By Alan Best
As a society, we recognize the importance of everyone learning to swim, but learning to land safely from a fall is statistically a far more important life-saving skill. And it’s much easier to avoid being in water than it is to to avoid being on the ground!
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 25,500 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries in 2013 and there were 2.5 million nonfatal falls among older adults that were treated in emergency rooms. More than 734,000 of those patients were hospitalized. In comparison, there are an average of 3,500 unintentional (non-boat) drownings per year. Many people who fall,
even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling.
Learning safe methods of falling (“ukemi” in Japanese) in a martial arts class takes away the fear of falling. In fact, falling can even become fun! Martial art students learn safe ways to fall and roll from a variety of angles and positions. Direct impact with the ground is avoided and the energy of the fall is redirected and absorbed, so there is minimal impact upon landing.
Very few students of martial arts ever use the fighting skills they learn for self-defense, but nearly every student will use their ability to fall properly to protect themselves from serious harm at some point – and the odds of needing good ukemi get higher the older you get!