Rolling Breakfalls are sometimes called Forward Rolls, depending on which martial art you do and who is your instructor. Ukemi is the Japanese word for the art of falling safely, and Gymnasts call it Tumbling. It’s all about not getting hurt when you fall down.
Forward Rolls are very important because they get you back up onto your feet immediately, so you can continue defending yourself.
But before you try Rolling Breakfalls, you should already know how to do Back Breakfalls and Side Breakfalls. If you have not learned the preceeding material, please, go read it now.
Learn your Back and Side breakfalls first. These are your most basic and important techniques.
Rolling breakfalls are spectacular to watch, especially during the excitement of an aikido martial arts demonstration. But they take considerable practice.
When your body falls at speed, you need to protect your head and neck from getting broken; also you need to spread the shock and save your arms and legs.
You accomplish this by making your body into a hoop, or at least part of a circle.
Do this right, and your body rolls like a rubber tire that is thrown across the floor.
The energy that could hurt you and break your bones is absorbed along the perimeter of the circle, and nothing gets damaged.
Do it wrong, and you can end up hurt or even crippled. This is why you need a proper class and a qualified, experienced instructor.
So much for the theory. . . You need to put this into practice, but you need a safe place to train with a trusted friend. Somewhere without spectators.
Tatami, gymnasium mats, wrestling mats will all help to cushion the bumps as you start. If you cannot use a hall with mats, then try a grassy lawn or even a sandy beach somewhere.
Think of your shoulders, arms and hands as a hoop or a circle. There is also a second and bigger “circle” for you to envision. It is made up of your extended hand and arm, shoulder, the center of your back, your spine, buttocks, legs and feet.
You must train your body so it touches the ground all along this pathway each time you do a rolling fall.
Take a deep breath, then let the air escape as you perform ANY breakfall, including this one. This minimises shock and damage to your internal organs.
RIGHT ARM ROLL
Start with your left knee on the ground, and your right foot in front of you. Place both your hands palm down on the ground, with the fingertips of both hands almost touching each other.
Turn your head to the left and look behind you. You need to roll so your body weight is taken first on your right forearm and then transferred to your right shoulder.
Tuck your head down so you don’t bang it on the ground. It is not part of this “loop” you are creating with your body.
Your left leg (which is behind you) pushes you off to start the roll, and the weight needs to shift from your shoulder to your spine as your legs rise into the air above your head and body. Your curved spine takes the weight, and then your buttocks as the legs come over 360 degrees and you let the legs fall gently.
The left leg should be on its side, slightly bent, with your left ankle on the ground. Your hips are turned to the left, with your left buttock on the ground. Your right leg should be bent 90 degrees at the knee, and you should have the bottom of your foot flat on the ground.
At this point, a Judo practitioner normally slaps the tatami mat with the open left hand. We will try not to rely on this, because we cannot expect to have a mat when we fall in real life – (i. e. outside the Dojo. ).
So slap at first while you are learning. When you get more skilled you will find you can do the roll without slapping. Or you can use the slap to push you back onto your feet in a hurry.
After landing, your right hand should be resting comfortably and loosely on your belly. It doesn’t slap.
The finishing position on the ground is the same as Side Breakfalls, which were covered earlier.
LEFT ARM ROLL
(Remember to take a deep breath and then breathe out. Also, remember why this is necessary. )
Place with your right knee on the ground, and your left foot in front of you. Place both your hands palm down on the ground, with the fingertips of both hands almost touching each other.
Turn your head to the right and look behind you.
Roll so your body weight is taken first on your left forearm and then transferred to the left shoulder.
Tuck your head well in so you don’t bang it on the ground. If you fail to do this, you will bang your head; maybe even break your neck!
Your right leg (which is behind you) pushes you off to start the roll, and the weight needs to shift from your shoulder to your spine as your legs rise into the air above your head and body.
Your curved spine takes the weight, and then your buttocks as the legs come over 360 degrees and you let the legs fall gently.
Your right leg should now be on its side, slightly bent, with the right ankle on the ground. Your hips should be turned to the right, with your right buttock on the ground.
Your left leg should be bent 90 degrees at the knee, and you should have the bottom of your left foot flat on the ground.
At this point, a Judo practitioner slaps the tatami mat with the open right hand. Slap at first while you are learning. Later, do the roll without slapping.
Your left hand should be resting comfortably and loosely on your belly. It doesn’t slap this time.
Practice these rolling breakfalls, both left and right, for at least ten minutes. Do ten breakfalls on each side. Twenty in total.
You will discover that you have a stong side and a weak side. This is normal. Most of us are right handed, some are left- handed and a gifted few are naturally ambidextrous.
Your weak side just needs a little more work. Don’t neglect it, and you will become strong and coordinated on both sides.
Ignore your weak side, and it will get you injured when you need it most. Or you will be stumped and clueless when you first have to defend yourself against a left-handed person. (If you are left-handed, you will automatically learn to handle both left-handed and right-handed attackers with ease because, as you know, most people are right-handed. )