“The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”
― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi
Last blog post I wanted to focus on some of the hesitations I have seen in getting people (disabled or not) involved in martial arts. I have even been called out saying that I was promoting a false sense of security and that I was telling people they could be a Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix. In fact, I was merely explaining how practicing martial arts has helped me in life and how simple some of the techniques can be when practiced a few times. I do advocate that people try it out and learn some self-defense so they do not become a victim.
I want to point out that there is another common misconception when it comes to martial arts and self-defense. Most people think you are training to defend yourself from a potential attacker, an abusive person, or a mugger in the parking garage. Best case scenario; you go through life and never need to use any of the defensive techniques against another person. You never know; your attacker may not even be a person or even a living creature. You will more and likely need to defend yourself from your own surrounding. You may come face to face with a brick wall, trip over kids toys left on the floor, or get hit with an automatic door closing too quickly.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), falling is the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. It is estimated that 424,000 individuals die from falls each year. Adults who are older than 65, suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. Each year there are over 37.3 million people that fall and require medical attention due to the severity. One of the WHOs recommendation for fall prevention: “community-based group program which may incorporate fall prevention education and Tai Chi-type exercises or dynamic balance and strength training;…”
As part of the nightly warm-up routine in the jujitsu class I trained in for several years; we practiced break falls and rolls. We did this every night before learning the night’s lessons. We started out doing forward facing break falls. The class would line up and they would fall to the ground, slapping the ground as they made the impact. The purpose behind smacking the ground as you land is that it helps minimize the impact when hitting the ground. Next, a person would get up and repeat the technique all the way across the room. Once everyone was on the other side they would do backward break fall. They repeated this for each type of break fall, forward roll, and backward roll.
I have heard countless stories where learning how to break a fall and rolling kept people from getting seriously injured. In fact, I fall a lot. Luckily being 3 feet tall, I don’t have far to go. However learning how to fall properly has kept me from hurting myself or from getting hurt too bad.
There are times when I go through automatic doors that open up as you get close to it; the door begins closing before I am all of the way through it. There have been times I have had to step around the closing door as if I was fighting an opponent to avoid getting hit and knocked off balance.
I know of a teenager who had an issue with her balance; she kept falling and hitting her head. In less than a year time, she had 3 concussions. The doctor ordered her into physical therapy. I later found out they taught her the exact same methods on how to do break falls and rolls.
There are other techniques besides break falls that will keep you from getting injured. I found out first hand one day as I tripped on a porch plank and started heading towards a brick wall. The overhead block is a technique that I have practiced countless times over many years. The overhead block is in several katas and is constantly being utilized. It was the simplest move to execute. The block kept my head from slamming into the wall. Yeah, I scratched up my arm a little bit but that is better than busting my head open – again. My best friend witnessed the incident. The first thing he said when I regained my balance; “Dude, that was an awesome use of an overhead block!”
Another technique I learned in karate is how to step forward and backward and avoiding an opponent’s foot. The same technique used in katas comes in handy when trying to navigate a child’s bedroom floor at night time. There is nothing more aggravating than going into a room and your toes hitting on the side of a bed or smacking your shin into the side of a dresser.
All you need to do is lower your stance slightly by bending your knees. Shift your weight to the leg you are not stepping with, and barely lift your foot off the ground. Let the toes barely touch the ground. In a forward motion trace half of a circle with your foot. Set the foot down firmly on the ground. If your toes encounter an object, return your foot to the original spot.
As I said in the last post, from practicing martial arts and self-defense a person can learn situational awareness and avoid conflicts with a potential attacker. However, the attacker may not even be a person or a living creature. It could be the very floor you are walking on and the rug snags your foot. Do not be a victim; do not become another statistic on the WHOs website. If anything, take a few classes to learn how to protect yourself and break the fall.
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