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Old 07-25-2000, 03:48 PM   #1
wayback
Dojo: Michigan Tech Univeristy
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Nobody in our dojo really addresses breakfalls and how best to train for them. It's assumed that, by a certain rank (that's foggy, too...) you should know how to do them, do them correctly, and attempt them on regular intervals or when the technique calls for them.

So, the questions I have:

1. What is the best way to train for them/learn the correct way to take one?

2. When (at what rank) would it be "appropriate" for an aikidoka to be "proficient" at them? Also, what would "proficiency" entail?

3. What about people who have mitigating injuries (I've had spinal surgery and have had no end of trouble trying to absorb the shock of a fall, especially with enthusiastic nages!)

4. What happens as you increase in rank (shodan, for example) and you can't take a breakfall for medical reasons like above.... does that mean, no shodan for you?

Thank you for your answers!

--Sharon
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Old 07-25-2000, 04:10 PM   #2
akiy
 
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Quote:
wayback wrote:
Nobody in our dojo really addresses breakfalls and how best to train for them. It's assumed that, by a certain rank (that's foggy, too...) you should know how to do them, do them correctly, and attempt them on regular intervals or when the technique calls for them.
Sounds like a dangerous assumption to me. Ukemi is 50% of aikido training. Neglecting to teach people the proper skills necessary to keep one from getting hurt is, I think, dangerous in my opinion.
Quote:
1. What is the best way to train for them/learn the correct way to take one?
The best way to train for them is, of course, to have someone who knows how to take a breakfall and how to teach someone else such to teach you.

It would be nearly impossible for me to teach you how to do breakfalls over e-mail (although I've certainly tried in the past). Just like in all of the other skills necessary in aikido, I think you need to learn it hands-on.
Quote:
2. When (at what rank) would it be "appropriate" for an aikidoka to be "proficient" at them? Also, what would "proficiency" entail?
I don't think there's any "appropriate" rank, really. I learned how when (if I remember correctly) I was a fifth kyu. Others I've seen still have a hard time after years of practice. We all have our own pace...

As for "proficiency," I'd say you're proficient when you can take a breakfall when you need to and get back up without pain. Although I can certainly take a breakfall at the drop of a hat, I don't do them unless necessary these days. Saves wear and tear on the body.
Quote:
3. What about people who have mitigating injuries (I've had spinal surgery and have had no end of trouble trying to absorb the shock of a fall, especially with enthusiastic nages!)
Do what you can that's safe for you. If you encounter people who are slamming you onto the mat and it's too much for you, let them know. Ukemi is all about taking care of yourself so you can get back up and train again; part of this, I think, is the ability to let your partner know your limits.
Quote:
4. What happens as you increase in rank (shodan, for example) and you can't take a breakfall for medical reasons like above.... does that mean, no shodan for you?
I don't think that the ability to take a breakfall should be a part of becoming a shodan or any rank. Although I do believe that such a skill is very helpful in training, I don't think it's necessary.

I don't know of anyone who was barred from attaining a certain rank due to their inability to do certain things due to medical reasons.

-- Jun, who thinks ukemi is the most important part of aikido practice

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Old 07-25-2000, 04:18 PM   #3
Shipley
Dojo: UBC Okanagan Aikido Club
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The dojo that I trained at when I learned hard falls had a similar approach, we rarely worked on it and were just sort of supposed to figure it out when the time came. To answer your questions in order,

1. I think that Bookman Sensei's video on ukemi presents a nice way to learn to breakfall, and it isn't all that expensive. Or you can learn by watching, with the occasional "your feet are wrong" comment from your sensei or sempai (this is what I did).

2. I don't think that there really is an appropriate kyu rank where people become comfortable with breakfalls. Proficiency, in my opinion, would be when you can comfortably breakfall from anything that may require it, including a badly done shiho-nage. I would think this would take years.

