Army combat training - US Marines

It is quite common to fall or be thrown during a combat situation. To minimize the chance of injury, and ensure you can bounce back to your feet quickly, you must use falling techniques to absorb the impact of the fall and allow use of your body’s momentum to quickly return to your feet.

The most important body part to protect is your head. In general, fall with your chin tucked down in order to protect your head. It is also important to remain relaxed during a fall to help absorb the force of the fall. Falling techniques use the body’s large muscles (back, thighs, and buttocks) to protect vital organs and bones from injury and immobilization and to spread the force of the impact over a larger area.

There are five basic falling techniques.

Front Fall or Front Break Fall

Fall with bend elbos and palms facing down

You should execute a front fall to break a fall on the front. To execute the front fall, bend the elbows and place the palms facing out in a position to spread and absorb the impact of the fall. In order to avoid breaking arms or the wrist, it is important to keep the arms bent and not straight or locked.

Fall forward, breaking the fall with the forearms and palms. The forearms and hands, down to the fingertips, should strike the ground simultaneously. Offer resistance with the forearms and hands to keep the head raised off the ground. When falling, turn your head to the side to protect the face (particularly the nose).

Sequence showing how to execute a front fall

Side Fall or Side Break Fall

Position of hands and arms for a side fall

You execute a side fall to break a fall on the side. To execute the side fall, begin by bringing the right arm across the body so the hand is next to the left shoulder with the palm facing in-board.

Make ground contact with shoulder or forearm

Fall to the side, breaking the fall with the right arm by slapping the ground and making contact from the shoulder or forearm down to the hand. At the same time, tuck the chin and keep the head raised off the ground. The chin should be tucked to the chest at all times to prevent whiplash.

Fall to the side, breaking the fall with the arm

Stretch the right leg out to make contact with the ground and to distribute and absorb the impact. Bend the left leg, allowing the foot to make contact with the ground.

In the final position, you may use the arm to quickly push yourself up to an upright position.

Back Fall or Back Break Fall

Back fall requires crossing hands in front of chest and tucking the chin

You execute a back fall to break the fall when being thrown or falling backward. To execute the back fall, cross the hands in front of the chest and tuck the chin. Fall backward and slap the ground with the forearms and hands to absorb the impact of the fall and keep the head off the ground.

Sequence shows how to execute a back fall

Forward Roll or Forward Shoulder Roll

A forward roll (forward shoulder roll)

You use the forward shoulder roll to break a fall from an opponent’s attack and to use the momentum of the fall to get back on their feet quickly. Ideally, you would execute the forward shoulder roll to a standing position so you can continue fighting. Recognize though, that the rolling movement can momentarily disorient you.

To execute the forward shoulder roll, contact the ground with the back of the right forearm and upper arm. Tuck the chin into the chest (avoid touching your head to the ground). Roll onto the right shoulder, rolling diagonally across the back to land on the left hip. Slap the ground with the left arm, absorbing the impact from the shoulder to the hand, palm down. Keep the left leg straight to absorb as much of the impact as possible. The right leg is bent and the foot hits flat on the ground. Bend the left leg upon impact to push off with the left knee and leg to a squatting and then a standing position. Forward momentum should carry you to a standing position.

Sequence showing a forward shoulder roll

Back Roll or Back Shoulder Roll

Similar to the Forward Roll except reversed. Simply fall to your back and use the momentum to bring your feet over your head while ensuring the head is turned (roll on your shoulder).

Additional information

Falling on hard surfaces

When falling on a hard surface, such as concrete or pavement, the fall technique should be adjusted slightly to avoid injury to the arms and hands. Where the movement requires slapping the ground with the arms or hands, use less “slapping” and allow the body to absorb more of the force.

Grabbing an object while falling

Remember too that when falling, you may have the option of grabbing something to stabilize yourself and avoid or slow down the fall. This includes your opponent.

Lowering your center of gravity

Keeping your center of gravity low *before* the fall can help lessen the force absorbed by the body.

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