Martial Arts Training for Safety in Falls
In 2015, I received an email from an old student to thank me for what he learned in our classes. “Huh,” I thought? About 11 years prior he came into the dojo and trained for about one month. He didn’t practice that much, and then he stopped. Another month goes by and he comes in to take one class. That was it. What did I do?
The story went on – “I was bicycling home up first avenue at a pretty fair clip. (Citibikes can't go *that* fast. But I was pedaling mine as hard as I could.) Abruptly a bicyclist ahead of me cut me off. Didn't signal. Didn't look. Just turned right into my path…My bike hit the divider and I went flying over the handlebars. I watched as planet earth hurdled at me and held my hands out to break my fall…
I remember looking between my hands at the rapidly approaching asphalt. And just before contact my last thought was (really) ‘this isn't going to hurt so bad.’
Contact! Hands. Right wrist. Forearm. Elbow. Upper arm. Shoulder. And back. Had I come to a stop? Yes. Ok, hands stung. But they looked ok. Anything broken? No. And nope. And no... I'm good.
I got up. A crowd had gathered. ‘Are you ok?’ one asked.
‘Fine.’ I paused. ‘How did that look?’
‘It looked pretty bad.’ I have to admit, I was quietly delighted that I could take a bad bike accident, roll into it, and get up and walk away.”
In another situation, a mother held her breath as her eight year old child was running quickly, tripped and fell down a steep, rocky hill. He simply rolled and got right up without a scratch.
Accidents happen for both adults and children. Learning to fall in Aikido can help. One learns to defray impact through circular motion, whether forwards or backwards. In addition, one can slap the ground with arms and legs to take the impact away from the trunk of the body. Care is given to expel all air from the lungs before impact. Tai Chi can also improve balance and leg strength. This can prevent falls and lessen their impact if they occur, but the falling technique in Aikido is particularly helpful. In any case, these sorts of accidents thankfully are not daily occurrences. But for those who are fortunate enough to avoid more serious consequences, I am sure they are grateful for the benefits of their practice.