3 and 4. If breakfalls cause pain or injury for any reason, don't do them. Especially in your case where you have a previous spinal injuries. I know a lot of upper dan ranks who do not breakfall for various reasons. I can't speak for your dojo, but I would be surprised if you were held back from testing because you could not breakfall for medical reasons. One thing of note though is that you should communicate this clearly with any uke that you train with. Once you have achieved shodan rank, or even upper kyu rank, many will just assume that you breakfall without bothering to ask you.

There are really very few techniques that absolutely require breakfalls. Play around (with an uke that you trust) with variations on falls, finding those that are the most comfortable for you. I think that ukemi is very personal, and varies considerably from person to person.

Of course, these are my opinions, not facts, so take them for what they are worth.

Happy and healthy training,

Paul

P.S. After posting this I saw that Jun sent a reply while I was writing that says about the same thing. Sorry about the redundancy!

[Edited by Shipley on July 25, 2000 at 04:03pm]
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Old 07-25-2000, 04:25 PM   #4
wayback
Dojo: Michigan Tech Univeristy
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Cool thanks

attention to details....

I'm still learning! thank you for correcting the threads.

-s-

Sometimes I feel like I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe......
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Old 07-25-2000, 06:07 PM   #5
Mike Collins
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The best advice I've ever received on breakfalls is that they are not different from forward rolls, only the pivot point is different.

Hard as it is, the only to get good at ukemi is to learn to relax with whatever fall you're working on.

The medical issues, I defer to someone with a clue. I know when I am way out of my depth.
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Old 07-25-2000, 10:07 PM   #6
JO
Dojo: Aikikai de l'Université Laval
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I'm somewhat surprised that there are dojos out there that don't teach breakfalls. Probably means I need to get out more. At my dojo we learn them in the beginner classes. Our sensei splits the class into those that still need to learn rolls, those that know rolls but that are learning breakfalls (this is the group he handles personnally) and the rest of us that already know how to breakfall (we do breakfalls nonstop for this section of the class).
I think the points about communicating with your partner if you feel uncomfortable with a fall is important, but remember to do it at an early point in the practice, some techniques can send you flying before you have time to think about it! This would be particularly true for someone with a medical problem, never assume people are going to ask you first whether or not you can breakfall.
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Old 07-25-2000, 11:43 PM   #7
akiy
 
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Quote:
JO wrote:
I'm somewhat surprised that there are dojos out there that don't teach breakfalls. Probably means I need to get out more.
During our Sunday class, we also run an "ukemi clinic" on part of our mat. I remember one day when I was helping out over in the ukemi clinic that there were two people from another dojo down the road from us who wanted to learn how to breakfall. They knew how to do forward roll and such so I gave them an hour primer.

After class, they said they came up here in hopes of learning how to do breakfalls since they don't teach people how to do that until a certain rank...

-- Jun

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Old 07-26-2000, 12:45 AM   #8
Aiki1
 
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Breakfalls are very, very, very dangerous, no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at taking them. Terry Dobson once told me that he thought one of the reasons he was sick was due to taking so many when he was younger. That's part of the danger - the effects later in life. They are hard on the body, even when you do them right. Especially if you have spinal concerns, I personally would not do them.

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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Old 07-26-2000, 04:37 AM   #9
Ken
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Hi all,

In my dojo, we don't get regular practice on breakfalls either and people seem to do them when they are "ready" whatever that means. I still can't do them very well and only started at 2nd kyu when I just went over without thinking about it.

Bob Nado Sensei and Julio Toribio Sensei have a great tape out on breakfalls on Firelight Films which are worth checking out in addition to the Bruce Bookman Sensei tape.

Regards,

Ken
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Old 07-26-2000, 10:03 AM   #10
akiy
 
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I half-jokingly tell people that we have a limited number of breakfalls in our bodies...

Nadeau sensei and Toribio sensei usually do their ukemi classes at the San Rafael Retreat in Northen California each summer. It's a fun class which provides people with different ways of looking at ukemi no matter how experienced you may be.

My personal thought is that ukemi should be taught just like any other "techniques" like ikkyo and shihonage. I think that there are plenty of ukemi techniques that people should know.

-- Jun

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Old 07-26-2000, 10:51 AM   #11
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Thumbs down Ya'alls breakfalls!

