In this post you will learn how to breakfall (side, back, rolling front, and front). Break-falling is primarily a martial arts technique used to lessen the impact when you fall. It is not very conducive to parkour because it disrupts “flow”, i.e., once you break-fall you stop, but is necessary to learn for safety reasons.
Break-falling works by spreading the impact of the fall across a larger portion of your body. It may still hurt a little but much less damage will be done.
Rolling is always preferable to break-falling since it is also a swift way to get back on your feet, however, there will be times when the safety roll is not feasible, e.g., lack of space. This is when the break-fall comes in very handy.
Photo Credit: Cpl. Alicia R. Giron. Cropped.
The information in this post has been taken from the Essential Parkour by Sam Fury.
How to Breakfall
There are a few different ways to break-fall. In the Survival Fitness Plan the Judo method is used because Judo is a martial art which makes heavy use of throwing people to the ground, hence, they really need to know how to break-fall well.
Note: After any break-fall you can return to your feet with the safety roll, or just use your hands to help you stand.
Practice break-falling on soft ground such as grass, gym mats, Sand, etc. It will also help to breathe out as you hit the ground.
For all break-falls there are two big things to watch out for.
- Do not stick your hand down. For many people this is a natural reaction when falling but doing it will focus the impact of the fall onto a single point which is likely to cause injury.
- Protect your head from hitting the ground. This is done differently depending on the break-fall but the basic idea is to move your head or face away from the ground.
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.
Squat down as low as you can and tuck your chin to your chest. Tucking your chin will prevent you hitting the back of your head on the ground.
Fall onto your back and arms allowing a slight roll, but don’t roll back too much. If you stop the roll ‘dead’ it will put too much pressure on your body, but you don’t want your legs to go too far towards your head for the same reason. Having your feet turned out a little and your knees slightly bent will help you to control this.
Your arms splay out at about 45º.
From a standing position step forward with your right leg and do a single leg squat as you bring your left leg through. The more you bend the leg the closer you will be to the ground before landing.
Get as low to the ground as you can, tuck your chin to your chest, and then fall onto the left side of your torso/back and on the whole of your left arm at about 45º to your body, palm facing down. Your legs will probably go in the air.
Allow your legs to come back to the ground finishing in a comfortable position, but not splayed to wide or crossed.
With the front break-fall you fall directly forward and land on your forearms.
Start on your knees so you are low to the ground. Put your arms in front of your face in an upside-down V.
As you fall towards the ground tense your core and take the impact on your forearms. Try not to let your belly hit the ground.
If you can it is a good idea to turn your face to the side (not pictured).
Once you are confident do it from a standing position. Spread your legs so you can be lower to the ground.
Eventually you can do it from full standing and also with a little jump.
Forward Roll Break-Fall
The forward roll break-fall is useful to know in case you go to roll but then there is an obstacle ahead preventing you from standing up.
Do a forward safety roll as normal but instead of coming onto your feet you stop in the side break-fall position.
From there you can do a backwards safety roll to get back to your feet.
For all break-falls, once you are confident with your technique you can try with less and less squat. Also try with different scenarios, e.g., falling off a chair.
LEARN MORE essential parkour skills in the book Essential Parkour Training by Sam Fury.
Got anything you want to say about how to breakfall? Feel free to leave any questions and/or comments below.