Yoko Ukemi - Side Breakfall
The Yoko Ukemi breakfall position is probably the most common in Judo and should be learned thoroughly (as with all the breakfalls!) on both the right and left sides.
The final position on the ground should be as follows, assuming we're falling on our Left Side:
- You should be laying on your side (not on your back), with one hip on the ground, the other in the air.
- Your body should be in a straight line - it is common for beginners to end up in a banana shape, bending at the waist. Try to keep your legs fairly in-line with the rest of your body.
- Your left leg should be straight with the baby-toe side of your foot on the ground.
- Your right leg should be bent slightly at the knee, sole of the foot on the ground, and spread slightly apart from the right leg such that your knees cannot knock together (the right knee should just miss the left, passing just behind it). The spread should be slight though - only a few inches!
- Your left arm should impact the mats at the same time as the rest of your body and lay beside you at a 30 to 45 degree angle from your body. Your arm should be perfectly straight. A common mistake is either to have it way off to the side at closer to 90 degrees (not the most efficient position), or to reach for the ground with your hand (a good way to break your wrist or collar bone! DON'T reach for the ground!), or to bend your arm at the elbow (you'll tend to land on your elbow and it's easy to injure it that way - keep your arm straight!).
- Your right arm should be tucked into your side or chest and doesn't participate in the breakfall. When being thrown in Judo, it will commonly be held by Tori (your partner who just threw you), so you won't have control of it anyway.
- Your chin should be tucked tightly into your chest so that your head doesn't hit the ground.
The idea, as with all Judo breakfalls, is to spread the impact over as large a surface area as possible. Ideally, you want to land with all the above mentioned parts of your body striking the ground simultaneously (when practicing, listen to the sound you make when you hit the mats - if you're doing it properly, you'll only hear one bang - if you hear multiple, you need to adjust things so that everything hits at once) and your left arm should actively and strongly slap the mat upon impact in order to reduce the forces on your upper body/chest.
The easiest way to learn the Side Breakfall for the first time is to step forward with your left leg, bringing your left arm forward as well, with your arm perfectly straight. Then squat down, almost sitting down on your right heel (now the rear leg). From there, fall/lay down gently onto your left side and into the position as described above. Don't forget to slap the mat with a straight arm, keep your head tucked firmly into your chest, and let your air out as you land.
Once you've practiced this basic breakfall on both sides and feel comfortable with it, you can then progress to doing yoko ukemi more vigorously from standing, by jumping into it, and by having a partner throw you with something like De Ashi Harai.
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