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Techniques>Falling>Back fall

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Back fall

Intro

The back fall is the most common type of fall. It is used when falling backward with no backward momentum, such as when sparring when you kick too high and fall backward. If a strong horizontal force is also used, such as being forcibly shoved backward, then the back-rolling fall should be used.

A few years ago, as I was stepping from a ladder onto the roof of my house, the bottom of the ladder slipped and I fell about 7 feet onto a wood deck. I can remember that as I was falling everything seemed to move in slow motion. First I thought "Ah shit!" then I pushed backward off the ladder so I would not fall onto some wood deck furniture just below me and then I rotated my body and landed in a proper back fall. I was knocked unconscious and awoke looking up at the sky. My head did not strike the deck and tests showed nothing was broken or damaged internally. For a few days, my entire torso felt like it had been run over by a truck. All those years of practicing to fall properly saved me from serious injury or death.

Learning the back fall

In learning the back fall, start practicing the technique from a sitting position and progress to a squatting position, a standing-squatting position, and finally a standing-drop position.

From a sitting position

Start learning the back fall by sitting on the mat with your legs together, knees bent, and feet flat on the mat with your arms in a guarding position, then:

  • Cross your arms in front of your chest with tight fists in a guarding position and tuck your chin down to your chest.
  • Curl your back into a half circle and roll your body backward onto the mat.
  • As your upper back touches the mat, slap the mat with open palms with your arms at a 45-degree angle from your body and kiai. The palms of your hands should hit the mat a split second before your upper back hits the ground. Do not reach backward with your arms (it may break the wrists). Do not keep your arms too close to your body (ineffective). Do not extend your arms too far out to your sides (ineffective and may strain the shoulders).
  • Immediately snap your arms back in front of your chest in a guarding position to protect yourself from further attack.
  • Return to the sitting position.
  •  Repeat the movements until they become smooth and powerful.

From squatting position

Now practice the same technique by falling backward from a squatting position. Begin by assuming a deep squat position with your arms in a guarding position, then:

  • Cross your arms at your chest with tight fists and roll backward with a kiai.
  • Follow the same steps as explained in the sitting position description.
  • Do not let your legs fly back over the head.
  • Return to the squatting position.
  • Repeat the movements until they become smooth and powerful.

From a standing-Squatting

Next practice the same technique by starting from a standing position with your arms in a guarding position, then:

  • Squat and roll backward with a kiai, all in a smooth motion.
  • Follow the same steps as explained in the sitting position description.
  • As you roll backward quickly pull your knees inward toward your chest to absorb the rolling momentum and keep your legs from flying back your head.
  • Return to the standing position.
  • Repeat the movements until they become smooth and powerful.

From a standing position

As you gain proficiency in the back fall, begin practicing the fall from a normal standing position. This is the position you would normally be falling from. Start with your arms in a guarding position, then:
  • Suddenly drop to your back from the standing position without using the squat.
  • Follow the same steps as explained in the sitting position description.
  • Be careful when you perform this type of back fall. Your timing must be perfect with the slap or there will be a jolt that may "knock the wind" out of your lungs.
  • Return to the standing position.
  • Repeat the movements until they become smooth and powerful.

Rolling backward

The back-rolling fall is used when falling backward with a lot of backward momentum, such as being forcibly shoved backward. If there is no backward momentum, it is best to use the standing back fall.

Begin the back-rolling fall from a standing position with the arms in a guarding position, then:

  • Stand erect with your feet about 12-inches apart.
  • Cross your arms in front of your chest with tight fists in a guarding position and tuck your chin down to your chest.
  • Curl your back into a half circle and semi-squat while simultaneously rolling backward and pushing backward with your legs.
  • As your upper back touches the mat, slap the mat with a kiai except let your momentum carry your legs over either your left or right shoulder in a back roll until your feet contact the mat behind your head. Keep your head tucked tightly and your body in a tight half circle so the roll may be completed smoothly.
  • As your feet touch the mat compete rolling until standing in a crouch with your arms in a guarding position.
  • Return to a standing position.
  • If the backward momentum is very great, two backward rolls may be needed before returning to a standing position.
  • Repeat the movements until they become smooth and powerful.

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