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Old 04-15-2003, 10:57 AM   #1
kensparrow
Dojo: Methuen Aikido
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soft breakfalls

I was at a seminar a couple of months ago and I saw an uke who was able to do breakfalls with virtually no impact. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen but I'm at a loss as far as understanding how he did it. When I breakfall, my arm contacts the mat first and then everything else makes contact at pretty much the same time after that. When this guy did it, it looked as though one leg hit the mat first (softly) and then the other leg followed until it also hit the mat (again softly). I overheard someone say that he had trained with Donovan Waite. I have since seen Waite Sensei's Aikido Ukemi tape and his movement did look something like that. Unfortunately the Aikido Ukemi tape only dealt with rolls and not breakfalls (I know, I know, they are supposed to be the same thing!) My question is this: does anyone out there know how to do what I described and/or know where I could find information about how to learn it? I know there is another Aikido Ukemi tape but is unclear to me whether or not it deals with breakfalls.

Thanks.
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Old 04-15-2003, 11:25 AM   #2
akiy
 
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Hi Ken,

Interesting. The types of soft breakfalls (I'm assuming a soft front breakfall) that I know involve extending with the hand and contacting the ground with the hand, then the forearm, shoulder, torso, then legs in that order (not simultaneously). I can't say I've ever seen someone take a soft forward breakfall where the leg hits the ground first...

Anyone else?

-- Jun

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Old 04-15-2003, 11:43 AM   #3
Bronson
 
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Quote:
I can't say I've ever seen someone take a soft forward breakfall where the leg hits the ground first...
The picture I have in my head of this (having not seen it) makes me wonder if uke tucked just a little if he could land back on his feet...hmmm, wouldn't that make for interesting randori

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 04-15-2003, 12:12 PM   #4
Qatana
 
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they've been practicing soft falls at my dojo but as i'm still learning to roll i don't think i can explain what they're doing.I'll ask at class tonite if anyone thinks they can describe it.

Q
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Old 04-15-2003, 12:17 PM   #5
Veers
 
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My rolls are still pretty sad...anything with momentum and I hurt my back. My kneeling rolls are okay, but that's about it.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 04-15-2003, 01:22 PM   #6
Bronson
 
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Quote:
My rolls are still pretty sad...anything with momentum and I hurt my back. My kneeling rolls are okay, but that's about it.
Dude, cut yourself some slack. You've been taking aikido for what now...a week, maybe two? Give it time and be patient with yourself. I'm coming up on 7 years in aikido and I'm still fixing my ukemi

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 04-15-2003, 03:08 PM   #7
Alfonso
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Sure it wasn't a roll rather than a breakfall?

Alfonso Adriasola
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Old 04-15-2003, 04:22 PM   #8
Veers
 
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lol, yeah, yeah, I don't expect to get it down any time soon...

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Old 04-15-2003, 07:27 PM   #9
opherdonchin
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Those Donovan-style breakfalls are amazing. I had heard about them, but hadn't seen them until I went to a dojo up near Albany where a couple of people were doing them. They're simply lovely. I got a lesson in them, but I'm still a long way from knowing how to do it. Jun was right about the serial landing. Another way of thinking about it is like taking a roll, but instead of starting the roll on the front hand (the one close to the ground) you want to start it on the back hand. The forward roll goes diagonal from front hand through to back foot. This one goes along the same side of the body: from back hand to back foot.

One hint that I got was that it takes a lot of abdominal involvement.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 04-15-2003, 07:42 PM   #10
Kevin Wilbanks
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There is a second video that is supposed to cover breakfalls, but I haven't seen it yet. There are a couple of people at my club that are very good at them.

My understanding is that the way to start is to learn the forward and backward wide-leg 'rolls' that you see in the first video, as the breakfalls are mostly modifications of those, with a few quirks and tips that are related to particular situations. To learn it all, I think you need an experienced teacher... maybe several. I got a lot of tips on how to do it with no luck for a long time, then one particular instruction about visualizing where to aim my 'back hand/arm' set me on the path. I have learned how to do a fair chunk of the falls as exercises, but have a long way to go with doing them on the fly, being thrown.

It's actually a dangerous period, because uncertain falls 'in between' my old traditional style and the new style often prove awkard and painful. I seriously pulled an adductor muscle a few months ago, and the way I was throwing myself into the transition to wide-leg ukemi is a prime - though maybe only partial - suspect. Though mostly functional, the leg is still not completely healed 3 months later, and I had to abstain from ukemi, running, and heavier squatting/lunging for basically 2 full months to get the healing started. Now I'm trying to incorporate the new falls more cautiously.
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Old 04-16-2003, 09:36 AM   #11
Bryan Webb
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These type falls and rolls have saved my old bones from much abuse.

Kevin is correct, the transition period between old style and soft style rolls is a bit dangerous, you have to go slow and pattern. Its like changing your handwriting style. But once you have patterened the soft style rolls, it allows many more options... in addition to the old style rolls.

Bryan Webb
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Old 04-16-2003, 09:58 AM   #12
DavidEllard
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We practise and train in that style of soft falls. They were introduced to my sensei's in the uk by Mouliko HalÚn from Norway. Since i started three or so years ago they are the only form of over-the-top break fall i have learnt - and i learnt them from day 1. When done properly (i.e not by me )you can fall from the hardest throw with barely a noise.

In terms of learning, although we have developed a number of practises I am happy to share, I would suggest it would be difficult to learn without finding a sensei who teaches them, as they do take a period to "swap over" to.

