Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roll Falls

Teaching karate students how to fall properly is part of our curriculum. We drag the mats out and practice our falls…front, side, back and roll. The kids in the karate school love to practice falling almost as much as they like to spar. As an instructor, I have seen people practice falls that make me cringe. One student could not get over the fear/feeling of falling. He was so rigid and he would fall like a plank of wood. In fact, this teenage student was attacked by a group of older kids at a community festival. He was pushed back and fell with his arm stretched out resulting in a compound fracture.


Have you ever needed to do a roll fall outside of the dojo?

Yesterday, I took a walk around the neighborhood. I live near a lake and there are many trail entrances close by. I wanted to see where one of the trails started so I walked down the path. The beginning of the trail was muddy due to a few days of rain. The trail opened up to stone road used by the Park Rangers.  I walked on the stone road and my foot caught the edge of a loose rock. My ankle twisted and I stumbled forward. I tried to regain my balance but the momentum pulled me forward.

My mind screamed “ROLL!”

I did.

I stood up and brushed myself off. Tom was walking with me and witnessed the fall. He commended me on my textbook roll fall. I think he gave it a 9 out of 10.  :)  The dirt tracks on my clothing went across my left shoulder to my right hip and leg. My head, knees and elbows did not make contact with the ground. The palm of my hand was cut where I scraped across the stone road. I woke up today a little sore across my ribs and the heels of my hands.

A few things:

Rocks and dirt are much harder than the dojo floor.

Even though my hands were scraped, I sustained only minor injuries from the fall.

I believe karate training took over and advised me to roll instead of bracing against the fall.

If I wouldn’t have rolled, I would have went Splat.  I most likely would have sustained injury to my knees, arms, wrist and head. The fall may have been severe enough to warrant a trip to the ER, a few stitches and time missed at work.

Do you have any stories to share? Do you practice falls in the dojo?

16 comments:

~dawn~ said...

I fell down my steps a few years ago. I was bringing in the groceries and turned to go back out to the car and forgot I was on the 4th or 5th step. I went down the steps, across the landing, out the door to the concert step. Hours later I realized I did a textbook front drop, which is the only reason I avoided smashing face first into the concrete outside my door.

It's all in there somewhere :) It's good to know that it comes out when you need it most.

John W. Zimmer said...

Hi Michelle, Where do I start? At one of my son's punk rock show at a dance bar a few years back I had a bit too much spirits and started doing high-jumping shoulder rolls for fun. I think I hurt my shoulder after about five of them - not too bad for an old-fat man! :)

In my youth I tried to learn how to ski at Mammoth mountain and took the class - learned snow plow move and then tried the medium hill. I got to practice my shoulder rolls all the way down (probably 50 times) - you see I did not get the hang of actually skiing. :)

In a bar fight once when I was working the door. I had to half flip out of and roll when six guys ganged up on me. I spent the next 10 minutes fighting a circular - running fight to line one in my sights at a time... the roll saved my bacon to let me recover. :)

I learned to fall when I messed with judo from a book as a kid. It is good to know and does come in handy.

Denman said...

We train for all falls, front, back, side, and reverse side. They are on all belt tests, and we are expected to fall properly when testing for kihons and other techniques where we are subject to sweeps, etc.

We also train rolls, but only on the mornings after I've had too much to drink. (At least it appears that way to me.) I get nauseated when I perform too many rolls in a row (basically 2), but such is the nature of the beast.

Rick said...

I formerly trained very diligently in Yoshinkan Aikido and had a lot of practice falling.

In recent memory, I was walking my old dog last winter. I noticed that she slipped a little on a patch of sidewalk. When I got to that spot, I slipped a little.

My feet flew out from under me and the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground, unhurt, with an old dog looking at me wondering why we're taking a break from our walk.

caterina said...

Hello, Michele. I am a mother of two who started studying kenpo five years ago, and I’ve been enjoying your blog.

We do learn to fall at our school, although most of our ongoing practice comes from practicing takedowns with a partner. (Sometimes I wish we used mats!) I’ve come a long way, although I think I still have a long way to go.

