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How Ukemi Training Restores Your Natural Mobility

Updated: Jun 24

Ready to redefine how you move through the world? Ukemi training isn't just about falling safely—it's a dynamic practice that transforms how you approach movement, enhancing flexibility, resilience, and overall vitality. This article will help you better understand the full scope of ukemi training, beyond the skills of rolling and falling, and into the entire spectrum of the refinement of mobility, balance, and strength involved.

Ukemi conditioning is about injury prevention,
freedom of movement, and longevity.

Ukemi is the practice of receiving a fall by rolling, or dropping straight to the ground. These skills allow practitioners to fall relatively safely, without incurring injuries. Focusing on building these skills is about much more than just learning these techniques.

Through the process of refining these skills, we reveal our body's imbalances and inefficiencies, and restore balance to our natural strength, flexibility and freedom of movement. Our joints become more resilient and mobile, our confidence and ability to move in all kinds of ways is improved, and there are many aspects of this training that result in a clear improvement in quality of life and longevity.

Dancing with Gravity: The Art of Safe Falling

Ukemi is essentially the practice of falling and landing safely. This might involve keeping your momentum going by using a rolling technique, or dropping straight to the ground, in a breakfall technique. The essential purpose of ukemi is to fall without incurring injury, but there is so much more to it than that.

The term "breaking a fall" is a terrible representation of this skillset if you understand the meaning of the Japanese word "ukemi". The root of this term is the verb "ukeru", which means "to receive".

The feeling of ukemi is more like learning how to
fall softly into the embrace of Mother Earth...

I know that sounds woo-woo, but using that language drives home my next point: by practicing ukemi, we are developing our relationship with the earth that supports us, and the gravity that we always interact with.

We don't want to "hit" the ground, which is the vibe I get from "breaking a fall". Breaking a fall sounds like we're getting into a fight with the ground, when ukemi is more like a trust fall, trusting the ground to catch you gently.

Ukemi is about developing your relationship
with your body, and with gravity...

There are two relationships we are building here, our relationship to our bodies/movement and our relationship to gravity/earth. When I say relationships, I'm talking about how well we know and trust what will happen after the fall is over.

You can't build a strong relationship after just meeting someone a few times, you have to get to know a lot of things about them, and know what to expect from them and how they respond to you before you can truly trust them. Likewise, we must spend time with our practice in order for the movements to become second-nature. We must spend a lot of time working with gravity and experiencing our landings before we can trust, predict and respond to what is happening in the moment.

It is very much a dance... First you must be able to move your body,
then you have to be synchronized with your dance partner...

I think it's paramount to adopt this mentality about ukemi before beginning the practice. We are cultivating softness and responsiveness, while quelling our inherent hardness and reactiveness.

Revealing and Correcting Imbalances with Ukemi

Anyone can learn this skillset to some degree, but as you get deeper into the practice, you'll likely encounter some limitations, such as restrictions in range of motion, lack of strength and control, and asymmetries in the body's abilities.

Your limitations are not limitations,
they are invitations!

When these limitations arise, they are invitations for you to work through some imbalances. Going through the process of learning ukemi correctly will reveal your problems, and these limitations in your ability to move through these positions are related to everything you do in daily life. If you're having a hard time squatting low enough to roll smoothly, there are definitely some imbalances in the hips, back, and knees.

These may be limitations of core strength of mobility of flexing your ankle. By examining these limitations, and taking time to work on your mobility and strength through ukemi based exercises can not only make this skillset more accessible, but starts to transform your body into the body of a human that is fully integrated in their physicality.

Do you feel like you're at 100% of your
potential for feeling good in your body?

Of course, there are some limitations that may not be surmountable, but working toward balancing the issues that worsen them, you can live life at 100% of your potential of feeling good.

For most, if you stick it through and maintain a consistent practice, you'll notice improvements in your natural flexibility, functional strength, and your capability to do all kinds of other seemingly unrelated movements. On top of that, your confidence in movement and comfort in performing riskier activities will greatly improve, as falling becomes less of a gamble, and a lot more predictable.

