An often overlooked part of self-defence is learning to fall safely. Sure, it still hurts when you hit the ground, but you are less likely to be seriously injured. A bruise on your back is exponentially preferable to a broken arm, or a fractured skull.
A safety fall (or break-fall, as my instructors called it) isn’t only useful in your self-defence training, it can easily be used in contact sports, during an altercation, or during the course of your everyday life. Slips and trips can result in some very unpleasant injuries. Over the years I have lost my footing a few times, but managed to avoid some serious injuries because I didn’t panic. I let my training take over. Remember, skulls and cement sidewalks don’t mix.
Unfortunately, you can’t learn how to break-fall from a book. This is one of those skills that requires hands-on instruction from a competent teacher.
At this point, you may still be thinking “I don’t want to pay someone to throw me on the ground. It’s going to hurt”. Well, if you are still debating whether learning to break-fall is necessary, I’ll share a little secret with you. In the medical industry, there is a very common injury called FOOSH (Fall Over, Out Stretched Hands). This incident usually results in broken bones in the hands/wrists/forearms.
“So what? A broken bone isn’t going to kill me!” I hear you reply. Sure, you could probably cope quite well with one arm in a cast. But what would you do if you broke both wrists? Have you given any thought to who you want wiping your bum for the next six to eight weeks while your arms are in matching casts?
That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?
So, do you still think learning to break-fall is a waste of your time?
If your self-defence school doesn’t teach break-falls, or if you participate in a sport like boxing that doesn’t allow ground fighting, you need to find someone who will teach you. You can start by asking your instructor if they would consider getting a guest instructor to teach a one-off seminar at your school. From there you can practice at home, or in the park; the only gear you need is a solid surface to fall on.
If you don’t attend any sort of self-defence training, you might consider approaching the head instructor at your local judo / jujitsu / ninjutsu / aikido school to ask if they would accept you as a short-term student, just to learn the fundamentals of break-falls and tumbling.
If you ever find yourself approaching the ground at rapid speed, I hope you took my advice and learned how to break-fall. As always, please share this information with your friends and family on social media.