This is Paul and Gabby's experience of Brasilian ukemi from their 6 month training stint in South America's largest city...
In 2007 Gabby and I traveled to Brasil for 6 months of aikido-based volunteer work with Acao Hamonia in Sao Paulo (you can read our blog from that time here). During that time we lived and trained at Harmonia Dojo with Jose Bueno Sensei who ran both the dojo and the social project. The main technical aspect of the aikido that we were able to take away was the soft breakfalling ukemi practiced by some of the students there. We made an effort of learning what we could of these falls in a short time so we could bring them back to learn and teach at home. Fortunately, the main proponent of this ukemi, Guido Ratti, was very helpfull and made these short videos outlining the process behind learning the falls.
It's worth mentioning that Bueno Sensei pracitces "beautifull aikido" and often creates a very harmonious connection with his ukes. However he is also very capable of strong "older style" throws which are very demanding on uke. The ukemi here was used equally well for both styles.
This method of front breakfall shows an very important difference to the methods I've been shown elsewhere. From the initial steps, the reaching arm is extended to the side instead of the back of the body. The hand then rotates back, aiming to touch the ground palm down. Although a seemingly small difference, this can dramatically alter the way the fall is learnt and practiced. It is also an excelent solution to over-rotating the body during the fall.
These front falls may not look as every-day applicable as front or back falls but they teach a way of receiving ikkyo in a very direct way. This happens when the technique comes quickly and there is not the time or space to kneel and lie down. The solo practice looks more dramatic than the actual application in ukemi.
Similar, if not the same as the style taught by Donovan Waite Sensei, this progression includes more steps and exercises to lead up to the fall than Waite Sensei's "Meeting the mat" DVD's. Although I find this particular fall the least used in practice, it is well worth knowing and the only the body awareness it develops feeds back into your ability to perform other falls.
This is just a short video of an ukemi class with Guido. Although it's not dramatic falling, it shows the back fall exercises in practice and the different levels able to be practiced by students.
Incidentally, there are some similar, excellent youtube videos of this style of falling done by a dojo in Florida, USA. Their methods seem to come from Frank Ostoff Sensei in Germany who is another teacher/practitioner of this very soft falling style. A link to their youtube page is here.
Art of Ukemi >