View Full Version : soft breakfalls

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06-11-2002, 08:38 AM
My sensei went to Donovan Waite's seminar last weekend and at the beginning of yesterday's class my sensei said something like: "remember how we were doing this breakfall? well, that's a bit.. wrong". And we switched from stiffening our legs and using them to stand up to using the slapping of the mat with the arm to do that. The first thing I noticed is how much quieter these soft falls are. I mean I know that is pretty obvious, but I didn't imagine they would be that much quieter. If I had looked away I couldn't have told when my sensei was rolling or falling. I'm curious, how many of you focus or make a point of making your falls as soft as possible during practice? I think I'll try to incorporate it in my training from now on but rolling out of koshinage is still outside my ukemi...

Ghost Fox
06-12-2002, 08:35 AM
Hello IT,

I personally place a great emphasis on making sure my breakfalls are soft, as well as quiet. I believe the two go hand in hand.

For me I practice my ukemi outside, so while I'm on the mat I very conscious about ukemi on the mat. The mat is very forgiving and it's easy to get lazy. When I roll to loud (anything louder then a slight rustle) I mentally take inventory of what body part impacted on the mat too loud.

Pretty much goes like this :eek: oops there goes your shoulder, crunch you just smashed your hips.:confused:

Peace and Blessings

:triangle: :circle: :square:

Janet Rosen
06-12-2002, 06:51 PM
Hi. Well, I started training in my 40s, so while I was willing and able to learn breakfalls (because I believe that its important to be ready to take any ukemi that a situation may demand), I've been very interested in softer versions. Where I used to train, a sempai sometimes gave classes on softer rolling ukemi. I also bought (and recommend) volume 1 of Donovan Waite's Ukemi videos.
I like doing a softer, rolling forward breakfall thatnot only cushions better but lets the rolling motion bring me back to my feet more smoothly.
Also, instead of backrolls or back slapouts, I have been using the rounder back ukemi he shows: either across the shoulders, turning, to come back up, or turning the backfall into a forward roll.\
Definetely kinder on the joints....

06-12-2002, 10:08 PM
yes, the soft quiet ones are nice, although I wouldn't say loud can't be soft. It really depends on the situation, because you can't always roll, and sometimes you just are going to come straight down... forced or otherwise. In those cases, it's nice to leave with only a sore hand and a body that hasn't noticed a thing.

Quiet, smooth and soft ukemi always feels good.. and in watching, it's noticeably more attractive. Always strive for it, most definitely.


Bruce Baker
06-14-2002, 11:08 AM
I wish people would learn to listen their bodys, it is one of the oldest tricks in the book to prevent injury by relaxing as you fall, or FALL SOFTLY.

I am glad that Donovan Waite has brought it to your attention, but sometimes that is the way of the world. The very thing your friends, or sensei has been telling you for weeks, months, years, suddenly comes to realization with a flash if intelligence at a seminar, or when another teacher explains it in a different way.

Maybe from the rough and tumble childhood I had I learned that relaxing was the best way to fall in any number of situations from play, to accidental falls from ladders, play equiptment, trees, or even low roofs we used to climb upon to rip off the shingles so we could throw them like frizbee's. Mean widdle kids we were. Before I was ten years old I knew just how easy it was to put my hand through various types of glass, or what it took to smash windshields with safety glass.

As for falling ... isn't it obvious that quieter falls are easier to redirect motion and they create less trauma and stress on the human body? Well I thought it was ... since the 1950s when I first started falling from higher and higher heights?

Anyway, if you look as the louder sounds of higher falls, they are an attempt to disburse the energy being generated by the fall to relieve pressure that will cause injury. Hence, the harder a fall is the louder the sound from trying to equally counter that force.

Problem is, we all overcompensate and create more force than needed. That creates the stiff body, and the louder slapping sounds.

When we are relaxed, taking in the energy of the throw, or fall, we are the absorbing cushion that flexes, and moves with the energy of the fall or throw. This either comes out as a SOFT FALL, or a ROLL THROUGH the fall. It makes for some very easy to rebound Ukemi.

The fact that Waite sensei has used it in his video's is a tribute to stunt men/women around the world who have used this age old acrobatic rebound in their profession.

It may be a knock to Donovan Waite in my tone of writing, but I mean no disrepect. I have not had a chance to train with him yet ... although I do give him enormous credit for bringing it into the face of normal ukemi training with the hard falls, and louder slaps.

If this is what it takes to make you aware of the relaxing technique for martial arts, I say "GO for it!"

Just remember, the greater history as you give credit to those who teach you new things.

Of course, if you have gone to a class with Donovan Waite, and have a video, you now a great memory, and video notes.

I just gotta move him up on my ten things to do this year list.

06-14-2002, 12:15 PM
Soft, silent and relaxed are the key words in our dojo for rolls. Breakfalls usually involve the noise of the slap. Saying this, last week I was teaching a ukemi class, but forgot my gi. Having rolled on the rockhard surface of the dojo without mats before, I was demonstrating how easy it is. However, in my jeans (and I don't know if it was the nobble of my jeans or that my gi belt usually protects the area) I hit a little bone on my hip, near my spine. I couldn't admit what I'd done so I was demonstrating and teaching the rest of the class in agony.


06-14-2002, 03:11 PM
Originally posted by IrimiTom
I'm curious, how many of you focus or make a point of making your falls as soft as possible during practice?

Breakfall is the hardest type of ukemi to control, so 'soft' breakfalls are really the specialty of our Sempais.
On a side note, I've just learnt how to 'breakfall' a few days ago, without planning it. We were doing morotetori kokyunage if I recall correctly, and my mae ukemis were very...hesitant (as usual). Sensei was, of course, watching every detail, even though I swear he had his back turned to us! :o
Suddenly, out of the blue, he came to me as uke, and threw me in such a manner that I realized it was a breakfall. Then we tried the other side, and that is how I was able to vanquish my fear of breakfalls! :D
Sensei knew what he was doing when he 'forgot to' mention he was going to teach me how to fall like that. So, to all of you Senseis out there who are having difficulty teaching ukemi to your students, take this little piece of advice from a yonkyu who, until 3 days ago, could not perform a breakfall. Do not put too much pressure on us. :p

Martin L
06-14-2002, 04:37 PM
It seems to me that you have 2 choices in any situation when you are about to make close aquaintance with the mat - go with the motion and roll out back to a standing position, or disperse the energy by flattening the body.
It depends on each individual situation. If there is not much momentum, or you are travelling some distance horizontally, a roll will usually present itself as the best option. If you get dropped much more vertically, or there is so much momentum that you will still be stumbling after the roll, a breakfall will be the safest option.
Obviously if you are stiff or tense when taking a breakfall you run the risk of injury.

A couple of years ago I was told that I was helping my tori too much much by 'jumping' for them - preempting their technique. The next technique after that I stayed totally relaxed, and basically let my body be moved wherever tori wanted it to go. The resultant breakfall was much louder than any before, but the feeling of hiting the mat was if anything softer.
There is definately a difference between stiffening up and being able to stop dead as one mass on the mat, and louder doesn't mean worse. I suppose it's just a matter knowing the best response to whatevers thrown at you (or what your thrown at!!)

eric carpenter
10-03-2004, 09:30 AM
that seems to be the thing which resonse to give to which throw, some times i slap out sometimes i roll,try aiki otoshi sometimes you seem just too horizontal to get the hand back and roll into it other times if your legs have been lifted high its the easiest thing to do.