Training – Falling and ukemi arts

Exercise – Forward rolls and learning to relax

UkemiFor many beginners to Aikido, learning to forward roll is one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of Aikido training.  Further, once the mechanical skills of rolling are learnt, first from a kneeling position and then from a solo standing position, the next challenge is to learn to relax when rolling.  The more one relaxes the easier rolling is to do. The lumps and bumps that also come with learning this skill also quickly disappear.

In the below video Master Koretoshi Maruyama, Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai,  demonstrates a fun way to learn to relax when solo forward rolling.  Essentially, it involves the practitioner pretending to stumble and walk around relaxed (as if drunk) prior to executing the roll.

As bizarre as it may seem, this exercise actually works.  In fact, at our dojo the exercise is done as part of our regular solo ukemi practice at the beginning of each class and has proven beneficial to both seniors and newcomers in developing relaxation in not only forward rolling but also other forms of ukemi (e.g. backward rolling and opposite leg rolling).


Needless to say this exercise should never be practised by people actually under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


  • Other ukemi articles and video

See: Video library: Falling and uke arts

  • Maruyama Sensei’s comments on receiving ukemi from O’sensei 

Ueshiba 5“After I became a full-time instructor in 1967, Ueshiba Sensei used me as his uke. As a deshi (student), it was important to take ukemi. One deshi didn’t know how to take ukemi from O-Sensei and went down with a bang. I already knew that Ueshiba Sensei used ki. I wondered, “How to take ukemi from O-Sensei?” So I decided to extend ki to him. He said, “Come, Maruyama!”, and I attacked him.

After taking ukemi from him, Ueshiba Sensei looked at me, and said, “Good ukemi!” He then asked what rank I held and I told him I was a 5th dan. He gave me a 6th dan and told me to go to the office to get the certificate! I thanked him but I never picked up my certificate. However, I had learnt an important lesson, “Extend ki to your opponent!””


Have a great weekend

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo

Moments in breakfall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUkemi (the art of receiving technique) is something we take very seriously at the dojo.  It is not only a critical skill to ensure our safety, but also plays an important role in developing  fundamental skills associated with balance, using relaxed power, correct body movement and flexibility.  Further, it is impossible to learn how to execute a technique unless you have someone willing to receive it.

In every class, there is always a segment dedicated to learning and improving our abilities to receive technique.

In the below video, which was taken at various classes during the year, dojo seniors can be seen using Aikido breakfalls to safely receive technique.  Breakfalls are one of a number of ukemi options that are available to Aikido practitioners when receiving a throw. Another commonly used option, depending on the circumstances, is rolling away.

Have a great week

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior




Breakfalls and Aikido – Are they really necessary?

Ueshiba 5The question of whether breakfalls are really necessary in Aikido is one that seems to attract very different opinions even amongst those who practice in the same school.

I have heard senior practitioners on many occasions argue that breakfalling is pointless, dangerous and really only has a place in demonstrations where the nage needs the uke to make them look good or “wow” the crowd.  I have also heard the converse argument to the effect that breakfalling is necessary to learn Aikido at advanced levels and is a critical skill to minimise the possibility of injury at the dojo.

bokken koshi nageThe reality probably lies somewhere in the middle of these arguments. It is also in part influenced by the holder’s perspective as to whether Aikido is primarily a system of self-defence, a health art, a physical manifestation to study philosophical expression, or all of these things and more.

At our dojo, self-projected high falls from techniques are banned. “One flung dung” throws are also not permitted (i.e. techniques where the nage takes no responsibility for being the uke‘s safety anchor). We also have the philosophy of “severe technique – soft throw”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANotwithstanding, breakfalls are part of our regular practice and dojo culture.  Aspects of these falls are practised and studied at every class.  There are 2 fundamental reasons for this and both are game changers when it comes to the decision to include breakfalls in Aikido training.

Peter KellyThe first is that breakfalling allows us to study the full spectrum of Aikido techniques, including, for example, traditional techniques such as hip, shoulder and drop throws.  Without breakfalling skills, many of these traditional techniques developed by O’sensei (the Founder of Aikido) would in effect be denied us.  This is because a breakfall is the only option to receive them.  While there is no doubt one can study Aikido by excluding traditional applications (and many do) – its just not what we are about.

Secondly, we also hold the view that for Aikido to have self-defence relevance, study of  “kuzushi” is fundamental (i.e. the need to completely break the balance of a uke to a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexecute technique). Once a uke‘s balance is broken, it is critical that they have the full range of ukemi options at their disposal to allow them to land safely, including breakfalls. Admittedly, some Aikidoka regard kuzushi as being unimportant to their study of Aikido and even go as far as to suggest that it is contrary to their philosophical beliefs as to what Aikido is about.  However, as that is not the position we hold at the dojo – breakfalling skills again come into play.

In the below video, various techniques are shown where breakfalling skills have been called upon by dojo members over the year to safely receive a technique.

Have a great week

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

Learning to breakfall – its a lot easier than it looks

Yokomenuchi kokyu nageAt our dojo learning to breakfall is an accepted part of our training culture.  The ability to breakfall is something we learn and develop to make sure we stay safe in our practice and to enable us to practice Aikido at its more advanced levels.

Most classes include a breakfalling skills development component. The focus of the training tends to be on traditional breakfalling, as this form of ukemi can be  universally applied to receive any technique.  In addition, some seniors also venture down the supplemental path of what is sometimes referred to as “feather rolling”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA key aspect of our training is to not only focus on the uke, but also the nage. Given that the decision as to whether the uke is to breakfall generally lies with the nage, it is important that the nage has the skills to not only remain stable and anchored (if for no other reason so as not to fall on their uke), but also support and turn the uke to assist them in landing safely and correctly.

The below video shows a selection of some of the breakfalling exercises that we commonly do at the dojo. While some may appear daunting at first look, they are surprisingly easy to pick up with the appropriate instruction. They are also a lot of fun.  You will note from the video that they are being practised by persons of varied ages, sizes and experience levels.

Have a great weekend

Ian Grant
Head Instructor
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane

 Related articles

Training notes: Katatedori aiki otoshi

Aiki otoshi techniques are commonly referred to as blending drop” techniques.  While not as commonly practised as other forms of technique, they have a long history in Aikido.

In the below video Mike Jones Sensei from New York Aikikai demonstrates and provides instruction on the basic and advanced  versions of Katate dori aiki otoshi.  This form of aiki otoshi is practised from a same side wrist grab.

From a safety perspective, it recommended that the advanced form of aiki otoshi not be attempted except under the close guidance and instruction of an experienced instructor familiar with the technique, including how to receive it.



  • Ukemi

On the following video Peter Kelly Sensei, Aikido Yuishinkai (Tasmania), provides instruction on the following:

  • How to safely receive Aiki otoshi as a uke?
  • How to teach the ukemi for the technique?
  • Correct form to lift and project the uke.

The video was recorded at Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane on 12 August 2015.


  • Aiki otoshi from other attack forms

In the below archive video R Crane Sensei (5th Dan) demonstrates the application of aiki otoshi from other attack forms typically seen in Aikido.


All the best

Ian Grant
Dojo Cho
Aikido Warrior Dojo, Brisbane