My Hand Is A Shock Absorber


I never knew – today my grand master told me my hand is a shock absorber.  This changed everything for me.

I have been doing break falls for 3 years now and have never gotten comfortable with them.  I watch people who do them well and tried to understand what they were doing that I was not doing, and I practiced, and I thought it through… and still, I knew there was something missing from the theory of it to the practice of it.

And then today, this one sentence changed everything.  I thought I should be trying to avoid having my hand hit the ground and that I should be tucking my right arm under my body as I threw myself to the ground and rolled diagonally.

So here is what I learned.  Every point of contact your body makes with the ground slows down the fall, and absorbs shock.  You need to make sure you touch the ground in several places to spread out both the impact and the speed of the fall.  In a well executed break fall (forward rolling type), you touch the ground in five places – hand, forearm, shoulder, centre of back, and opposite hip.  The path is diagonal across your body, but your body is going in a straight line.

There are two main goals, in this order – 1) protect the head at all costs and 2) minimize any damage to your body.  This does not mean you will not feel some pain. (that is the part that is hard to accept unless you are a young boy who loves to try stunts! and I am not)

I am now able to execute a break fall and achieve the goals above.  It is not yet natural, and I am sure it is not yet artful, but I am on the path to getting there.  Wish me luck as I tuck my head, throw my body through the air, and place my shock absorber on the ground.

Here’s a fabulous video that inspires me.  I plan to be this smooth one day soon, just not from the same height.

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12 Responses to My Hand Is A Shock Absorber

  1. As a former gymnast, Techy that is flipping awesome!!! Go kick some booty!!!

    • Oh bandit…I watch even the youngest gymnasts with envy so I bet you can do some amazing things that I could only dream of! I am working very hard on my break falls and “one kicks” though.

  2. Yeah, well, I don’t think I’ll be trying any of this in the near future. Spazzgirl here didn’t know how to tumble in junior high gym. Dad had to line up all the couch cushions on the floor to teach me. 😐

    • aikidude says:

      Dad wanted you to start Aikido really early!!

      That’s how my Aiki-friends with small children play with them and instead of just saying that’s so funny rolling, you can here 2-2 years old blabbering “UKEMI!!!!!!” 😀

    • That’s funny Margaret. I can remember my dad teaching me to catch a softball. Imagine how bad we would be if we didn’t have such nice (patient) dads who cared enough to try these sometimes futile lessons. I wonder if you can do a somersault now?

  3. aikidude says:

    We usually practice a lot emphasizing the use of the hand, and not only in breakfall, but also starting from mae ukemi and extending the “free” arm around touching the mats before the full body comes around in the rotation..
    yeah, when you write it sucks.. every time!!
    but most of my teachers have been working a lot developing the use of the hand and side of the arm as shock absorber!
    I say often “search the mats with your hand” to give more safe feelings during ukemi.

    Good share!

  4. dragonfae says:

    LOL @ John.

    I did Judo and Tae Qwon Do when I was (much) younger. I wasn’t all that thrilled with falls, but both have helped over the years. I’ve had a number of spills that could have been really nasty but since the body remembers motions you use repetitively, I’ve never gotten much more than a couple of scrapes. It’s pretty cool. 🙂

  5. John Erickson says:

    More power to you, but I think if I need a shock absorber, I’m going to Autozone! 😉

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