What is a breakfall?
Learn how to fall properly is (should be) at the base of every serious martial art training. In this article, we are going to explain the most important concepts related to the contact with the ground.
In particular, any martial artist should be interested in ground contacts as a result of:
- Projections (suffered, as a sacrifice, etc.)
- Equilibrium losses (accidental, environmental, etc.)
- Liberations (from wrists locks, chokes, Chin Na, etc.)
Before going into the details of the various techniques, we have to describe what are the key points in common with most of the breakfall methods:
- Distribute the impact – We have to distribute weight and impact energy along the body surface to limit its incidence
- Use of breathing – The use of a correct breathing (read ), in synchrony with the movement, is fundamental to absorb the falling power without damages
- Rapidly return in a fighting stance – Use our body movement so we can instantly go back to a favorable position (read The guard stances in 6DKF)
- Use rounded trajectories – Use as much as possible swinging movements in a circular and elastic way (leaving the force to pass on us as a wave)
- Control the impact body elements – Choose with which body parts touch the ground (and in what position) to preserve the most sensitive ones
- Protect weaker parts – Protect / secure the damaged / sensitive areas with our limbs or through specific motions
- Adapt the technique – Adapt the fall in relation to the environment, the eventual type of contact with the opponent or object involved (eg. a weapon)
- Softness and explosive elasticity – Use the softness during the impact and the explosive elasticity in return
- Do not be passive – Add, where possible / reasonable, a technique of defense, recovering and / or attack
- Choose what to sacrifice – If we cannot save everything from an impact, we must choose to sacrifice what is less important / stronger / more conditioned
- Connect all the body elements – We have to connect all the movements, be harmonious, be consequential (during training, more our breakfalls are silent, more they are qualitatively good)
- Exploit the opponent’s energy at our advantage – In a lot of situation it’s possible to take advantage of the opponent’s force (eg. to lift us up) preserving ours
Let’s now see a few tips related safety:
- Never force the most delicate parts of the body to touch the ground first and in the wrong position (eg. under the load of the body)
- If we do not know what we are doing, let’s never fall with free weight or worse, accelerating the fall
- Let’s never land with rigidity, the keywords are elasticity and softness
- Let’s never land in a fragmented / broken way, the keywords are harmony and roundness
- If we do not know what we are doing, let’s never concentrate the weight on a single limb or on a single area of the body
- Let’s use our strength and inertia to distribute the kinetic energy in opposite and / or collateral directions to the main fall (also by clinging to other elements of the scenario as we will see later)
- When we can not preserve everything, we have to try to defend the most vital body elements that risks being compromised
The most common errors
Breakfall’s technique becomes useless if:
- We cannot sync our reaction to the opponent’s one, each thing must be done with the right timing
- We are not able to coordinate our body movements in sync with the falling motion
- We are not able to (basically) manage the passage between solid, liquid and elastic states (read 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch)
- When we train them we feel pain (if it happens, after the first times, for sure we are doing something wrong)
- We do not train them constantly (at least every 4 days); we have to (extremely gradually) condition our body to resist to always harder fallings
- We do not gain the instant instinct to dispose our body after an improvise projection (in this case there is not the time to think, we can count only on muscle memory, read The muscle memory)
In the next articles of this series, we will see the how to prepare the first 3 breakfalls. In the meantime, it is good to try and to apply these concepts in a personal, spontaneous and intuitive way but always in conditions of complete safety and in terms of training (if we are beginners we are not able to sustain a bad falling in a sparring or, worst, in a real fight on a solid ground).
As we are taught by Bruce Lee, styles and techniques are a crystallization of something that was born as pure and spontaneous, the concepts can be instead applied and adapted to any body / situation.
- How to avoid contacts that lead to ground fighting – A few tips about how to limit the incidence of (dangerous) ground fighting situations
- How to improve balance: tricks and exercises – an article about how to gain a better control of our center of gravity
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- Have you ever fallen to the floor badly during a martial confrontation (self-defense, sparring, etc.)?
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.