Thursday, 24 May 2012

Self Defense - Side Breakfall

Raise leg and lean to the side

This third post in the series on breakfalls features the side breakfall. In Japanese, it’s called the yoko ukemi.

Different martial arts perform the side breakfall in slightly different ways - but the basic idea remains the same. The Judo way normally ends with the breakfalling arm out to the side, the other arm lying relaxed along the body and the legs out along the mat.

Our Jiu Jitsu method differs slightly from the Judo. We extend our breakfalling arm out to the side, our other arm is raised up to be used as a block and our legs form a tripod with the knees bent, ready to block or to kick. 

Both variations, Judo or Jiu Jitsu, have a wide enough scope to adapt to any self defense situation.

Let’s begin –

1.  Just to become used to the side breakfall position, lie on your right side with your right arm extended out to the side, the palm and the inside of the arm touching the floor. Your arm is lying at a diagonal, just above an imaginary straight line out from your right hip. Your head and neck are off the floor. Your left hand is held up in front of your head to block an incoming attack.

The side of your right leg is lying on the floor. The left leg is bent vertically with your left foot on the floor. Both legs form the shape of a tripod.

Right arm out to the side, parallel to the right leg

2.  Now roll over onto your left side, slapping the floor with your left arm. The position is the same but with opposite hands and legs. You’re now lying on your left side, left arm outstretched, the side of the left leg in contact with the floor. Again, your head and neck should be off the floor. Your right hand is raised up in front of your head as a block.

3.  Roll back to the right, slapping down on the floor with your right arm directly from the block position. Please do this back and forth – right to left…left to right…etc.


4.  Please add one more thing – as you roll from one side to the other, lift your legs up as high as you can and bring them down along with your arm to the other side. Why? Doing helps you become used to the feeling of falling from on high with your legs high up in the air. Folks in Jiu Jitsu need this type of practise to withstand high weight-bearing throws like the hip and shoulder throws.

5.  Once you become used to breakfalling from one side to the other, start to practise the same breakfall from a squat or a very low standing position. I’d like you to gradually increase the height of the fall. The idea is to gain control over the process of falling.


6.  Once you feel comfortable with the technique, try it standing up. Raise your right leg slightly, lean to the right…and slowly fall down to the right. Please do this a few times on the right side before switching over to the left side.

Repeat the same on the left side, swinging the left leg up in front of you, leaning to the left and fall on the left side.

7.  You can increase the distance and velocity of your fall by…a. raising your leg higher and higher;  b. raising your leg faster and higher  c.  raising your leg and lifting your support leg with a jump, then falling.

I teach my students to fire out a barrage of kicks after a breakfall. This sets the tone for real self defense – after being knocked or pushed to the ground, you immediately go on the offensive. Please turn this into a habit!

In future posts, I’ll combine all three breakfalls into a system. I’ll also show you how to roll…and how to access extreme mobility on the ground against multiple attackers.

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