The following is from the article "Taekwon-Do and Ground Fighting: Basic Breakfalls and Rolls ("Nak Beop")" which I wrote with the help of the Potchefstroom Dojang for the 2008 edition of the eZine The Sidekick. I decided to post parts of the article here on our blog.
Taekwon-Do and Ground Fighting:
Basic Breakfalls and Rolls (“Nak Beop”)
Sanko Lewis and the Soo Shim Kwan – Potchefstroom Dojang
Although often neglected, breakfalling (“nak-beop”) is an indispensable and crucial aspect of Taekwon-Do. Mastering these fundamental techniques are just as important as mastering other defensive techniques such as guarding, dodging and blocking.
It is good for students to start to learn proper breakfalling as soon as possible, because it is especially the beginner students who are most prone to falling, since they still haven’t acquired good balance.
Notice how often practitioners fall during sparring matches at tournaments. Now imagine them fighting in real life and falling on concrete floors, tarred roads and paved pathways. Furthermore, when faced with a sudden take-down technique, the Taekwon-Do practitioner must know how to minimise the impact and recover quickly.
When starting to train breakfalls begin on a cushioned surface and slowly work your way up to harder surfaces.
The (sit-out) Side Fall:
Concerning falling techniques the ITF Encyclopaedia (Volume 5, p. 341.) gives the following advice:
The emphasis in falling is naturally, placed on learning to fall without getting hurt and recovering as quickly as possible.
Falling is practiced from a standing, sitting and lying down position. In [all] cases there are certain basic rules that must be followed:
1. Relax the body.
2. Fall to the side rather than the flat of the back. The falling should be done with a rolling motion distributing the weight on the buttocks, side and shoulder.
3. Absorb the shock by striking the ground or floor with the palm of the hand.
4. Tuck the chin into the chest to avoid the head striking the ground or floor.
5. Raise the legs.
In the photo above Bsb Philip performs a foot reap throw on Charl. This is one of various situations where the Side Breakfall is crucial.
Charl du Plessis demonstrates the Side Breakfall ("Cheuk Bang Nak Beop”) in the series of photos [below]. Charl starts by swinging one leg (his right leg in this case) forward as if someone is sweeping or reaping his leg from under him. He quickly lowers his centre of gravity by bending his weight bearing leg (left leg). Once his buttocks touch the floor he smoothly rolls onto his side-back and shoulder, making sure to keep the contact only on one side of his back (the right side in this case), avoiding rolling over the spine. Charl allows the rolling motion to carry his legs upwards.
Using the palm and forearm Charl slaps the ground to disperse the momentum. The arm should be angled at about 45° from the side of his body. His opposite shoulder and side is raised off the floor. Finally he chambers his legs and arms into a guarded position. Through out the breakfall Charl stays relaxed and keep his chin tucked in to avoid whiplash.
Depending on the situation Charl can deploy various ground kicking techniques or quickly get back to his feet.