William Oakes wrote:
The basic high/break fall, in the general most of terms, is nothing more than a roll suspended above the mat. So before advancing to break falls, really put the time into basic rolling ukemi. When you have become proficient enough to absorb/blend with the energy of a throw and safely roll, Then look into break fall ukemi.
Once you have become good at rolling ukemi there really isnt a need to do breakfalls. In my understanding, its a last resort, an act to save life or limb. Basically you have been cut off from rolling, and the breakfall is the last out. Many teachers dont endorse breakfalls.
So my advice would be to concentrate on rolling ukemi, then go forward into breakfalls. Breakfalls are alot of fun and beautiful to behold, just not always necessary to do. A word of caution is to make sure you use a sempai that can support high falls safely. Hopefully in time that will cut down the dreaded male aikidoka "ringing of the bells" syndrome
Great post! One way that has helped me personally is to do "slap rolls," where one goes into a forward roll/zenpou kaiten and instead of rolling all the way through, slap the mat and extend your legs as you would in a forward breakfall. At this point, check yourself. Is everything where it needs to be? This should take out the element of fear involved in rotating while mid-air. As previously stated, the front breakfall is essentially a front roll in mid-air. So this method should teach your body the correct position for the landing while rotating, though not while rotating through the air. This should eventually get the muscle memory to take over. Also, in my experience, the better the nage the easier it is to take the fall. Find the highest ranking sempai, or ask you sensei for some one on one mat time. It is truly invaluable.
Also, it is unnecessary in aikido ukemi to have the "top leg" fold over to have the sole of that foot slap the mat. I've found that in order to preserve the "family jewels," I sort of extend that top leg and don't let it collide with the lower leg to avoid the nutcracker phenomena. Of course that is for aikido ukemi, judo is another matter
You may also be well served to ask your nage's to "let go" at the point of the throw, as opposed to "hanging on" which necessitates a breakfall. I practice a softer style than most, which definitely doesn't encourage breakfalls (though they are definitely there). But, for instance, in munastuki kotegaeishi (koteoroshi), nage can choose to "throw away" the uke, by letting go, or hang on the their wrist, which necessitates a breakfall. Rolling out of technique is less scary for a lot of people, in my experience.