By Alex Schenker, Level 3 MovNat Certified Trainer

When we fall, we make one of two choices: fight against the forces that are pulling us to the ground, or embrace the transition from standing to lying down. This latter option allows us to “go with the flow”. Instead of fighting a losing battle, this is about going along for the ride in the spirit of “if you can’t beat them, join them!”

I have heard matter-of-fact comments about safe-falling like “just don’t fall”, but that intention is already our default mode anyway. We don’t have to train new neuro-pathways or reprogram some limbic response to try not to fall. The problem is actually just that solution they are suggesting. We stubbornly resist the fall even when it is obvious that it’s too late to prevent it, which is where many people throw extended extremities out and end up with significant injuries.

The key to falling gracefully is embracing the fall. To embrace the fall, you need to be comfortable with the pattern of falling safely. As we are often exploring new movement patterns, new environments, and new situations in MovNat, the breakfall is an invaluable tool to preventing injuries during training as well as in daily living. This is why we believe it belongs as a part of the MovNat curriculum.

There are two basic breakfall techniques we would like to introduce: the prone breakfall and the supine breakfall. The prone breakfall is used when falling forward, landing face down, while the supine breakfall is used when falling backward, landing face up on your back. Through the practice of the breakfall skill, you will gradually become more comfortable with the pattern of descent. Eventually, it will become your body’s natural response to any fall in most any context, replacing the common strategy of trying to land in a way that looks like you’re in the middle of playing a game of “Twister”.

If you have practiced Front Rocking, the Squat Get Up, the Forward Sprawl or stepping into a Deep Lunge, for example, you have unknowingly already started to lay the foundation for your back and forward breakfalls. We will be introducing these skills as they relate to things you are already familiar with if you have been exploring MovNat’s ground movements. Again, we start from the ground up in a way that is accessible and scalable to everyone at varying levels of skill and mobility.

Supine Breakfall Progressions

1. Squatting Supine Breakfall

  • Start in a Deep Knee Bend position.
  • Shift weight to the left leg.
  • Slide right leg forward like doing a Single Leg Squat (aka “pistol squat”).
  • Butt should be resting on the left heel for a moment before rocking back onto the butt, then rocking into a supine position with your hands flat on the ground at your sides at about a 45° angle.

2. Standing Controlled Supine Breakfall

  • From standing, step back (or put your leg out in front of you).
  • Lower yourself down on your back leg as in a Single Leg Squat, trying to get your hips as close to your heel as you can.
  • Rock back to release your supporting foot and drop flat onto your back.

3. Rocking from Standing

4. Full Speed Supine Breakfall

  • Rocking from standing with momentum.
  • Standing with momentum, and staying down (not rocking back up) – step back with one foot and drop through the single leg squat pattern
  • Rock back and come back up to standing, or end laying flat on your back with one knee bent.

Prone Breakfall Progressions

1. Kneeling Prone Breakfall

  • Start in a Tall Kneeling position.
  • Shift weight to the left leg.
  • Slide right leg back, lowering down with the left leg as you reach down and out with hands forming a diamond shape.
  • Lie prone with palms on the ground between the ground and your head. Left knee is bent and out to your left side as if you were raising it to touch your armpit. Right leg is straight back. There should be a straight line between the right leg & right elbow.

2. Standing Controlled Prone Breakfall (straight down)

  • Step one leg back, keeping the weight on your front leg to sink into a deep lunge.
  • Reach your hands to the ground in a diamond shape under where your head will end up, and lower your torso.
  • Allow your body to lean toward the straight-legged side and flatten out extending between your foot and ipsilateral elbow.

3. Standing Controlled Prone Breakfall (out in front)

  • Take a big lunging step forward, bringing the weight onto your front leg in a deep lunge with your chest close to your knee.
  • Reach your hands to the ground in a diamond shape under where your head will end up, and lower your torso.
  • Allow your body to lean toward the straight-legged side and flatten out extending between your foot and ipsilateral elbow.

4. Full Speed Prone Breakfall

  • With momentum straight down (lunging on the spot).
  • With momentum out in front (like being pushed from behind).

Final Words

I have seen videos online of people trying MovNat and wiping out from a tree branch swing, for example, getting hurt worse than they should from that kind of fall. Throughout my 15+ years as a martial artist, training largely outdoors and being thrown maybe over a million times, there is no skill that has saved my butt quite like my ability to break-fall and roll.

I hope these progressions help you learn how to engage the ground safely by embracing the fall, when it happens.

Note: check out Alex’s excellent Beginner’s Guide to Rolling (From The Ground Up).


About the Author

Alex Schenker is a level 3 MovNat Trainer, licensed martial arts instructor (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu), manual therapist, and the founder of Natural Mobility. His ambition is to challenge the status quo of the fitness & healthcare industries, leading people to develop their body and mind in the way nature intended. His focus is on practical skill development, structural realignment, pain relief, injury prevention, and combatives / self-defense. Alex provides personal MovNat training and teaches licensed MovNat classes in Toronto, Canada.

Alex Schenker



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