On Falling

Published 18. June 2014.
Falling over a railing
Time from error to impact: <1s.

Look bad? Posting the failure here hurts more than the fall itself. That's despite it being the worst fall I've had in recent memory.

Sometimes it's the middle ground that's the most dangerous of them all. If the drop after the vault was bigger then I'd have more time to fix my in-air position (it's happened before and I always landed on my feet). If it were smaller there would be minimal impact.

How did it happen? As always the worst of them always happen when I'm not 100% present in the situation and I'm not giving the obstacle the respect it's due. I had an hour between classes and was gathering photos to update and expand the e-book. To do that I was taking burst photos, 30 in 3 seconds, which gave me a small time window from pushing the button to the executing the technique. On top of rushing I was already tired and had a headache (gotta love caffeine withdrawal) when I hit record.

Amusingly enough I jumped and gave myself more than enough power to sail straight over, but I wasn't focused and undershot my foot placement on top of the rail, hooking it behind me after I had already cleared.

Not good. I had milliseconds from recognizing my mistake to hitting the ground and I couldn't be in a worse position; no forward momentum or space to roll forwards, legs taken out, and diving headfirst (with no rotation). Knowing all of that didn't matter anyway. I hit the ground before I had time to think.

In those moments of falling all you have to keep you safe is your body's subconscious training. After the impact it took me a second to process that I had fallen. Right away, as is habit, I performed a quick damage assessment, and found that I was okay. The breakfall wasn't perfect, but I came away with just some scrapes on my right hand, minor bruising on the left palm, and the tiniest scratch where my cheek grazed the ground. The perfectionist* in me thinks, "coulda been better," but it avoided face smashing and lasting injury. That's all that matters.

*The fall itself is interesting to analyze. It was a modified forward breakfall. My left hand made contact a little too early but still relaxed into the fall, avoiding serious damage. The right was closer to the correct technique (aside from the palm being up), spreading the impact from hand to elbow. Bonus points to my body for leveraging the right shoulder to further protect my face. Pulling off a forward roll into a weak forward breakfall (little space to finish the roll) would have been potentially better, but I'm being picky.

I walked away from that fall nearly unscathed and rushed off to teach class. That wouldn't have happened without specific training. Correct (safe) reactions during a fall only show up when the techniques are engrained into your subconscious mind and that will only happen after loads of practice. Before that day I had fallen plenty of times, many times intentionally and sometimes not so much, which acclimated my body to the experience of falling.

We all fall occasionally, whether during day to day activities or during training. You can't avoid it, only prepare for it. Find some soft ground to practice (grass, carpet, mats) and practice your rolls and breakfalling skills. Parkour Ukemi has some excellent resources on rolling and specific falling drills which I'll link below. Right now I don't have my own online resources on the subject, but that's risen nearer the top of the list now. I'll update this post as they're added.

Choose to land gracefully.


Backward Breakfall (Demo)

Forward Breakfall (Demo)

Table Landing (Demo)

Front/Side Breakfall (Demo)