I started executing breakfalls as soon as I felt comfortable with my forward and backward rolls. Hooker sensei has "launched" me just about every way possible including koshi nage FROM shiho nage! If you've never experienced this, it throws you over tori's hips while facing backwards. You land face down on the mat! Sounds like fun huh? Actually it is, for me anyway!

Learning proper breakfalls can actually come in handy even off the mat. I was repairing my roof, while starting to decend from the roof I slipped, the ladder fell and I went off the roof backwards with my arms full of tools. I thought I was dead meat for sure! The tools went everywhere, I ended up doing a 3/4 back gainer and wound up with a face full of lawn and no air. Got my wind back and discovered only slight injury to my arms. The funny thing was that I didn't feel tense at all. I was very relaxed the whole time ( up until I met the ground that is! ).

Two and a half important things I would share with someone just starting breakfalls:

1. Find an instructor that knows HOW to "launch" you. This means NOT someone trying to throw you, but rather puts you in such a position that you feel the need to go! This is very important and is, in my opinion, the leading cause of injury doing breakfalls. A good instructor knows when to let go of uke and when to hold on and assist in getting uke "turned" by providing a little lift on uke's support arm (that is, the arm holding tori's gi).

2. Relax into the fall. Don't fight the energy, flow with it. If you're tense, you will anticipate the fall and inevitably hurt something. Relax, flow over and dissipate the energy along the entire side of the body. Never, never land on your spine or back!

1/2. For the guys, don't land from a breakfall with your legs crossed over each other! You should only make this mistake once! It will have your voice an octave or two higher and makes it hard to walk for awhile, not to worry though, it only hurts when you breathe.......! he-he-he!

I train a lot and have taken many, many breakfalls (some even self-induced). I don't recall ever being injured by a breakfall, so I don't understand why people single them out as being dangerous. Breakfalls are done to PREVENT injury. Any ukemi can be dangerous if not executed properly. I think one of the more important aspects is to have confidence in yourself. If you hesitate at all, you'll interrupt the flow which changes the energy and causes incorrect positioning. This is not a good thing! So, find a good instructor, relax, relax harder, relax even harder, did I mention relaxing ?!?!

Regards,
Dan Pokorny - Mongo

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Old 07-26-2000, 12:17 PM   #12
Mike Collins
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You must be a genius, Dan I always seem to agree with you.
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Old 07-26-2000, 01:56 PM   #13
wayback
Dojo: Michigan Tech Univeristy
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Thumbs down Re: breakfalls again, thanks to everyone, btw!

Quote:
akiy wrote:
[I'm somewhat surprised that there are dojos out there that don't teach breakfalls. Probably means I need to get out more.
we are a very small dojo up here... usually less then 10 people on the mat on any of the 3-4 practice times. (thats per week!)
Quote:
jun wrote:
During our Sunday class, we also run an "ukemi clinic
can i hire you for an ukemi clinic up here???? :-)

-sharon

p.s. -- Thanks for all the replys i've been getting. This is something I've been worrying over. Most people in the dojo (all 10 of them!) already know not to throw me unless I ask. Unfortunately, Sensei forgets most often, and he's a hard one to remind (after the fact).

Sometimes I feel like I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe......
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Old 07-26-2000, 02:07 PM   #14
guest1234
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wayback,

have you told your sensei why you do not breakfall? if not, do it now! i have trouble picturing an instructor (or any Aikidoka) purposely throwing someone with a medical reason not to fall. if he's unaware, he may just be trying to 'help' you over your fears. I myself much prefer breakfalls to rolls; my last dojo's instructors, knowing this full well, would use me for uke in zenpo techniques to encourage rolling. My first dojo put red tape on an injured body part/gi...my current one uses duct tape (not quite as good since the same tape is used to repair gi's at times, causing some confusion)
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Old 07-26-2000, 05:18 PM   #15
Mike Collins
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Then there was Terry Dobson's take on tape: put the tape on the good side so they work over that side and leave the weak side alone.

