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I just started learning Japanese Jujitsu and the techniques for falling are different than Judo and more similar to Aikido.

When I learned to do a front or side fall through my previous martial arts experience, I learned the Judo style where you keep one leg straight and one bent. But in Jujitsu, I'm told that it's better to tuck in one leg and keep the other bent.

Can anyone explain why there are differences and which is better? I know each school has different thoughts on it, but I hope experienced practitioners from each school (or both) can share their insights.

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    Do you have examples you can show for the different falls? I have years of experience in judo, but I am not sure what you mean by falls with one leg straight and the other bent. – mattm Feb 20 '16 at 2:23
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    @mattm In judo, bottom leg generally stays mostly extended and top leg is bent 90° at the knee. In aikido and many Japanese jiujitsu ryu, the top leg remains the same but the bottom leg often bends >90° at the knee. – Dave Liepmann Feb 20 '16 at 6:03
  • My gut feeling is that some of the differences might stem from the practice of Judo as a sport versus self defense. The inherent rules of competition tend to influence technique whether you want them to or not. – Macaco Branco Feb 20 '16 at 11:54
  • @DaveLiepmann In judo parlance, are we talking about rolling breakfalls (zempo kaiten) or side falls? – mattm Feb 20 '16 at 13:10
  • Dave answered my question, thank you very much for the comments! – Erick 3E Feb 21 '16 at 9:16
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I've learned both methods in judo, BJJ, and karate.

Tucking the bottom leg makes for smoother rolls and stand-ups after the fall, but makes little sense if one cannot roll and is just trying to best take the impact. It is also suboptimal for rolling if one's opponent is still latched on.

Keeping the bottom leg mostly straight is good for stopping the roll and distributing the impact, but definitely suboptimal for rolling to stand up. It is closer to the hip-switch movement necessary to roll with one's opponent still latched on.

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    Agreed. To clarify what Dave Says about not being able to roll there are some throws in judo/jujitsu that prevent this. On the other hand other throws, a push or a wrist-lock will usually allow you to roll. I also know a third type of breakfall where you arch the back and land with the feet first. This is for particularly nasty wrist-locks that hold you up by your wrist as you fall (ie you are thrown by the wrist). – Huw Evans Feb 20 '16 at 10:19
  • Do you know if the tuck your leg was originally developed for rolling on hard(er) tatami mats? – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Feb 20 '16 at 19:18
  • It's for rolling on no mats at all. Sardathrion. I usually do that one on a wooden floor. It's not fun though, you get a line of bruises along from one shoulder to the opposite hip. – Huw Evans Feb 20 '16 at 22:02
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    All these breakfalls were originally developed on hard tatami or no tatami at all. I believe both forms were practiced in koryu arts. – Dave Liepmann Feb 21 '16 at 19:03
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    To make one point clear: In traditional, japanese Judo (as traditioned through Kata), the falls for stand-ups are with both legs (slightly) bend, almost parallely. It works just fine, but you have you back towards your opponent (see the video of @mattm). You can bend them more, like done in e.g. modern Parcours. A speculation of me always was that tucking the buttom leg and standing up over the knee would be slightly more dangerous for the knee, but keeps you more mobile while standing up: You can switch directions easily while standing up and face the opponent you're coming from. – Philip Klöcking Feb 23 '16 at 9:43
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For a judo perspective on falling technique (ukemi), the best place to start is the formal throwing techniques (nage-no-kata), where the most emphasis is placed on falling details.

For forward rolling falls (zempo kaiten), there are two basic possibilities:

  1. You cannot roll and stand up, as in the nage-no-kata fall for tsurikomi goshi. You may be restricted by the the direction of the throw, your partner holding on to you, or maybe you just don't feel like you have sufficient momentum to come up.
  2. You can roll and stand up, as in the nage-no-kata fall for tomoe nage.

When falling, you apply the same training to both situations; even when coming to your feet, you transition through the breakfall position first.

Both legs should be bent in the breakfall position. When the bottom leg is straight, there is more danger of straining/spraining the knee joint, which I have personally done before.

By tucking in jujitsu/aikido, I assume you mean something like this. This is discouraged in judo because it results in the legs crossing. When the legs cross and you cannot roll to stand up, you have the danger of your legs striking each other. This may not be an issue if throws primarily project you outwards and you can roll to your feet. In judo, you often cannot roll out of falls.

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  • I would like to add that tucking for a roll makes more sense if you intend to turn while standing up, ie. to face a person standing behind you after your roll. That's impossible to do fluently without tucking. This is, IMHO, the only reason justifying the much higher risk of knee injuries (also thinking of self-defense without a soft, clean mat). Apart from that, I fully agree with the slightly bent approach from a Judo perspective. One straight, one relatively strongly bent (as I've been taught as well) is much more dangerous not only for my knee(s), but also for the heel of the bent leg. – Philip Klöcking Feb 20 at 22:16
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I have to disagree with Dave.

Keeping the bottom leg mostly straight is good for stopping the roll and distributing the impact, but definitely suboptimal for rolling to stand up

This video shows how to stand while maintaining a straight bottom leg, which is a proper breakfall position.

This is how I teach people. I suspect that the bent leg version exists because someone used it as a shortcut to get back to a standing position.

I cringe every time I'm on a Judo mat and see people bending that leg.

[Edit]

I also have to disagree with Philip.

I would like to add that tucking for a roll makes more sense if you intend to turn while standing up, ie. to face a person standing behind you after your roll. That's impossible to do fluently without tucking.

The video that I've linked shows that you end up looking behind yourself at the end of the roll with your leg straight.

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  • It's not clear to me why you are vocal in disagreement with Dave but not with me. I think the bottom leg should be bent but not tucked, while you advocate that the leg should be straight. Are you trying to state that a (mostly) straight bottom leg is not suboptimal for rolling to stand up? – mattm Feb 20 at 18:31
  • Sorry to hear that you hurt your knee landing with a straight leg. I have never heard of that, and would have to ask my teachers about it. Like Kyle says in the video that I shared, landing in the right position is the most important thing. Rolling back into a standing position is stylish, but not very important. – tye649 Feb 20 at 19:19
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    I think you misunderstand: having both legs slightly bent is Kodokan standard (see Nage-no-kata!). Also, being able to look back is not the same as facing the other way (with your chest and hip). In the video, he has his upper leg bent quite a lot. That's actually what I consider a shortcut (as in: bad form to make it easier) to a standing position. – Philip Klöcking Feb 21 at 10:13
  • Looking at pictures in the Kodokan Judo book, I can see that the "bottom" leg is slightly bent. What I mean to say is don't tuck the leg and bend it under the other. Also, turning around to face an opponent at the end of your roll seems like something out of a movie. – tye649 Feb 22 at 17:28
  • @tye649 You do not turn when being thrown, obviously. But doing so when stumbling or being pushed or kicked from behind makes perfect sense in self-defense applications. – Philip Klöcking Feb 27 at 20:30

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