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Thread: Falling is Good?

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Default Falling is Good?

    Someone asked if I had written on any other topics, and I warned, be careful what you ask for...here is another offerring, again, not neccessarily anything new, but perhaps another way of looking at something we all do.

    Falling is good? - by Sifu DangeRuss

    I was always greatly disturbed when I overheard someone say, "If you get a martial artist on the ground, it's all over for them". It seemed kind of odd, considering the amount of time we spent training to defend ourselves, that it was truly "all over" if the fight ended up on the ground? The reality is, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and as you might have heard, it rains here from time to time. All right so it rains all the time. Anyway, this liquid sunshine has a tendency to leave the ground wet and often slippery. This increases the likelihood of losing one's footing in a self-defense situation. For a host of reasons, I decided it was worth the effort to learn how to deal with this situation.

    First off, is there any truth to that statement about martial artists on the ground? Well, I think that most jujitsu exponents might differ with you on that. In fact in modern times many schools are beginning to study various methods of groundfighting. I am not going to attempt to teach you a groundfighting art in this article. What I am going to do is attempt to give you some insights in falling. I'll start by pointing out that my initial martial arts training was in Judo. We spent a great deal of time learning how to fall, before we ever learned how to throw. Later when I studied Kenpo, we would be taught the same or very similar falling techniques as we had learned in Judo. It was much later, while studying with a rather unconventional instructor, where we did virtually all of our training outdoors, instead of on a well padded dojo floor, that I found some short comings to the traditional breakfall techniques I had learned. The most prominent downside was on a hard, uneven surface...it hurt. I learned this, as I was the favorite practice dummy for my instructor and hence spent a great deal of time getting tossed about. I had a great incentive to learn how to fall.

    Here is what I learned. Falling doesn't have to hurt. If you're tense when you fall, you bounce, bouncing hurts. If you fall like a dishrag, loose, limp relaxed (except for your neck, which needs to remain somewhat tense in order to, keep your head from bouncing) and absorb the impact slowly; it is much easier on the body. Sure, everyone says "Relax", however that is often easier said than done. I discovered that much of the reason for the tension, was we have been taught that falling is bad. I disagree. Falling can be good. First off, the ground is a fairly defensible position. If you are already lying on your back, no one can sneak up behind you. Also, despite the mindset of most people, who perceive it a disadvantage being down while your opponent is upůmost people spend very little time practicing how to attack someone who is on the ground. There are also a very limited number of attacks you can deliver from an upright position to someone lying on the ground. This means that you need far fewer techniques in your arsenal, because there are so very few potential attacks. Essentially your opponent can stomp on you, kick you or punch down at you. If he attempts to circle you, you are at the center of the circle. You will always be faster. By rolling from one side to the other, then simply running like Curly from the 3 stooges, you can rotate very quickly, which allows you to keep your legs between you and your upright assailant. From your back, you also no longer have to worry about falling down. As one of my esteemed teachers used to tell me over and over, "You gotta know what you're gonna do!" You need to realize that you also have a fairly limited number of targets. That's okay, providing you know what they are and how to maximize damage to them from your position. The feet, shins, knees, groin and hips are the primary targets of opportunity. Many standard takedown principals may be applied from this position. For example, you can hook one foot behind your opponent's leg, then over-balance him by pushing against his knee with your other foot. Or the reverse, you can trap his instep and with one foot and use your instep to hook the back of his knee, pulling him off balance. If your opponent lifts his leg to kick or stomp on you, it invariably exposes the groin. If he reaches down to punch you, then his face or body comes into kicking range.

    One of the keys is learning to accept the fall. You must accept the fact that you are falling, and not try to stop yourself, once you are beyond the point of no return. The other thing that tends to get people into trouble is fighting to stay upright beyond where it is prudent to do so. This again causes tensing, and tensing causing bouncing. Instead as you realize you are over balanced and the fall is unavoidable, gradually relax your muscles. Picture your muscles acting as a shock absorber and slowly compressing as the ground approaches, much as a baseball catcher will draw his glove towards his body just as the fastball reaches him, to help to cushion the impact. Lower your body with as much control as possible. Do not try to fight gravity, work with it. It will invariably win anyway.


