Kids Judo Books by Koka Kids
Judo Books by Koka Kids

Ukemi – How to do a Judo Breakfall


Ukemi is the art of falling. Master how to breakfall and a strange thing happens.

You also get better at throwing.

Because when you can breakfall. When you know how to fall backwards, to the side and to the front. You lose the fear of falling.

With that comes more confidence to attack and learn judo throws.

So, are you ready to learn how to Ukemi?

Uchi Banani, the judo monkey, will show you how:


Let’s begin with some basics

  1. When you roll keep your chin tucked into your chest
  2. Roll with a rounded back
  3. Hit the mat with the palms of your hand(s) – never use a closed fist.


Here are three different breakfalls.

ushiro ukemi

Ushiro Ukemi

First up is Ushiro Ukemi. This is a backward rolling break fall.

  1. Start from a standing position (or seated if you prefer)
  2. Lift your hands up
  3. Tuck your chin in
  4. Bend your knees and roll backwards
  5. As you roll backwards slap the tatami with the palms of both hands.

Use it to prepare for landing when you are thrown backward with judo throws like Ouchi-Gari or Kouchi-Gari.

Why do judoka hit the mat to breakfall?

Why hit the mat? Good question! It is because it helps to absorb the fall.

By hitting the mat with the palm of our hands we absorb the impact.

mae ukemi

Mae Ukemi

Now, let’s practice a forward fall. This is called Mae Ukemi.

  1. Start standing. Raise both your hands to about shoulder height.
  2. Bend your knees and gently launch yourself forward.
  3. Land on your forearms. Keep your stomach off the mat.

Use it to learn how to twist out of and avoid judo throws, by turning and landing on your stomach.

Yoko Ukemi

You guessed it. Now we are going to land to the side. This is called Yoko Ukemi.

  1. Start standing. Lift one arm (to the side you are going to fall)
  2. Lift one leg and slide it sideways like as if you are doing a footsweep.
  3. At the same time swing your arm in the same direction as your leg.
  4. Fall to the side, keeping your chin tucked in.
  5. As you land hit the mat with the palm of you hand.

Use it to learn to fall sideways safely when you are attacked with techniques like Osoto-Gari.

Forward rolling Breakfall

Let’s roll it up a notch, with this forward rolling ukemi. Practise this breakfall by repeating it time and time again just like you would uchi-komi any judo technique. Practise makes perfect.

  1. Start standing. Lift one arm and bend your knees.
  2. Propel yourself forward, using your arm to guide you so you roll slightly to the side.
  3. Land slightly on one side with your feet apart.
  4. Don’t forget to breakfall by hitting the mat with your open hand.

Make it more difficult!

Once you become very good at doing a forward breakfall – and only once you are very good – try this impressive feat.

Ask a volunteer to go on all fours and curl up in a tight ball.

Now, do a rolling ukemi over the top of them, without touching their body at all.

You will need to jump into the roll to achieve it.

Start with one person. When you can clear them easily. Add another willing volunteer.

See if you can build up to this amazing number of people!

Do the Ukemi Circuit

When you can do all three of the break-falls above try this circuit.

  1. Begin with a forward breakfall landing on your stomach. Spring back up to your feet.
  2. Continue immediately into a backward breakfall. Keep the momentum going and roll back to your feet.
  3. Finish with a forward rolling breakfall.

Find out more about Ukemi

You can buy Learn Judo Breakfall & 10 Agility Tests on Amazon as one of our judo ebooks or paperback judo books for kids who love judo collection.

See the ebooks on Amazon
See the paperbacks on Amazon

Next up…

Now return to the Kids Judo Dojo and join another class. See how to tie a judo belt, or get creative and draw some judo art for the Dojo Art Gallery.