Try it with a sunburn, it's amazing.
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Old 07-27-2000, 07:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Mikey wrote:
You must be a genius, Dan I always seem to agree with you.
NOT a genius by a looooong shot, just great instructors and lot's of practice!

But thanks anyway!
Dan Pokorny
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Old 07-27-2000, 10:32 AM   #17
sheena
Location: NJ
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to breakfall or not to breakfall...

I have found Donovan Waite Sensei's ukemi videos to be invaluable in learning to breakfall. He is extremely usefull drills.
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Old 07-27-2000, 01:09 PM   #18
Yo-Jimbo
Dojo: formerly Windward Aikido, formerly at Keewenaw Schools of Aikido (ASU)
Location: Formerly Hawaii Pacific University, formerly at Michigan Technological University
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Sunday Clinic

Sharon

If you would like some tutoring, just ask.
Make sure I really help and don't just preach.
Sorry that it took this embarassment and exposure of my previous apathy before I would listen. I want to help if I can.

I hope everyone doesn't think that all we do up here in the frozen north is poke each other with ice-sickles and push each other into snow-banks (all the while silently smug).

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 07-27-2000, 03:19 PM   #19
Allan
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Hello...This is my first time posting...but I thought I'd turn in my $.02 worth. I think that a good practice would be just regular forward rolls...but focusing on the ability to control the speed of rotation. This obviously comes in handy when being thrown from a "high throw" (e.g. koshi nage) or "low throw" (e.g. sumi-otoshi). Just for example...you would not want to rotate too quickly when receiving koshi-nage.

Allan
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Old 07-28-2000, 06:26 PM   #20
wayback
Dojo: Michigan Tech Univeristy
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Smile breakfalls -- thanks for imput!

Thank you for all the imput!

It is a relief to hear that NOT doing breakfalls is an acceptable (although not desirable) aikido practice.

I have been practicing, but anything approaching a dive roll into a breakfall still feels "wrong" with the surgery on my back (kind of a a bad pressure-tingly thing.) The doctors I have talked to always say the same thing: if it hurts, don't do it.... (DOH!)

As a friend, and fellow aikidoka put it: would you rather feel a coward and NOT do breakfalls, or watch other people do aikido from a wheelchair? GOOD POINT (and one I had not really considered -- I've been trying for 11 years to not let the surgery limit my "life"!)

My Sensei is aware of the surgery but I often don't have "time" to remind him, especially mid-air into a throw! (not the best time to remind him anyway....)

I'll keep on relaxing into them (worked when my truck rolled over on a slick road last winter!) and getting the basic form correct without tensing (hehehehe!) Tape MIGHT not be a bad idea to remind people if we have a Koshi night (let me down gently, please.) I hear they have day-glow colors available in the duct-tape selection now! (If that doesn't do it.... )

Again, thanks for all the imput, it has been invaluable!

--Sharon

Sometimes I feel like I am diagonally parked in a parallel universe......
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Old 07-29-2000, 05:59 AM   #21
George S. Ledyard
 
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Question

Quote:
Aiki1 wrote:
Breakfalls are very, very, very dangerous, no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at taking them. Terry Dobson once told me that he thought one of the reasons he was sick was due to taking so many when he was younger. That's part of the danger - the effects later in life. They are hard on the body, even when you do them right. Especially if you have spinal concerns, I personally would not do them.
Sensei, how do you handle those throws that entail a lock of the joint that would seem to require a break fall as defensive reaction?

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 07-29-2000, 07:04 AM   #22
guest1234
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I'm guessing that either no one threw a person with spinal problems in that way (and so avoid the whole problem), or in a way that uke could get low enough to unroll over the arm rather than leap over it.
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Old 07-29-2000, 09:52 AM   #23
Aiki1
 
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Re: Question

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
..... how do you handle those throws that entail a lock of the joint that would seem to require a break fall as defensive reaction?
Hey George - actually I was referring to a person with a spinal injury. My broader perspective is that in our style of Aikido, which is probably the softest to be found anywhere, we don't do anything that requires this, for a variety of reasons. Doesn't make it less effective, just different.

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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