Re: Ushiro Ukemi
Years ago, before I ever took Aikido, I was painting the exterior of my house. I had worked construction for a number of years before I got married and was very comfortable on ladders and would routinely do "stunt" ladder stuff...
In this particular instance, I was on a 16-foot extension ladder where I was standing on a step, ten feet above the grass. I was using a roller on a pole and needed to reach out laterally to finish painting the gable, so instead of moving the ladder, I just balanced on my right foot, extending my left leg out horizontally while holding on the ladder with me left hand. I finished painting and leaned back vertical to admire my work without placing my left foot back on the ladder.
Happy that I was done I failed to account for the overhead phone cable and inadvertently pushed the pole against it. This created a weird redirection of forces that caused the right side of the ladder to twist away from the house. The "solution" for this situation is to discard anything in hand and slam the ladder back against the building. Protip: It is important to throw the item a good distance away so that if a fall does occur anyway - you don't land on the discarded item.
I did this solution. Worked fine - the ladder was repositioned against the house and stayed right there...
But the violence of the slam caused by right boot to slip toward the house and OFF the ladder step. If I had been standing on both feet - this would not have happened and even then a single foot slip would probably have been no issue. However, in this case, I now had two hands on the ladder but one foot on either side of the step with neither on it. This is generally not regarded as a good orientation.
I did not want to simply fall onto the step (racking myself) and more importantly be awkwardly tangled up with the ladder as it fell most likely sideways into a large bush - the result most certainly would have been serious injuries.
So in a moment of apparent madness, I pushed myself hard backwards away from the ladder. As I went over backwards I noticed that my boot wasn't going to clear the step straight on and would get hung injuring my knee and tangling my leg with the ladder creating an even worse fall, but I managed to turn my foot at an angle and clear the step. I tucked my head and deliberately landed on my back right shoulder and managed to execute a perfect back shoulder roll to avoid a serious head or back injury.
I would have been completely unhurt but I rolled over the paint tray (circumstances being what they were I can't complain). As it was, I was merely covered in paint with slightly sore ribs from a head-first backwards fall from the height of ten feet. I was tough and muscled and the fall was onto thick grass slightly sloping away from the house both of which contributed to the lack of injury, but I am certain the roll most certainly prevented a serious injury.
The good news was the painting was done and I didn't have to explain to my dearest love that I needed to go to the hospital after she specifically told me to be careful and not get hurt (she knows me well).
In conclusion, if you ask me, good rolling skills are vital to surviving awkward falls.