The lateral breakfall

How to minimize the damage of a lateral fall

If the backward breakfall (read The backward breakfall) is the first controlled falling that is taught, the lateral could be for sure the second one. If we are able to perform the backward, we will not have problems learning the lateral one.

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 again:

The technique

The lateral breakfall (almost identical to the Jiu Jitsu’s Yoko Ukemi) is relatively easy to execute, let’s see how to perform it:

  • We start, as always, 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 laterally (eg. in left direction) forcing us to lose balance (read How to improve balance: tricks and exercises)
  • If we do not do anything, we fall to the left risking to badly damage our head, shoulders, hips (etc.)
  • The first thing that we must do is to flex our torso in the left direction and our head on the opposite side (to partially recover our center of gravity and lightly slow down our falling)
  • At the same time, we have to sling the left arm to the right as for going to push our left knee to the right
  • When our left hand arrives near to our left knee (we can touch it to learn), our left foot must start swinging to the right (continuing the movement already started)
  • After this, we have to immediately bend the leaning knee (the right one) with the idea of going down as much as possible in a curvilinear way (we want to touch the ground with our left side)
  • When we are completely crouched, our left leg should be completely stretch and (almost) parallel to the ground
  • In this phase, our left arm should continue to go upward (to load the slap that we will execute to dissipate the energy of the falling)
  • The first part that touches the ground (favored by the curvilinear force of the swinging leg) is the side of the left thigh (to the height of the buttocks)
  • Then we must gradually unroll our spine on the floor up to the base of the neck (the head always remains safely flexed to the right, it does not touch the ground)
  • Doing this we have to sync the arrive of the (already loaded) left arm with a slap on the ground (with the open palm and the entire arm, the fingers must be attached)
  • The “slapping” motion starts from the shoulders and harmonically, gradually, sequentially arrives at the hand
  • After the slapping, our body has to throw our legs upward to the right following the general swinging (to disperse further power)
  • The entire motion should follow a semicircle, like a tire that address the road
  • We must avoid any vibration, 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
  • To return in a stand-up position (at the beginning) we can use the slapping hand to push the ground (after the dissipation of the power)

In the opposite direction is obviously the same.

The most common errors

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

  • To do not go down on our side (but on the back or frontally)
  • To involuntarily hit the supporting leg with the swinging leg (at the beginning of the movement)
  • To do not slap or  doing it too slightly (the big is the falling the stronger must be the hit)
  • To fail to try to fall down in a curvilinear way (risking to interrupting the force)
  • 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 (again 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:

  • Hand behind head – With a hand (not the slapping one) 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 hand, concentrating the dispersion of power on a perfect swinging movement
  • Rolling laterally – Instead of turning back after the swinging movement we can also exploit the force of the falling to do a lateral roll

Final Notes

  • If performed correctly the lateral 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 third 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 laterally in your opinion?

Author: Master Kongling

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