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breakfalls | Pacific Wave Jiu-jitsu

Week 11-12: Spinning Head Scissors Throw & Taco Fall to Kip-Up

For week 11, I decided to follow up on my previous work on the scissor throw at the head level, and try a fancier version with a spin. This one really is purely for aesthetics, but is a beautiful looking takedown for film work. The initial set-up is pretty much the same, but once in position, I relax my legs as my partner removes his arms allowing me to drop. I don’t fully open up my legs though. I need to keep a bit of squeeze to allow the momentum to swing me back up a bit so that I can land on my feet as my partner throws himself down to make it look like I’m initiating the throw. The end result is pretty cool looking, as you’ll see below. (more…)

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Training to Do Breakfalls When Balance Is Actually Broken

Training to Do Breakfalls When Balance Is Actually BrokenWhile I was in New Zealand to teach seminars, I had the pleasure of doing some training with Jules Robson Sensei. One of the topics we spent a lot of time on was breakfalls, as you can see in the photo on the right taken at his dojo. He posited that many martial artists train their breakfalls in a more performance oriented way. By this I mean that the uke being thrown has full control over their balance and structure allowing them to get more leap and spring so as to enjoy greater control over one’s fall. When well trained, these falls and rolls look quite beautiful, but when applied as a response to a throw, it’s a beautiful lie.

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How to Adjust Breakfalls for Movie Stunt Work

How to Adjust Breakfalls for Movie Stunt Work*WARNING: This article is for informational purposes only. If you wish to put these concepts into practice you should do so under the supervision of a trained professional. 

Knowing how to do breakfalls is really useful for a stunt performer. A high proportion of the movie stunts performed involve falling, whether it’s for a fight, chase, or off a building. But it’s not enough to be good at the breakfalls you do in martial arts training.

When we do throws and takedowns in Jiu-jitsu, our first and foremost goal is to prevent injury. In stunts, the goal is to make the fall look realistic. These two goals can clash, however. The big slap and controlled leg position of a very safe breakfall are the same things that make it look as though the person falling didn’t get hurt. No big surprise, right? (more…)

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How to Breakfall Naturally

258874_10150191534151365_511821364_7181066_4587697_oThis is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Breakfalling is one of the most unnatural things we teach to new students, to consciously let yourself fall to the ground without trying to stop the fall or slow your descent. We naturally fear the threat of injury we have learned can result from impact. In truth, we are our own worst enemy with this line of thinking. But what happens when this fear is removed from the picture?

Have you every taken a fall so fast that you had no time to even recognize that you’re falling? I know I have. While I was in Ottawa over the holidays I was rushing out of the house down my parents’ sloped driveway. There was a half inch of new snow. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the new snow was covering a thick layer of ice from the freezing rain we had prior to the snow. As I committed my hurried step to the ground, my foot just slipped out from under me banana-peel style with no time to think or react. I was carrying bags in both my arms at the time too. The funny thing was that there was no “breakfalling” but I managed to fall without hurting any part of my body. (more…)

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How to Tweak Your Side Breakfall for Really Hard Throws

Some of my intermediate students are starting to deal with being thrown harder than they did when first started learning to be thrown with Judo style throws like major hip throws (O-goshi), shoulder throws (seioi nage), etc. Last night I took the time to emphasize a few tips that I have gleaned over the years through general experience, as well as a few that our Shorinji Kan brethren have shared with us. I’d like to share these tips with you in this blog.

1. Relax & breathe out as you fall. While we teach this point right from the beginning, you notice how important this becomes when you start getting thrown harder. Breathing out (similar to a heavy sigh) helps you to keep relaxed, which is better for dispersing the energy when you make impact. When you hold your breath or clench the muscles in your body, the energy stays contained in your body, making you feel the impact more.

2. Don’t grab the thrower. Everyone with a little experience knows they’re not supposed to do this, but when you start getting thrown harder, you sometimes revert back to an earlier state of learning, instinctively grabbing the thrower to minimize their speed of the throw. When you do this, it causes your legs to come around and hit the ground ahead of your body, preventing you from landing evenly so as to more fully distribute the impact. Rather than grabbing, you can add a little resistance by letting your arm drag subtlely across the thrower’s back, causing friction that can slow the throw down ever-so-slightly, giving you just that little extra bit of time to control your descent.

