A breakfall is a movement preformed to prevent one from injuring themselves when landing. The most commonly used breakfall in parkour is the roll. A roll is very useful in that it dissipates energy but allows the traceur to quickly get back up on their feet; however, rolls require forward momentum, making them useless when falling straight down. If a roll cannot be used, the best way to land is to make use of the martial arts "slap" (commonly seen in Judo, Aikido and Hapkido) to absorb the impact.
Breakfalls (both rolling and otherwise) were designed by martial artists in China and Japan so that they could practice their techniques without hurting each other. The Japanese term for the practice of falling is called Ukemi.
Types of breakfall
- Main article: Roll
Rolls dissipate force by switching the traceur's momentum into rotational energy. This provides the advantage of quickly getting the traceur back on their feet but can only be preformed with significant forward momentum (in some cases, this momentum can be created upon landing by diving into a roll, even from a vertical drop).
- Forward roll Rolls over the shoulder, across the back, and to the opposite hip.
- Side roll Rolls over one arm, across the shoulders, and over the other arm.
- Backwards roll Exactly the same as the forwards roll but in reverse, rolling from one hip, across the back, and to the opposite shoulder.
- Dive roll Similar to a forwards roll except the feet are in the air when the shoulder makes contact.
These type of breakfalls are rarely used or even known about by most traceurs, but can literally save lives. Most commonly seen in Judo, Aikido, Hapkido, and other martial arts that utilize grappling, this form of breakfalling can be used to redirect the energy of a straight drop. They are most commonly utilized in the event of uncontrolled falling. These type of breakfalls absorb the impact by "slapping" the ground and spreading the impact over as wide of an area as possible.
- Front breakfall The forearms are placed in front of the head with the palms facing away from the head in a triangle shape, with hands close together and elbows wider apart. The feet should preferably be spread apart. The head is turned to the side as to avoid striking the face. Contact with the ground is only made with the hands, forearms, and feet. For some low-impact applications, landing in a pushup position can also be used, but this is hard on the wrists and takes significant arm strength.
- Side breakfall The chin is tucked in and the entire side of the body including the leg contacts the ground. The arm on the striking side of the body is held out at a downwards angle and used to absorb the impact.
- Back breakfall This breakfall is preformed with the chin tucked in tight and falling onto the upper back, with both arms striking the ground off to the side to absorb the impact.
- Breakfalls are meant to avoid pain and injury, not cause it. If a breakfall hurts, practice it lower or on a softer surface until your technique improves sufficiently.