Landing on your back is the safest way to fall, since it maximizes your surface area resulting in optimum impact energy dissipation. Some beginners have a phobia of falling, which they need to overcome. For this reason, we teach rear breakfall first, as it is the least daunting breakfall.
Level 1 - Squatting rear breakfall
Squat down into a little ball, standing on the balls of your feet. Cross your arms in an X across your chest, like an Egyptian mummy. Keep the chin tucked. Looking at your belt’s knot guarantees that you wont crack your head against the mat (or pavement), which is the real danger of falling. Chin tucking must become your new falling reflex.
Then roll into onto your, keeping the your chin tucked.
As your back contacts the mat, use nogare breathing to exhale as fast and hard as possible. Hard impacts can send the diaphragm into spasms, “knocking the wind out of you,” and leaving your incapacitated as you struggle for air. This can be prevented by forcefully exhaling at the moment of impact; the wind cannot get knocked out of you if it isn’t there.
Upon landing, slap the mat with both hands. When slapping, the arms are straight, and no more than 45° away from the body. It is imperative that the arms land last. Many people intuitively hold out their arms “to catch themselves” when they fall -- but this directs all of the fall's energy over into the comparatively small cross-sections of the arm bones, resulting in fractured wrists or dislocated shoulders. By training the arms-land-last rule to become a reflex, you can break your falls without breaking your bones.
When this all becomes reflexive, move on.
[video of squatting rear breakfall, from the front and from the side, fast and slow]
Level 2 - Rear breakfall
The rear breakfall is much like the classic “trust fall” team-building exercise, except that you will hit the ground with mathematical certainty because no one will catch you. Instead, you must trust yourself, and your skill.
However, this should come easily after becoming proficient with the previous technique. Squat as you fall backwards, and perform the previous breakfall, which should be as easy as breathing by now (and of not, then go back and review).
This isn’t a race, so take all the time you need.
[video of standing rear breakfall, from the front and from the side, fast and slow]
Level 3 - Somersault into rear breakfall
This technique makes some people feel silly, since they haven't done somersaults since elementary school. We find nothing silly about it! Anything that can help prevent you from laying on the ground in a busted heap is the very definition of cool -- because laying on the ground in a busted heap is the very definition of uncool. Besides, the people who would tease you for engaging in simple pleasures like somersaulting are invariably miserable wretches who want to pull you down to their level, because seeing others rise up only accentuates their lowliness. Their scoffs and lame insults are not attacks, but masks, to hide their own shame. As such, they are to be pitied. by the reader, and by and by the great person that we will help the reader become. So forget the haters, and “dance like nobody is watching.”
First, squat down, bringing the hands to head level; pretend that it’s 1997, and you were about to “raise the roof.” Then, bend forward, placing your palms on the mat. Tuck the chin. Stick your head in the gap between your legs -- and be quick about it -- you'll need momentum to carry you over. Do not place your head on the mat -- this forces the neck to support your entire bodyweight, and that ends badly. Make the back as round as possible. When your head is at its lowest point, push up and forward with your legs; adding this momentum starts the roll. ' When the roll is complete, instead of sitting up, land in a rear breakfall, as discussed earlier.
[video of somersault rear breakfall, from the front and from the side, fast and slow]