24 Aug 2011
When we were young (six or under) we would fall often and normally our falls weren’t dangerous. We would ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.’ When we reach seventy we begin a trend of being unstable, much as we were at age six. This time, however, falls have much more impact on us. This is the subject that I wish to discuss. I’m going to start with the rules for falling:
1. Try to keep your hands in a fist. Don’t use your fingers to stop your fall. They aren’t meant for that.
2. Whether you fall backward or forward, start a roll immediately. End up on your side while turning. The roll itself will lessen the impact. Remember you roll into a ball, don’t stiffen up.
3. You should tuck your chin in.
4. Relax your knees. This is difficult since your natural reaction is to stiffen them up. If you don’t relax them you can’t get into the ball and roll.
Just last year I fell on a down slope on ice. To my amazement, I saw it all in slow motion or at least it seemed that way. I knew what to do and did it. I ended up in the ball; fists helped me to stop and I experienced no problems. As you may know, your brain operates near the speed of light. All neuron messages operate through an electric process converted to a chemical process at the end of the axon where the message is passed to the next neuron.
Practice can help a great deal. Best to have an instructor and a good mat, but it is well worth your while because you will fall, and it is best to control it rather than have it control you. The sport of throwing individuals and practicing protected landings is used often in the art of Judo.
Let me give you two examples of my memorable falls. In the first example, I’m with a group on an ice slope on Mt. Rainer. Each of us singly is to face up hill, fall backward down the slope, and turn ourselves around using our ice ax and arrest our fall with our crampons. There is a good reason for this. It is a great test of faith to start your fall because you gain speed rapidly.
My next example is from the Brooklyn Connecticut State Fair. It was hot and I drank too little liquid. As you age you do that, and it is a mistake. We were in the process of leaving and the family dispersed. I was supposed to sit and rest for a few minutes. I saw bleachers across the street and thought I would walk up the four steps so I could be seen. I got to the top and passed out. I fell backward bouncing off the seats and landed on my back on the concrete road. I was five feet away from a medical emergency truck with its full crew. They were on top of me before the crowd started to gather. I was put in a head restraint (hated it) and my wife showed up and off we all went with the siren and red lights blazing. It probably took two minutes.
I had the largest hematoma the emergency people had ever seen! It was 1 X 2 feet in size on my side. Other than that, nothing serious happened. It was painful but I was out of the hospital in two hours, wiser for sure. Subconsciously, I had done what I was supposed to do. I didn’t even hit my head or hands.
Was my training worthwhile? You better believe it. These are just two examples but I have lots more, (fortunately, still no real damage to me). Learn to fall, learn to roll, learn to form a ball and protect your fingers and head. That is knowledge you’ll never regret.