is probably due to something that I learnt in ukemi during my white belt. His take was that if we learnt something wrong at the beginning, this will invariably show up as we progress in training and rank. He also mentioned that the higher ranking students will be able to see these faults easily.

I will take all your kind advice and ask 1 of my sempai to see what's wrong with my breakfalls this evening when I go for training practice. Will let you know the results later. After all, don't want to get an injury so early in my Aikido training :D

Hi Leslie, nice to see a fellow countryman on the forum. BTW, where do you practice?

05-20-2002, 03:52 AM
I practice at Nanyang poly or tanglin cc. You?

06-04-2002, 10:54 AM
I've seen some suggestions which are close to what I wanted to suggest. The first kyu Chris Tan has been talking to has a point. This might sound strange but the pain partly is tehre because of a language problem in the translation of ukemi. I don't know what you think, but to me the word 'break fall' sounds painfull already. When we start training the technique we think we need to make a lot of sound and it feels like we are learning something completely different from the normal rolling technique. This is not true. Actually you are still rolling but in a faster way. Now, this is something you do not learn from one second to the other. Falling is not easy and you need to get experience. This can only be done by training. One way would be by starting very slow and investigate what you are doing. Try to feel whcih parst of your bodey are touching the ground and at what point. Then think what the effect would be when you do this in a faster movement.
Also look at other people. It is not possible to learn ukemi from 1 peron. You need to combine bits and peaces untill you find the way you like most.

good luck...

eric carpenter
10-03-2004, 08:37 AM
maybe tori should be softer in his application of technique,koshi nage can be a pile driver into the mat or simply allow uke to find the mat,depends upon your intent.

Jonathan Punt
10-03-2004, 05:08 PM
I presume you are going 'over the top' during breakfall.

If you are landing feet first it may be that tori is holding onto uki and lifting too high.

A good tori will assist uki with their breakfall to stop them landing on their back. If tori keeps hold of uki it should allow uki to land safley, but if tori pulls on the hand too much it will make uki's feet hit the mat first.

Usually it is safer to hit the floor with your feet rather than your back, which is what usually happens if tori lets go of uki mid technique.


Janet Rosen
10-03-2004, 10:15 PM
hmmm....maybe I'm nuts....(ok, don't all agree w/ me at once...) but most of the time neither foot actually touches the ground as I land from a forward breakfall. Just as I try to get the impact distributed along the torso in an area neither quite back nor quite side (which AFAIK has no "name"), my lower leg goes down rotated out and bent with the ankle cocked inward so the larger structures of outer thigh and outer calf take the impact.

04-18-2006, 10:48 AM
For what is worth my 2 cents. One thing I have not seen offered on this thread or others as advice is work on your flexability. The way I was taught was to point your lead foot in the direction of your throw and envision you are briing your nose to that lead knee, the longer you can leave that lead foot on the ground as you roll in the air the softer your breakfalls will be. As that occurs and you release your center your upper torso will turn ever so slightly under and over you go. That slapping arm should already be extended way out so its the first thing that makes contact as you begin to learn. Without that flexability though your break falls will end up turning to far sideways and you'll end up hitting your hip to aggresively first rather than traversing down the arm to your side to your hip and out. It took me roughly about 5 years to get out to splits greater than 170' that allowed this; maybe this was due to my age and brittleness but softbreak falls was my goal and if I was going to continue into my old age and meet the mat softly it seemed critiical.
As mentioned in the other threads, also a big help is get a nage that can properly allow you to try out break falls so you can slowly progress. Tell them in advance what you are going to try and then let them help you was start.

anyway my 2 cents.

04-18-2006, 11:13 AM
None of the really good breakfallers in my dojo have ANY degree of flexibility. In fact, body for body my dojo is full of just about the largest group of Un-flexible bodies I have ever worked with in an "athletic" environment.But they have some beautiful ukemi.

04-18-2006, 01:15 PM
Thats a riot. I love it. They must be very very good at releasing their centers. I on the other hand being of slow mind and body have found that without that flexibility, groin pulls are very painful when doing
full speed akemi especially breakfalls.

04-18-2006, 01:40 PM
Well since I am the only person in the dojo capable of doing splits and our nidans, sandans & yondans can't even sit up straight in a straddle, and they CAN do full-speed ukemi, I tend to doubt that groin pulls are all that common.

04-18-2006, 01:44 PM
A couple of things: you might be bending your slap side leg at the knee or hip, or you might not be turning the ankle up away from the ground.

04-18-2006, 02:03 PM
Hello anyone from Cincinnati? My other question is when falling do I make it a point to stay over my centerline, because sometimes I feel like I am going sideways? :(

Ron Tisdale
04-18-2006, 02:41 PM
We often practice various ukemi along the line the tatami make. Backward rolls, front rolls from kneeling, full rolls, breakfalls all of them. That wouldn't work very well with some styles of ukemi though, at least as I understand them.


04-18-2006, 02:55 PM
Hello anyone from Cincinnati? My other question is when falling do I make it a point to stay over my centerline, because sometimes I feel like I am going sideways? :(

No, I'm not from Cincinnati, but I do know some of the folks from your dojo. Sometimes, you do go sideways especially when taking falls from iriminage. The best thing is to focus on is staying relaxed and connected to the nage. By doing that you'll find it easier to adapt to the force of nage's projection or throw.

Scott Josephus
04-18-2006, 04:17 PM
My sensei suggests that once you are set up for the breakfall, simply kiss your big toe.

04-18-2006, 05:04 PM
Thanks Anne, I appreciate the advice, stay relaxed, and connected. I have heard when we are doing breakfalls to kiss our toe, not literally though ha-ha-. say Anne do you know Agerton Sensei, or Malmer Sensei. They were my two main instructors. I really enjoyed their classes. Hope to enjoy them again. I need to stop by and get a schaedule!

04-18-2006, 07:07 PM
Thanks Anne, I appreciate the advice, stay relaxed, and connected. I have heard when we are doing breakfalls to kiss our toe, not literally though ha-ha-. say Anne do you know Agerton Sensei, or Malmer Sensei. They were my two main instructors. I really enjoyed their classes. Hope to enjoy them again. I need to stop by and get a schaedule!

Your welcome. I know Charlie McGinnis, Rachel Massey and Shawn Dansby. Just be assured to know that you're in good hands.