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5 Essential Martial Arts Tips to Safe Ukemi Practice - How to Fall Properly

Updated on November 11, 2012
Imi Lichtenfeld Practicing Source;
Imi Lichtenfeld Practicing Source;

More than just falling and rolling

What is martial arts practice without learning to fall or roll? For this, ukemi is the technique to practice. Judo, Aikido and other disciplines have their own variation of ukemi. However, it is fascinating to mention that some practitioners see ukemi as merely break falls and rolling drills. Although this is part of it, there is more to ukemi than this.So what is it really? First of all, we need to look at the term itself. Ukemi is actually being passive! More accurately, it’s receiving the technique properly. But who wants to do this anyway? Well, it pays to know how to receive techniques properly. Moreover, properly falling or breaking the fall is essential – regardless of what technique is being used against you. So in essence, ukemi prepares you to do this. As such, this is one of the first lessons when learning judo, aikido and other martial arts – of course there are exceptions.

Safety Tips Needed

One of Imi Lichtenfeld’s (founder of krav maga) philosophies in training includes not getting injured during practice. This is important not just in Krav Maga but in any training.In addition, the 1981 research conducted by Dr. Koiwai reported as much as 9 fatalities in the practice of Judo (5 from brain injuries and 4 from cervical fracture). This underscores the importance of properly receiving techniques – regardless of discipline being practiced. So before you even contemplate on competing in mixed martial arts here are some useful tips to make your ukemi practice safer and injure-free.

1. Form, Form, Form

There is the right way of falling and rolling and there is the wrong way. Different disciplines have their own technique so pay attention. Arm position, angles, and even the way your body contacts the mat are crucial in the proper execution of ukemi. So pay close attention even to the tiniest detail. More importantly, observe proper form every time.

2. Strengthen Your Core

It pays to have a strong core. Tighten or contract your midsection when you roll or execute a break falls. This allows you to have control over your body as you do the technique. Also, it helps give you nicer abs. But seriously, a strong core aids in proper posture and body kinetics.

3. Practice Slowly

There’s no point in practicing ukemi hastily. In fact, you open yourself to more injuries this way. Instead, practice slowly and be aware of your body’s movement. What you are trying to build here is muscle memory. If you are consciously aware of your body movements, it is easier to correct it. When ukemi becomes ingrained in your system, you can drastically improve your chances against injuries.

4. Proper Breathing

Different types of ukemi require different body movements. But what is constant is your breathing. Relaxing your body and your breathing especially during practice of ukemi is important. The timing of inhaling and exhaling is paramount. During practice it is beneficial to time your exhale while you execute the technique. First, it aids in contracting your core muscles as well as relaxing your extremities. Also, proper breathing helps calm you down when receiving a technique. Lastly, as a general rule, if you don't breathe you die.

Judo Throw Source:
Judo Throw Source:

5. Padded Surface

Getting slammed on the floor is a serious business. Even if you are using gym mats, they may not be enough. Traditional tatami mats or your new-age padded surface can help cushion the fall. But it is beneficial to add another layer or two especially when practicing the technique. Of course in the real world you can’t pause the moment and ask for additional padding. But as a rule, try not to get injured while training.

Whether you are practicing for self defense or for the love of the sport, ukemi practice is important. Keeping these 5 essential ukemi practice tips in mind will ensure a safer practice session.

A Collection of Judo Ippons


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi there omar21,

      Every bit of information to keep us safe in training or in the streets is important. thank you for dropping by.

    • profile image

      omar21 5 years ago

      To be safe during training is very important, it will help you also in the street to avoid serious injuries. Thank you for your tips.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello DDE,

      All martial arts must be practiced safely. Ukemi (or however one calls it in their own art) needs to be done properly to ensure safe practice.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Very interesting ways of Martial Arts

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Thanks for answering my question, jpcmc, and thanks for the advice on starting martial arts safely, much appreciated :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hey there Redberry Sky. There are different types of martial arts out there. Some are more streneous than others. But regardless of the discipline safety procedures and techniques are always taught first. In fact, Many safety techniques are incorporated in the style. this way you can practice without fear of injuries. Unfortunately, many forget the basics of safety so they get a "bad day" at the dojo.

      You can start martial arts at any age. There are different teaching strategies for different ages groups. The Gracie Jiutjitsu has a great curriculum for children.

      Just find a dojo or gym (and a particular martial art that you like) and observe first. talk to the teacher and students just to get the feel of the place.

      MOre than just self defense, it's a great workout as well.

      Just remember to keep these safe ukemi practice tips in mind.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Watching people practice martial arts is beautiful, I've always wanted to try but the risk of injury scares me, and I wonder if you have to be a child or adolescent to start - for agility as much as fearlessness?

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I appreciate the kind words dardarji. I got the chance to study Krav Maga and I find it practical and effective. I incorporatesome of its techniques when I taught self-defense and MMA at a local school here in the Philippines.

      I encourage you to write your experiences, views and tips on your martial arts practice. It's always nice to learn from others. I hope your sensei finds value in what I wrote.

      Practice well!

    • Dardarji profile image

      Dardarji 6 years ago from California, USA

      Totally awesome hub! I am long time a martial arts practitioner (Shotokan Karate-do, and now newbie Krav Maga student) and really agree appreciate your hub article. In the first Karate dojo I trained in our Sensei taught us basic breakfalls as beginners, as well as paid particular attention to core work, and was a madman when it came to proper form. I am going to share this hub article with my current Sensei and encourage him to pass it on. Thanks for posting this jpcmc.