I will say that a few years ago, I had to walk through a parking lot in near-blizzard conditions, with my Labrador on a leash. I tripped forward right over a curb that was completely hidden by a fresh foot of snow. I was surprised to find myself lying on my stomach, arms stretched forward, head off the ground, quite relaxed and not at all hurt. The snow on the ground probably helped, but I am sure that this also reflected karate experience—I didn’t stiffen up because I just wasn’t as afraid to fall down.

One of our instructors likes to say that he hopes we will never have to defend ourselves, but it is extremely likely that we will fall down at some point. So it is well worth learning how.

Felicia said...

Funny I should read your blog today as last night in class we were filming a few self-defense techniques to put on the school's website and one of my training partners had to change up a technique because his uke did not know how to do a back fall from a standing position in real time. She - and the person filming - had no confidence that she could do it without getting hurt...

No actual out of the dojo experience with slapping out for me, but once in the dojo, one of my senseis had us doing pad work that involved multiple techniques ending with a spinning hook kick. Spinning to kick has never been my thing and I think I have more issues with hook kicks than any other kicks - but I was still pretty confident I could get through the drill. But when my foot slipped (because I actually tried to spin on the heel of my foot - duh), the next thing I remember is opening my eyes to see the entire class peering down on me like I was in some sort of hole while asking me if I was OK. My training partner told me later that I'd done a textbook break fall as I hit the ground. The only thing hurt that day was my pride :-)

Great post, Michele - and I'm glad you are OK...

Perpetual Beginner said...

I've had a front roll fall save my bacon twice. The first time was when I was six months pregnant with my first son. I was walking the dog, and he saw something off the road, took off like a shot, and pulled me forward off my feet. I did a textbook shoulder roll and came right back up on my feet without even having dropped the leash.

The second time was also during pregnancy - this time while about 8 months along with child #2.I was carrying #1 on my hip, walking across a gravel parking lot when I turned my ankle and went down. I couldn't reproduce the move if I tried, but somehow I took Robbie off my hip and set him on his feet while doing a shoulder roll. Again I came right back up to my feet.

You're right, gravel is a lot harder than a dojo floor, but in both instances I traded a belly flop that would have sent me to the ER for certain for a few scrapes. A good trade I think.

SueC said...

There must be something about pregnancy and falling. The only time I can recall doing a break fall is about 2 days before giving birth to my 1st son. I was walking the dog (another common theme!) and had to jump a small ditch. Due to my very large belly and being pulled by my dog, I mistimed the jump and fell - landing with a beautiful side break fall. No damage done. And that was before I ever learnt any martial arts!

Perpetual Beginner said...

Well, pregnancy both loosens your joints and changes your center of gravity, so in a way it's amazing pregnant women don't fall more.

Michele said...

Thanks for sharing your roll fall stories! I appreciate your comments.

Welcome Dawn and Caterina! Thanks for visiting. :)

Sis said...

I didn't know you walked outside...

Michele said...

Sis: Yeah...I guess you are a good influence on me. :)

Charleyhorse said...

I studied hapkido for a few years and got so used to tumbling from every possible angle that I simply stopped thinking about it. A couple of years ago I slipped on a patch of oil while putting air in a car tire. It was impossible to tumble in that cramped space, but I automatically slapped the concrete upon impact and walked away afterwards with an only slightly bruised hip. It works!

Journeyman said...

Those are some great stories from your followers. I must say I agree that equal amounts of time need to be spent on rolls as well as the traditional slap the mat type break-falls. Slapping a hard surface, if not done properly, can actually cause injury, not prevent it.

It's interesting to watch babies and toddlers control falling without injury. We forget how to do it safely as we get older, and it usually ends in broken wrists or worse. Great post and comments.

Michele said...

Charleyhorse: Thanks for adding to the discussion!

Journeyman: Great point about babies and toddlers! They know how to breathe properly too...

yakbi11 said...

I practice krav maga and we train alot on how to fall and it is so important.

Tal
Martial Art Training