“Keep your head up when you fall,” I said gently to Pablo*, a sweet-natured chubby 7th grade green belt who always has a shy smile, even when the instructors are scolding him. I had just thrown him to the ground during one-step sparring practice. That led to a quick lesson in falling safety. My instructor threw himself on the ground, his head remained tucked upright with a confident stare, and his hands whacked the floor with a loud satisfying slap. He then had us lie down like upended bugs and roll to the side to demonstrate the last moments of a fall–head up, one arm protecting the gut, the other arm slapping against the floor. In one-step sparring we know the takedown is coming, but it’s also useful for slip ups in sparring or when you trip because you always catch the carpet when wearing certain shoes. Uh…I know NOTHING about that last example.
Takedowns results in a final blow after our attacker is on the ground. We wait until our partner delivers the finishing move (a punch to the face, a strike to the throat, a kick to the side of the head) with a loud ki-yahp (yell), signaling the end of the sequence. Rising before hearing our partner’s signal is very dangerous.
But what happens when we’re caught off guard in life? Did the people who were supposed to be guiding us and protecting us teach us how to fall safely, or do we bonk our heads against a very ugly rock bottom?
How do we know when the coast is clear and we won’t be caught off-guard with a deadly blow?
Maybe it takes a few painful falls for us to learn that (1) the fall is coming and (2) you have the resources to protect yourself and pick yourself back up after the danger has passed. Don’t surrender to the attack.