    So if you want to get better at falling, practice falling. Don't panic. Accept the possibility of falling. Remember to keep your body loose. Control your descent as much as possible. Know where your head is, if it bounces, it is difficult to think clearly. Organize in your mind, the possible attacks, the corrisponding defenses, and the available targets from the down position.
    In fact, I am so comfortable with falling that I have incorporated it into some of my primary defenses. If I am caught off guard, for example, with my hands low, and there is a strong punch or kick headed for my head, I embrace gravity and allow myself to drop under the attack. This often confuses my opponent who was anticipating anything but that. Suddenly I am now unexpectedly underneath both his attack and his guard. I have come to grips with the fact that it's an imperfect world. Sometimes even I fall down. I have also have accepted and embraced the fact that the ground is in fact my friend and falling can be a good thing.
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Personally I loving taking falls. As a part of Ju Jitsu and a major role in Aikido, I learned to overcome the fear of falling and really embrace it. It has saved me from getting hurt many of times outside of the dojo. Now, in my Kenpo training, i always look to see where I can take a break fall or insert a sacrifice fall. I love ukemi!!!!
    "Fear is the true opiate of combat."

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    Ceicei's Avatar
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    OOOooooooo! Another wonderful writing! I had to add that to my personal study guide. I take Jujitsu also, and your words of wisdom have great application to me. Thanks for a fresh insight!

    - Ceicei
    Studying martial arts is for life, not for the color of the belt.

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceicei View Post
    OOOooooooo! Another wonderful writing! I had to add that to my personal study guide. I take Jujitsu also, and your words of wisdom have great application to me. Thanks for a fresh insight!

    - Ceicei
    Please don't encourage the animals by offerring them praise...they might start following you around, expecting handouts or something.
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by SifuDangeRuss View Post
    Please don't encourage the animals by offerring them praise...they might start following you around, expecting handouts or something.
    Ahh, we wouldn't want that, would we? Would "squeezing the peach" work better? My turn to take the fall here....

    - Ceicei
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Nice article!!!! I have been showing some of my kids falling/rolling/break falling for a few weeks and it is interesting seeing some of the dynamics of what you wrote play out!
    www.hunterskarate.com

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    Zarnyk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    I found out quickly that this is something you have to embrace when working with Sifu. Fall, fall and fall again. Fall wrong and it's gonna hurt!
    Loyal student of Sifu DangeRuss
    Sam Pai Kenpo

    "Jeet Kune Do: it's just a name; don't fuss over it. There's no such thing as a style if you understand the roots of combat." -Bruce Lee

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    ronin6's Avatar
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zarnyk View Post
    I found out quickly that this is something you have to embrace when working with Sifu. Fall, fall and fall again. Fall wrong and it's gonna hurt!
    Falling wrong is not fun.

    The best thing I heard about learning to take falls is, "when you learn to take ukemi you are like a box falling off the back of a truck. After hard practice you should be like a ball rolling out of the back of a truck. At first you slam to the map and when trained properly you learn to blend with the mat / ground."
    The key I always use when teaching ukemi is that the best way to take a fall is to fall from a low distance. That means learning that you have to be in control of your body and take the fall from a low point. There are many techniques that throw you from a high point. However, learning to take the fall with your entire body as opposed to a part of the body will be the key to taking all ukemi.
    Last edited by ronin6; 10-27-2006 at 11:26 AM.
    "Fear is the true opiate of combat."

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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ronin6 View Post
    Falling wrong is not fun.

    The best hing I heard about learning to take falls is, "when you learn to take ukemi you are like a box falling off the back of a truck. After hard practice you should be like a ball rolling out of the back of a truck. At first you slam to the map and when trained properly you learn to blend with the mat / ground."
    The key I always use when teaching ukemi is that the best way to take a fall is to fall from a low distance. That means learning that you have to be in control of your body and take the fall from a low point. There are many techniques that throw you from a high point. However, learning to take the fall with your entire body as opposed to a part of the body will be the key to taking all ukemi.
    Well put. You have a lot more time in aikido than I do but, I can see what you are saying there and how it applies to my limited knowledge.

    And yes, I still love to fall. Often.
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Takai View Post
    Well put. You have a lot more time in aikido than I do but, I can see what you are saying there and how it applies to my limited knowledge.

    And yes, I still love to fall. Often.
    I think I'm just a junkie for it.
    "Fear is the true opiate of combat."

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    bagheera47 is offline
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    Default Re: Falling is Good?

    I think learning how to fall is one of the most useful things I have ever learned in the Martial Arts. EVERYBODY falls down at some point or another, but not everybody is going to get in a fight and have to defend themself.

    I, myself slipped on a dirty gym floor while barefoot and 7 months pregnant. It was very sudden, but I did a perfect breakfall. Not a single thing hurt afterwards. I was very proud of myself and very thankful that I had learned to fall correctly.

    My father on the other hand has fallen many times. Off ladders, roofs, out of trees, up hills, down hills and such. He would also say that learning how to fall is one of the most important and injury saving things he has learned in the Martial Arts.

    I miss my Judo classes. Being on the recieving end of a great throw and falling correctly is quite a thrill.

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