Like in every martial art, Aikido is not the exception when we talk about falling, almost every technique involves a fall and it's the obligation of every student to apply proper technique and to perform a well executed and elegant fall.
In Aikido every student from beginners to veterans must practice and know the basics of how to fall correctly in every situation, there are several falling techniques and each one depends on the attack. In every school the instructor or Sensei must put great and heavy emphasis on teaching and practicing the Art of Falling, because every good attack requires a good fall, a good attack with a bad fall can cause serious damage to the body and that's why it's really important to know at least the basic forms of falling in Aikido.
Every martial art has a different point of view in the subject of falling; some of them provide or give special classes to teach about how to perform a safe fall while other arts don't care about this at all. Personally I recommend learning at least the basics of falling, I personally would prefer to know how to fall and never have to use than to be in the middle of a fall and not know what to do to protect myself and end up suffering a severe injury.
The initial falling technique in Aikido is the Front Fall/Roll (Mae Ukemi in Japanese), this technique is really easy to learn but in the end is hard to master. Learning this fall offers many benefits mostly in safety but also in skills, helping you to build a proper form, coordination, timing and confidence in the basics of Aikido, learning proper falling technique will give you another point of view of the attacks and will boost your learning, that's why it's really important to learn new attack/defense technique and to enhance or learn new falling techniques at the same time, that's the signature of a true aikidosha; having harmony between attack and defense.
This fall is performed at the beginning very slowly, to place emphasis on the position of the hands making a circle, one hand facing the other, using the legs for a forward push giving energy to the roll, and rolling over your shoulder continuing to your hips, to avoid the head contacting the floor, in advanced techniques letting your head hit the floor can be dangerous.
Never perform a fall you don't feel safe doing, but my recommendation however, is that you trust your sensei and do take some risks, this will help you to remove limitations and improve your progress in Aikido. When you learn this fall and you get used to it, you will see another face of this falling technique, it's really fun to perform and at the same time it's very elegant, and you will start to see the true form of Aikido.
This Falling technique is a back roll (Ushiro Ukemi in Japanese). This type of fall is really important in Aikido, because some of the advanced techniques require an understanding of this fall. Ushiro Ukemi is similar to Mae Ukemi but backward, it's hard to understand at first but with some practice time you can perform really elegant and skillful Ushiro Ukemi.
When performing an Aggressive attack involving a falling technique, this fall is really a crucial parto of your arsenal because it will protect your head from a really hard strike against the floor and with the right practice and understanding you can make it really smooth and fast at the same time, making it the perfect choice to regain control in a battle.
In Ushiro Ukemi you begin in a crouched position, and falling over your back giving a kick in the direction of one of your shoulders with your hand over that shoulder, with the energy provided by the kick you will roll over and then you must secure your landing with your hands.
Personally this falling technique is my favorite because it's useful in almost every situation with proper training, also it's the easiest for me to perform and the most elegant in my falling techniques.
Aikido also has a lateral fall (Yoko Ukemi in Japanese), this type of fall is more a break fall than a rolling technique. Instead, this break fall spreads the energy of the attack to the floor making it safer to land on a harder surface. This falling technique is a MUST in every aikidosha, because it's used in most of the throwing and submission techniques.
Without proper knowledge of this fall, making a safe landing in those aggressive techniques is really hard and dangerous, since in this kind of attack or counterattack the head is the easiest way to subdue an opponent (in this case you, the one who is going to fall) and making an error can cause serious damage to the neck muscle and bones, or even be fatal.
All the techniques must by supervised by an Instructor or sensei, don't practice any technique without a first aid kit, and don't teach attack techniques or falling techniques without the permission or supervision of your sensei. The importance in this fall is that the throwing technique must also be good.
Any Aikido student must be aware of this, safety is first in any technique, if you don't understand the attack then ask a more veteran student to teach the proper way of applying the technique before doing it in someone else. SAFETY FIRST.
In this video by AikidoEnth we see how to perform a front roll and back roll without suffering any damage. Its' important to practice these techniques or this technique in slow motion first, understanding how to use our hand and legs in a falling technique.
I recommend going to your nearest Dojo to practice techniques, they're really useful and can make the difference between a simple fall with a quick recovery or a broken bone or an injured muscle.
Always remember, that if you are performing a front/back roll and you're feeling a pain at some point of the roll mostly this is most commonly in the shoulder and hip bones. If this happens then you're doping the roll wrong. Try to change your position and rolling stance to see the difference, always tell your instructor or sensei all the doubts and questions you have about ANY technique.
About the Author.
My name is David Zermeño and I'm a 4th kyu rank student in Aikido practicing for the next test, I love this art and the use of this in real life, it's not only a martial art, it's also a way of life. In my Aikido training I loved the falling practice time, it was really fun and thanks to my anatomy I was always really good at it.
I hope you liked this Hub, and it would be good to hear your comments, also I will be adding more Hubs about more techniques and weapons, with videos and much more about other martial arts, like Karate-do and Jiu-jitsu.
Thanks, and good training.
To Parks Sensei for reviewing this article and for being my mentor and example in my time training Aikido. He's the head Instructor in Aikido Seikikai Dojo in San Luis Potosí, México, another home for all the aikidokas in México.
To Alvarez Sensei for being my Aikido instructor and by giving me the interest and tools to practice this incredible martial art.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 13, 2013:
thanks for writing this martial art hub. I have heard of Akido since I was young. Many are more interested in Karate and Judo because those time these 2 martial arts are very popular. Since you had explained the art of falling, I find that Akido is much better than the former. Voted up