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Ukemi -- The Art of Falling

Every promotion test in Eizan Ryu Jujitsu begins with the student demonstrating their ability to fall safely. This is known as ukemi. Falling skills are  emphasized in our style, with every student starting to learn how to fall correctly in their first weeks of training with us. Even after a student has reached intermediate level, we still check out their ukemi to help them fix any habits which may eventually get them hurt. It is one thing to take a fall mostly right a couple of times, but when one is falling many times in every class, one may find oneself doing incremental damage over years of training. So we make sure that our students fall in such a way as to be able to do so safely for decades.

Most of our techniques involve putting the practitioner who is taking the role of attacker on the ground, sometimes with basic judo style throws and sweeps, other times through using joint locks or strikes. Even when a joint lock is done from standing, we teach our students  to continue until the attacker has dropped to the ground to escape the pain, and then seek to keep them there with another joint lock or pin.

Because of this style of training, practitioners need good falling skills. Most people do not know how to take even a simple fall safely when they start, so we teach these skills gradually and carefully, with each student advancing at their own pace. Our falling methods differ in some ways from the way people in aikido or judo schools are taught to fall, but our methods have been developed over fifty years to be the safest ways to fall out of our particular techniques.

As our students develop better ukemi, as it becomes intuitive, they are able to work on more advanced techniques which may require trickier falls. It also frees them and their partners to work with more power and speed, and it allows freestyle work, where they are practicing a variety of techniques and thus don’t know what kind of fall they will need to take. Safe and intuitive ukemi eventually allows them to spar Eizan Ryu style, where both partners are using strikes, sweeps, joint locks, and judo throws, and so there is no way to predict which way one will be falling.

The ukemi component of the training can be intimidating to new students. Falling down is scary to most people, and even taking a few simple side falls can leave one achy the next day. We encourage our new students to push through it, and to come to class as often as possible at first. Ukemi improves quickly, and the more the body and mind become accustomed to it, the less frightening it is and the more one can relax – and that eventually eliminates the next day ukemi-related aches and pains. After a few weeks, many students are amazed to find themselves taking basic falls and rolls with ease.

The art of falling is a true self defense art – and not just in the dojo. In their daily lives, people are more likely to take a fall of some sort – slipping on the ice, falling off a bike, tripping over something, getting tangled up with another player while playing soccer – than they are to be attacked on the street. The falling skills learned in the dojo will, in time, become instinctive, so that when one finds oneself suddenly airborne, one will automatically land in the best way possible. Many of our senior students have been saved from serious injury during a bike accident or some similar by having developed their ukemi to the point where it is a natural response.

Most of what we do in class is working with a partner, so as we improve any aspect of our jujitsu skills – especially ukemi – we are improving the overall level of training in our dojo. We want to keep each other safe, but we also want to practice our techniques freely and with power, and eventually, the ukemi skills we learn will allow us, and our partners, to do so.

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Apr 24

Eizan Ryu is 💯 % THE BEST dojo to learn how to fall and roll correctly from. Most judo clubs in nyc don't teach you how to safe fall. 🥋🥇

Listen to your instructors closely. Follow instructions. This dojo will teach you how you how to save your joints! 🦵

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Thanks Aaron! We put a lot of thought into it.


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