By Moti Nativ
Japanese saying: “Saru-mo-ki-kara-ochiru” – meaning that even a Monkey falls from a Tree
This well known Japanese saying expresses the reality that everyone makes Mistakes.
My experiences falling have taught me that falling is an outcome of the inevitable mistakes we all make.
Since 1975, when I started training in Bujinkan Dojo, my body has fallen half a million times during training in Judo, and has rolled half a million times during my training in Ninjutsu training.
Most of these falls were intentional. I did them with a strong and skilled body, with the support of a caring training partner.
Falls that we must cope with are those that are unintentional – quoting the dictionary definition, a fall is: “unintentionally coming to rest on the ground, floor, or other lower level, but not as a result of syncope or overwhelming external force.”, or, “An unplanned descent to the floor with or without injury.”
Moshe Feldenkrais wrote about the significance of having the skill to fall safely in his book “Jiu Jitsu and Self-Defense”, published in 1930 in Tel Aviv. (Recently translated into and published in English).
In his book “Higher Judo – Ground Work” Feldenkrais, a consummate martial artist, referred to this skill as the “Art of Falling”.
I have been fascinated by the phenomenon of Falling, have researched Falling, and taught the “Art of Falling” since 1986 to martial artists. Since becoming a Feldenkrais practitioner, I have taught this art using Awareness Through Movement methodology to “ordinary” people, i.e. to everyone.
Almost every study about Falling starts with a similar introduction: falls can happen anytime and anywhere to people of any age. However, as people get older, the number of falls and the severity of injury from falls increases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people aged 65 and older. Each year, millions of people 65 and older fall. More than one out of four older people fall each year, but less than half will tell their doctor about it.
One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as head injuries, shoulder and forearm fractures, spine fractures, pelvic fractures, and hip fractures.
I’m 71, and fell unintentionally 3 times during the last 2 years. Two of these falls resulted in injuries to my knee and neck. Fortunately, my skill in the art of falling saved my head, spine, and hip from injuries, and I suffered no broken bones.
So, I’m the lucky part of the statistics.
Years ago, when I used the term “epidemic” to talk about falling, I called this phenomenon a Fact. Lately I call it a Mistake, per Japanese saying.
In my presentation I refer to falling as accidents on a “normal” surface – mainly caused by a Slip, Trip, or Misstep.
How many of you have fallen over the last few years? How many of you have almost fallen? How many of those around you, students and friends, fell or almost fell?
Do we pay attention to “almost”s? Is there a correlation between almost accidents to actual accidents?
The Israel Airforce uses the formula to relate almosts and actuals: one actual accident per 85 almost accidents.
Falling, and the fear of falling, has a significant effect on older people and their lifestyle. It results in a loss of confidence, restriction of activity, and subsequent reduction in quality of life. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
What then should be the strategy to reduce falls and injuries caused by falls?
Research and education to improve fall prevention is an ongoing activity conducted by many health centers. This activity will certainly reduce falls, but falls will always happen.
So, what we would like to enhance is the skill of the controlled fall. Controlled falling is about safely meeting the surface and efficiently getting back up. Thus, we reduce the risk of injuries caused by a fall, and reduce our fear of falling.
In my conference workshop, I will share my ideas on using Awareness Through Movement to be better able to utilize our innate skill, gradually experiencing the “Fall to Safety”, and improving our stability and mobility.
Moti is a Guild Certifiedd Feldenkrais PractitionerCM (1994) and a Master teacher of Martial Arts. Following Moshe’s way to become a Judo expert, he is teaching worldwide the ‘Synergy of the Martial Arts and the Feldenkrais Method’, practically combining ideas and techniques learned in martial arts and the Feldenkrais Method. Moti specializes in teaching Dynamic Stability and the Art of Falling as an essential ability of self-preservation for elderly and young. His website is www.feldenkrais-ip.org