The backward breakfall

How to minimize the damage of a backward fall

In a lot of martial arts, the backward breakfall is one of the firsts controlled fallings that are taught, it is very simple and effective but it must be performed in the correct way.

To execute the involved movements we do not have to be incredible athletes but, before starting the study of this defensive technique, it is important to read:

The technique

The backward breakfall (almost identical to the Jiu Jitsu’s Ushiro Ukemi) is the easier to execute, let’s see how to perform it:

  • We start from a standing guard stance (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • Let’s didactically imagine that, for example, someone pushes us frontally forcing us to lose balance (read How to improve balance: tricks and exercises)
  • If we do not do anything, we fall backward risking to badly damage our neck, head (etc.)
  • The first thing that we must do is to frontally flex our torso and our head (to partially recover our center of gravity and lightly slow down our falling)
  • At the same time, we have to sling forward the leg that supports less body weight
  • If we are not too close to our opponents we can also use sling forward our arms
  • After this, we have to immediately bend the leaning knee (the other) with the idea of going down as much as possible vertically
  • When we are completely crouched down we must touch the ground with our buttocks but not vertically, it should be as we would slip forward
  • Then we must gradually unroll our spine on the floor up to the base of the neck (the head remains safely flexed frontally, it does not touch the ground)
  • Doing this we have to open our arms laterally and, with open palms, to strongly beat the ground with the entire forearms (preserving the elbow)
  • The “slapping” start from the shoulders and harmonically, gradually, sequentially arrives at the hands
  • The movement with the arms (on a regular flat ground) should be simultaneous and it has to start exactly after the buttocks touch f the floor
  • After the slapping, our body has to throw our legs upward following the general swinging (to disperse further power)
  • In the entire motion, we must avoid any vibration and rigidity, the idea is to follow the wave that propagates in our body (read Use the body power: the muscle chain)
  • Once we have reached the end of the swinging movement, we just have to repeat it in the opposite direction and get back standing up (as quickly as possible)

The most common errors

The errors can be infinite but let’s see these:

  • To fail to try to fall down vertically (risking to go down at full force from a high position)
  • To do not be coordinated with the fall and the ground slapping (suffering the entire damage of the falling)
  • To go down with a rigid body and / or do not correctly stretching our spine

Exercises and training focus

  • Knees bending – If our knees are strong we can better control the impact force limiting the eventual damage (squat and related exercises are a good practice)
  • Arms / hands slapping – More power we can generate / endure slapping the terrain (read Iron palm conditioning) more impact force we can disperse
  • Reflexes and coordination – Projections can be very rapid and improvise, if our muscle memory (read The muscle memory) is not enough fast and well educated the technique will be useless
  • Let’s make it harder – When we understood the mechanics of this controlled falling and we can correctly perform it alone we can pass to the second stage, use it after a (light) push of a partner
  • Let’s make it “real” – When we are able to do the breakfall even after a strong push (at least after 1-2 months) we can start to endure light projections (more about this later)


There can be an incredibly big number of variants (with weapons, etc.), let’s see some of the basics:

  • Guard up – If we are close to our opponents, during the downward motion phase we have to maintain the arms in the guard position (to prevent any eventual attack)
  • Hand behind head – With a hand behind our head we can protect us from eventual obstacles behind us (eg. a close wall, etc.)
  • Handless – In some cases, an advanced practitioner can perform this technique also without the slapping hands, concentrating the dispersion of power on a perfect swinging movement
  • Slinging both legs – In some cases, an advanced (and conditioned) practitioner can also sling both legs forward instead of only one (to accelerate the falling)
  • Rolling back – Instead of turning forward after the swinging movement we can also do a backward roll (eg. to gain distance)

Final Notes

  • If performed correctly the backward breakfall can allow us to bear even very violent projections (typical of Jiu-Jitsu and Brasilian Jiu Jitsu)

In the next articles, we will see the second breakfall of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, in future we will also see the evolutions of this technique.

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What is the biggest risk falling backward in your opinion?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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