Failure is an essential element of any learning process and the movement art of failure is known as Ukemi. Ukemi is a Japanese word that means “breaking one's fall” and is used to describe a method of falling without getting injured. The method originated in martial art styles including judo, aikido, jujitsu, and wushu and has since been translated over to other sports including parkour. Ukemi was designed to study falling techniques related to specific scenarios of a specific sport. In aikido, Ukemi is used to practice falling out of “uncontrolled” throws safely. A similar example in parkour Ukemi, would be failing a front flip and instead of landing on your head, you turn it into a dive roll. Failing is a part of every sport and learning how to fail safely is one of the most important skills that we can learn as athletes.
Our style of efficient motion, known as parkour, has been around for decades. Throughout those years there have been controversial philosophies about the best way to approach teaching and learning parkour. There are many different schools of thought. Here at PPK Philly, Ukemi is a large part of the way that we teach. We teach people how to fail, not how to succeed. Success comes after. Ukemi (the art of “taking it”) is defined as the ability to fall, roll, or be forcefully thrown to the ground and get up unscathed. Since parkour already focuses on how to fail, Ukemi is a match made in heaven. This art of falling in its modern form originated from Jujitsu over 1000 years ago, and more famously has been modernized with the martial art of Judo. It would be foolish not to study this art. Learning Ukemi just adds another aspect of safety to an athlete’s training. It helps them deal with the fear, uncertainty, and hesitation that comes with committing to big movements. As well as, adding a boost in confidence in training time, which in turn makes training more beneficial. It keeps athletes injury free which keeps their training more consistent and helps them become stronger. Which in turn provides more fun in training because practitioners aren’t as worried about what may happen when they fall.
Following this, knowing Parkour Ukemi makes you into a much safer athlete, every gym in the world should have some form of Parkour Ukemi in their curriculum. Imagine you’re jumping on the couch and all of a sudden a 200 pound wolf-dog comes dashing out of nowhere, and in a split second collides with you sending your tiny frail body spiraling towards a paralyzing injury on your tile floor. How do you recover from that with taking minimal physical damage? The answer? Your newly learned Ukemi. One of the focuses of our summer camp here at PPK Philly is for our students to be exposed to the various falling techniques that are used in the world of Parkour Ukemi. We showed our students all the teachable positions of the front flip falling continuum, side flip falling continuum, and the backflip falling continuum. The front flip falling continuum, explained in simple terms, is taking every landing/falling position an athlete may end up in, while attempting a front flip and practicing the falling techniques needed to come out of the bail with little to no injury. The same breakdown would happen when going over the side flip and back flip falling continuums.
We believe that by simply exposing our students to the various falling techniques that this will make them well equipped and potentially safer when exposed to any falling scenario. The average person, if equipped with even the slightest amount of Ukemi knowledge and experience might save his or herself from a fall that would otherwise lead to an injury. Almost everyone has slipped before, whether it be on ice, wet floors, or a bump on the sidewalk. If you know basic Ukemi, and utilize it, you can go through these potentially dangerous experiences, and exit on the other side with little to no injury. Utilizing this skill ensures that our students are progressing at a much safer and steady pace giving them the potential to be smarter and better athletes than the generation prior. Our goal here at PPK Philly is to create a community full of strong and well equipped athletes so that a new generation can take what techniques we already know and build on top of them, and perhaps even create something the parkour community, or the world, has yet to witness.