Ukemi: The Art Of Falling
Parkour being the martial art of evading or escaping danger calls upon some of the ground foundation of Judo and other such disciplines to hone the body and mind to react rather than over think.
Ukemi is best explained as: the art of knowing how to land or fall and recover correctly with minimal impact. This can be directly associated with Parkour, as we exclusively focus on training minimal impact and maximum control throughout our movements.
However Parkour Ukemi is a new study and has vast differences from traditional Martial Arts Ukemi; for instance, in parkour you are not surrounded by an empty space with mats under foot. Instead we will seek out obstacles to overcome, at which point if adaption is necessary you will be surrounded by concrete of various shapes and sizes that your reflexes and skill will have to deal with. A lot of injury occurs from falling incorrectly, in Parkour there are many elements that are out of our control; such as breakable objects and slippery surfaces, so sooner or later you will have to deal with falling. This isn't a negative thing, falling is how we learn, building upon all of our past mistakes to rectify the future.
At LSP we heavily incorporate the application of Ukemi within our teaching. This is evident with our 15minute section of each lesson dedicated to the Parkour roll and it's uses to "break-fall" when faced with the power of gravity and the ground. Each lesson we focus on different variants of falling and being able to transfer that momentum across the maximum amount of surface area to give the energy an outlet.
By building these skills of being able to fall and recover in many different scenarios on a regular basis we ensure that the body is ready to react when put into an unexpected situation. As this situation is exactly that, unexpected, there is no way to stop mid fall and decide which variation of a Parkour roll to use, you have to call upon previously trained movements and react. By training Parkour Ukemi more and more you will find that as a serious situation arises everything slows down, like The Matrix, as you are gifted with a heightened sense of where your body is in relation to the ground and how best to react using past experiences.
Parkour elitists will not be impressed here but spins, rotations and flips are incredibly important within Ukemi. Forget showing off, that front flip you just learnt could be the ticket to you better understanding your position in the air during a bail and being able to adapt because of that knowledge. Within our gym we teach many different rotations and flips with the purpose of our students being able to gain better knowledge of their surroundings at all times. This is made possible by utilising the equipment hired from Rickmansworth School so the students can fall with extremely low consequences onto gymnastic crash mats. Allowing them to learn from their mistakes each time building that reflex knowledge that is key to good practice of both Parkour and Ukemi.
If you want more information on the specifics of Parkour Ukemi please don't hesitate to ask in lesson time and I will be more than pleased to share my gathered knowledge of it.
For more on Parkour Ukemi please look up the Youtube channel "Parkour Ukemi Randori Fun" or search for Apex Movement Ukemi; both of these have been used as source material for this article.
About the Author
With many years studying technique and safe practice of Parkour, Connor utilizes these to focus on creative movement using simple surroundings for his own training.
He hopes to be able to share this method of creative expression to his students to see them too enjoy movement even if only given one unassuming obstacle.