3. Keep your bottom leg straight. As you’re swung over someone’s body in a fast, powerful throw,the bottom knee can swing twist funny as you are swung through the air aggressively if you’re not careful. You can also tweak your knee on impact. This happens more often if you keep your bottom leg bent. By keeping your bottom leg straight, you engage all the muscles that stabilize the knee making it safer to take hard throws.

4. Keep your bottom foot engaged. Engaging your bottom foot serves to draw your ankle away from the ground while bulging out your outside calf muscle, which helps minimize the joint’s impact when you hit the ground. There are a couple of ways you can do this. Curl your toes back turning your foot away from the ground (like the foot position used in a side kick – see below). If you have bulbous ankles that tend to stick out more, however, you might find this method makes it worse. In this case, curl your toes back and stick out your heel (like the foot position used in a back kick).


5. Keep your bent knee pointing straight up on impact. If you are swung around hard in a throw and your knee is not pointing up, your knee will have a tendency to twist across your bottom leg, twisting your back and potentially crush your testicles (if you train without a cup). Keeping the knee straight up on impact reduces the chance of this. If you have a tendency of slamming your legs together when thrown, this technique will also help reduce the risk of that.

6. Catch more of your impact with your bent leg. By curling your toes back and pointing your foot with your bent leg (like the foot position used in a front kick), your bent leg can serve as a spring to “catch” more of the impact of the throw. As the ball of your foot touches down, it can be used to subtlely cut down the impact of the rest of your body. It can take time to develop this skill but it can make a big difference with practice.

 

7. Keep track of the ground. Keeping track of the ground as you’re thrown doesn’t make much difference when you’re thrown correctly, but it makes a huge difference you take a bad throw. By knowing where the ground is, you give yourself a chance to orient your body to it. If you’re in the midst of a bad throw, you can make adjustments in the air so you hit the ground the best way possible. It can take time for your body to learn to do this intuitively, but keeping an eye on the ground gives your body a reference point from which it can learn and adapt.

8. “Hit” the ground! As you gain more experience, you should strive to become more and more active in your breakfalling technique, rather than just letting yourself be thrown. Attack the ground with your body, aligning all of the above principles. Actively slap the ground with your breakfall arm with gusto. When doing side breakfalls (the ones used when being thrown from hip throws, shoulder throws, etc), this action helps to rotate the body in the air causing you to land more on your side rather than your back. This is an important aspect of honing your breakfalls for hard throws, because if you don’t “hit” the ground, the ground hits you.

 

In addition to these tips, be sure to let your instructor know if you are noticing any pain when you’re being thrown. It’s not supposed to hurt so don’t just grit your teeth and bear it. By letting your instructor know where it hurts they can give you feedback to fix your breakfall so you need not endure any pain. Got any further breakfall tips of your own? Please feel free to share in the comments. 🙂
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The One Way Jiu-jitsu Training Will Most Likely Save Your Neck

I don’t hear a lot of stories from students saying that their Jiu-jitsu training helped them fend off an attacker, though this is one of the main reasons people take up the art. Fortunately, my students rarely get into situations in which they have to defend themselves. But I do hear a number of stories of how their breakfalls have saved them from getting seriously injured.

Last year Robyn, one of my students, came in to class beaming. “Lori Sensei, your Jiu-jitsu class saved my life last night.”

“Oh? How’s that?” I asked.

“I stepped into a shower and the bath mat had been taken out. I slipped and did a total banana peel style fall… and landed in a perfect side breakfall. You would have been so proud!” she beamed.

This had not been the first time I heard a story like this. I’ve had students say that while engaged in other sports like hockey, snowboarding, mountain biking, etc, their breakfalling prevented them from getting serious injuries. I’ve also heard students recant tales similar to Robyn’s in which some random event caused them to fall suddenly.

My handstand breakfall even saved me from my own stupidity once. Way back when, I was riding my bike with a cane umbrella hanging from my handlebars (yes, I know this was a stupid thing to do). I made a sharp turn to avoid something on the road and the umbrella swung into the spokes of my front wheel, sending me flying forward. Instinctively, I held onto my handlebars, letting my weight go forward as I tucked my head in to land on my back. As I landed, I kept control of the bike with my hands so it wouldn’t hurt me as I fell. The only bruise I got was when the saddle hit my inside thigh.

I wrote about this story in my book, Weapons of Opportunity. Have you got a similar story of how a breakfall saved your neck? I’d love to hear them! 🙂

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