By developing this relevant strength, mobility, and proprioception, we are detoxing our poor movement habits and inefficiencies, and moving toward better balance in the body.

The Link Between Mobility and Longevity

There is a recent study in Brasil that concluded that a 10-second single-leg balancing test is indicative of a person's longevity, specifically in adults 50+. You can check out the study here.

Another study by the same team, about a decade ago, determined that the ability to stand up from a floor-sitting position without using one's hands or knees for support was a key indicator for all-cause mortality. You can see that study here.

Ukemi Foundations is primarily concerned with improving the strength we need to get up and down from the ground smoothly and with control; the mobility we need to access those deeper ranges of motion, and restore the natural range of motion of our joints; and includes an entire module based on refining our ability to balance on one leg. The practice of ukemi itself is the act of getting down to the ground and back up. This can be slow and with control when we practice, and then fast and spontaneous when we need it in real life.

In this way, Ukemi Foundations may lead to a longer life, but when I talk about longevity, I'm talking more about expanding the quality of life as close to the end of our life as possible. Living long is great, but living great is better, and if we can put those together I'm ready to sign up!

Are you a wild-human,
or a zoo-human?

I cannot find the reference, so take this with a grain of salt, but I also read that in human community living in the wild, people get up and down from the ground hundreds of times per day on average, and that average is raised by the elderly people. The elders in many natural human communities spend lots of time with the children, and taking care of lower-intensity tasks. being useful to their community requires this mobility and capability. I for one, want to be fit and capable and helpful to the people around me until the day I leave this world.

If natural humans get up and down a hundred times a day, do you think it might be a health problem that we never get down lower than chair-level unless we're in a yoga class? Just something to think about.

Psychological Benefits

I don't think I need to convince you that a fear of injury prevents many of us from doing a lot of the things we want to do. A healthy respect for danger prevents us from doing stupid things, but the kind of "fear of injury" that I'm talking about is an inaccurate measure of danger.

We may have had an injury before that has literally scared us stiff. We don't have an accurate understanding of where the threshold is between safety and injury, so we stay so far from that line that we're squished up against a wall.

This not only stops you from doing fun activities, but it may cause you to avoid using certain ranges of motion altogether, and over-time this disuse ironically leads to injuries, chronic postural imbalances, and exaggerated limitations.

These are not your true limitations, but a result of a
poorly cultivated relationship with your body.

Your mental fixations are limiting the potential to move your body, and the only way to restore this balance is to show your body, progressively, that you can engage in these ranges of motion without injury.

You need to reintroduce
your mind to your body.

Through consistent and gentle practice, you cultivate the relationship of your mind to your body, and your body to its environment. This is what ukemi is about... Adaptability, non-fixation and harmony with the forces of nature.

From Knowledge to Practice: Ukemi Foundations

Incorporating Ukemi into your routine is about more than just learning how to fall safely. It’s a transformative practice that enhances your overall quality of life, builds resilience, and restores your connection to your innate natural human movement patterns. Through Ukemi training, and the related mobility, strength, and balance work, you gain insights into your body's imbalances and inefficiencies, empowering you to correct them and achieve greater flexibility, strength, and freedom of movement.

Improved joint health, increased mobility, and enhanced confidence in movement are just a few of the ways Ukemi can positively impact your daily life. Moreover, studies have shown a strong link between mobility and longevity, highlighting the importance of practices like Ukemi in maintaining health and vitality as we age.

To fully experience these benefits, consider joining our Ukemi Foundations online course. This comprehensive program is designed to guide you through the essentials of Ukemi, helping you develop the skills needed to fall safely, move freely, and live confidently. Our course offers structured lessons, expert guidance, and a supportive community to help you every step of the way.

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Jun 27
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I love to read professional and competent content like this! Alex is describing and showing something that may sound irrelevant at the first glance but actually and factually is something that is not just life-saving but has also a functional training aspect that is medicine and nutrition for the human organism. I'm really really curious about the e-course and looking forward to practice this skills!

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