Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BJJ Move #24: Falling Down

It doesn't always work out like you planned.
Sometimes you get tripped, thrown, swept, pushed, or just plain fall. You're going toward the ground. Now what?

You ought to know how to fall more or less safely. You may still get hurt-- these tips just help somewhat.

WARNING! These techniques could result in serious injury or death if practiced incorrectly or even if performed correctly. They should only be practiced with the supervision of an experienced instructor.

Falling Down:

Key points:

Don't hit your head.
If you're falling onto your back, tuck your chin so your head doesn't slam back into the ground. If you're falling onto your front, keep your head up and turn it to the side so you don't break your face. If you're going to end up rolling head over heels to the front or side, tuck your head and turn it away from the shoulder that's going to hit the ground first, so you don't break your neck (or face) rolling over your shoulder.

Lower yourself first.
When you know you're going down, bend at the knees, hips, and waist to start lowering your weight onto the ground. That way you aren't falling from the maximum height and your fall will be softer. You may be able to touch the ground with your shoulder or butt and start your soft(er) landing before your fall gains a lot of velocity.

Don't break your wrist, elbow, or shoulder.
You may want to reach out and stop your fall with your arms. Don't. Your arms may be strong, but you'll hurt yourself trying to catch your quickly moving bodyweight on them. Instead, if you're falling to the back or side, keep them bent and tucked against your chest, then slap them against the ground as you're falling (if you're falling to the back/side, just slap with the arm on the shoulder closer to the ground).
If you're falling onto your front, you can land on both your palms with your arms bent deeply at the elbows while balancing on the balls of your feet (so you don't bang your knees and hips . . . as much). You'll land like you're at the bottom of a pushup. Keep your head turned to the side so you don't break your face. This isn't a comfortable landing.

Slap and Spread Out.
Once you roll over to the front, or fall to the back or side, slap your palm on the ground at about a 45 degree angle from your body with your arms straight. This helps dissipate the force of your fall, and keeps you from sticking your arm out earlier to break your fall (...breaking your own arm).
If you fall straight back, slap with both arms. If you fall mostly onto the left of your back, slap with the left hand only and keep your right hand tucked in by your chest.
In general, you'd like to maximize the surface area of non-vulnerable body touching the ground at once. Slapping is part of this. Also, when falling to the side, you want your bottom leg bent at the knee and hip so the flat, fleshy part on the outside hits the ground, and the sole of your other foot should land there, too. This way (when falling to your right), you have your slapping right arm, your back / right side of your shoulder, the right side of your right leg, and possibly your left sole all pushing off the ground at once-- not just your spine or head.

If you're not just plopping down to the front, side, or back, but instead are getting thrown head over heels (like a forward somersault), don't fight it. Go over, roll, then slap against the ground. If you fight going over, you end up thrown onto your head.
You can practice rolling by putting one hand near or on the ground, bending over at the waist, and somersaulting over your shoulder.
Even if you aren't doing a somersault, rolling across your shoulders, or onto your butt and then up your back, can convert some downward momentum in the horizontal direction and soften your fall.

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