I saw Waite Sensei being thrown by Yamada Shihan on tape a little while ago and noticed how similar his falls were to the ones we do - the best option is probably to find someone close(ish) with him on in this style. Maybe someone on here whose US geography is better than mine can help.
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Old 04-16-2003, 11:02 AM   #13
kensparrow
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Thanks for all the input. Unfortunately I don't think I'll have the opportunity to learn this first hand unless someone happens to give a local seminar on it since no one from my dojo rolls this way. It definitely looks less abusive than a standard breakfall which is why it interests me so much. I'd like to be able to train intensely without worrying about possible long term damage (I'm not exactly 18 anymore!)

What Kevin and Opher said about the back hand makes a lot of sense. I'll have to play with that tonight before class. If any of you have any other insight or specific exercises you could share, I would be very grateful.

Thanks
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Old 04-16-2003, 01:42 PM   #14
Kevin Wilbanks
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You live in the Northeast. There must be dojos within visiting distance that you could go to to get some instruction. Donovan Waite himself is in Philidelphia. A polite call ahead in conjuntion with a 2 day trip will probably accomplish more than a million email tips. Another option is to get both videos and a partner with similar interest so that you can serve as visual feedback for one another. I learned a lot of what I can do by carefully watching the first video and practicing on my living room (carpet-on-concrete) floor.
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Old 04-16-2003, 08:55 PM   #15
Lan Powers
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Recently we had a couple of guests at our dojo whocame to visit from Austin TX. (I think that is where Birdsong Sensei is currently living)

One of his students came with him and was doing these "soft" breakfalls as well.

All I can say is WOW!!!

Most impressive. I am just getting into hi-falls now-a-days so I was boggled with it.

Gotta learn this.

Lan

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Old 04-16-2003, 09:24 PM   #16
Bronson
 
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Hey Lan,

As a little side note. Not long after I started aikido I tried to do a forward roll on the grass in my full armor. I didn't have enough experience to compensate for my 13lb helmet. My head went into the ground like a lawn dart

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 04-17-2003, 06:56 AM   #17
Veers
 
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Ouch.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Old 04-18-2003, 11:35 PM   #18
Lan Powers
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Never tried to roll in "gear" but the first time I dropped down flat with a coif as well as a helm, itwas more like the space shuttle trajectory than anything.......#@%* near straight down.

Lan

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Old 05-10-2003, 04:30 PM   #19
Charles Hill
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Is there anyone who has seen the second tape in Donovan Waite's series and can confirm that he teaches the ukemi described above in it?
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Old 05-10-2003, 05:10 PM   #20
aikidoc
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At the AAA National Instructor's Seminar, Nakayama's group from California (Orange County) was doing very nice quiet high falls. I did talk to one of his people and she gave me a very brief idea of how to do it. I have yet to work on it though. The regular high falls are too hard on my old body.
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Old 05-13-2003, 11:26 AM   #21
kensparrow
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Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
At the AAA National Instructor's Seminar, Nakayama's group from California (Orange County) was doing very nice quiet high falls. I did talk to one of his people and she gave me a very brief idea of how to do it.
What did she say? I was reminded of how much I still want to learn this the other night while working with a black belt. He did iriminage, I went over, and I swear just hung in the air for a full three count! I really could have used a soft breakfall on that one!
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Old 05-13-2003, 01:48 PM   #22
aikidoc
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She did not say much other than showing it to me. It appears as the best way to learn is to lead the body as far as your arms are able to reach-i.e., the slap hand is extended as far as one can. I have tried it a couple of times and it did not work for me yet so I still have to figure out what is occuring. I think the arm has to act as a static shock absorber and then collapses slightly to let the body down easy. They make it look easy but there is more going on there that I need to work out. Sorry I'm not much help yet.
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Old 05-13-2003, 03:00 PM   #23
akiy
 
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Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
She did not say much other than showing it to me. It appears as the best way to learn is to lead the body as far as your arms are able to reach-i.e., the slap hand is extended as far as one can.
Yup. Basically, it should feel like you're "reaching" with the hand up and over, palm down, while the foot stays in contact with the ground almost until the hand touches the ground (if you're that flexible.
Quote:
I think the arm has to act as a static shock absorber and then collapses slightly to let the body down easy.
I'm not too sure if I collapse my arm, although your description of the arm being like a shock absorber works. For me, it really is a feeling of reaching (like an amoeba's pseudopod) for the ground and lowering myself down -- kind of like using the reaching arm in the same function the foot that tucks under for a back fall serves.

There are some nice exercises working from the ground up that seem to work well into the soft forward breakfalls. Just another reason for us to get onto the same mat one of these days, huh?

-- Jun

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Old 05-30-2003, 02:20 PM   #24
aikidoc
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I'm starting to get the "soft" high fall down-I hit it about 70 % of the time off a kotegaeshi. I have found a great exercise to practice it with. Have one of the class members provide an extended arm. The exercise involves walking or slowly running up and hooking the extended arm with the inside arm and kick the legs up high, then look for the ground to the outside and reach way down. As the hand touches the ground, you lower yourself like a stiff shock absorber by riding the arm down-downside leg should be straight. When done properly this is almost silent.

The biggest difficulty I have with this is the habit (15 years) of wanting to slap on a high fall. When I get somewhere in between the fall is ugly and it does not feel particularly well. When I do the soft high fall properly it is virtually painless. Once I can get my mind out of the slap mode I think it will work nicely. When you go over fast, sometimes it's hard to break old habits. Some of my beginners are picking it up fast since they don't have to break the habit patterns.
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Old 05-30-2003, 02:57 PM   #25
Dross
 
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Does anyone have some video on the web of people doing any of these? I'd love to see it.
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