Basic Aikido Ukemi: The Basic Falls and
A Suggestion for When to Learn Them
Inside the dojo, 50% of Aikido training is the art of taking the falls and rolls in martial situations. Since you are the person primarily responsible for your own safety, it only makes sense that you learn to protect your self as well as possible as soon as possible.
Learning ukemi must be a conscious, committed decision. In many ways rolling itself is a perceived hazard, and the obvious conflict in our DNA is the desire to "do no further harm" prohibits many. By this reasoning, the idea of “meeting the mat” is frowned upon by many new and old aikidoka alike. That said, we must endeavor to overcome our fears and master these skills as early as possible so we can remain injury free, and also to make our experience more realistic.
Let’s face it, if your uke can’t take the fall for the Over The Back Throw, practicing the Over The Back Throw is less realistic than it would be if he could take that fall. On the other hand, why put your student through the agony of learning the ukemi for the Over The Back Throw on their first night in the dojo? That makes no sense! All that said, somehow we must endeavor the strike the balance between student retention and ukemi skill development.
Along those lines, by belt, here is a suggested list of falls to learn, and when to learn them (this is not a comprehensive list, but it will get the job done).
For Yellow Belt:
Basic Forward Break Fall (Arm Bar, Spinning Arm Bar, etc.)
1. Drop to knee & shin of inside leg (not just knee)
2. Fully extend the outside leg (this provides a counter balance which prevents your full weight from transferring to hand and forearm.
3. Place entire forearm on the mat (not the hand) & not just the wrist, and extend forward. Arm is “Unbendable” and slides forward with the body maintaining an energized state.
Resource: Aikido Exercises for Teaching & Training page 151
Basic Back Break Fall (Unbendable Arm, Spin Around, etc.)
1. Cross arms across chest & tuck chin
2. Raise outside leg off the mat and bend at the knee
3. Lower bottom toward ground
4. Sit back and extend
5. Slap both hands on the mat at waist height as your bottom & back contact the mat
6. Finish with one leg raised in a GJJ protective posture
Basic Sit Out Side Break Fall (Front Wrist Throw, Elbow Chop, etc.)
For a fall on the right side of your body:
1. Bring your right hand up across your face & tuck chin
2. As you kick your right leg out across your left (standing) leg
3. Bend your left leg as you lower your body closer to the mat
4. Slap your right hand against the mat so that your entire body hits the mat at the same time
Resource First Video on the left: (beginning @ 2:29)
For Blue Belt:
Forward Roll (Come Along Throw, Wheel Throw, Arm Bar Throw, Low Bridge, etc.)
Backward Roll (Used in the Low Bridge for beginners, but can also be used in many other techniques like, Unbendable Arm, Pull Down from the Rear, Spin Around, etc.)
For Green Belt:
Advanced Back Break Fall (Used in the Over the Back Throw, Unbendable Arm Against the Kick, Twist the Ankle Against the Knee, etc.)
For Advanced Belts: Purple - Black:
Advanced aikidoka are encouraged to experiment with new “the soft ukemi style” to enhance their ukemi taking experience, further minimize injury, and extend their Aikido career.
Training Evolution (see videos on the left) ~ for a whirlwind of potential ideas.
Nihon Goshin Aikido utilizes Judo ukemi. Shodo Morita was a Dan grade Judo practitioner after all. That said, I wonder if the judo break fall would still be the first option for the older, larger, aikidoka. Keep in mind that the judo break fall reduces trauma. It does not eliminate it completely.
Many other important falls can be located on youtube by typing in “Aikido Back Roll” or Aikido Front Break fall,” etc. For the advanced aikidoka, typing in “Soft Ukemi” or “Feather falling” into youtube will yield significant results also.
Regardless of the belt you currently possess, do not wait to begin training or refining your basic ukemi in the dojo.
I have found that the best location to practice ukemi is your living room floor, during TV commercials, and I do my best to practice there often.
Sensei John Carter nage, uke Frank Purvis
A neat introduction to the back roll, and student retention. The best location to practice ukemi is your living room floor, during TV commercials, and you should practice there often. Be round my friend.
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Feather Falling ~ Or
“Soft Ukemi” is Our Training Future. Like It Or Not, You Only Have A Limited Number of Judo Break Falls In You.
Judo Break falls Instruction (in our style) begins at 2:30 in the video above.
I really like the approach Sensei Moon takes to ukemi; especially his advice to “Never fall when you can roll.” It makes perfect sense when you think about it. (See examples beginning @ 1:08 in the video above).
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