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…)
While 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.
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…)
This 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…)
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! 🙂