Everyone needs to learn how to fall. It is the first lesson in every Judo school. And it is the first lesson in any Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school on takedown days. I wish it was also one of the first lessons that kindergarteners learned in school. Since its not, please, bring your kid to class!

Everyone falls. Generally when people fall, we put out our arms, usually hands first, to stop the fall. We are usually so concerned with stopping the fall in the moment that we don’t think about our heads. In most cases, this causes damage to the arms and the head. Your hands cannot reverse gravity and your head will not defeat concrete. Falling as most people naturally fall is how you break arms and injure brains.

Break-falls are the remedy. But break-falls are counter-intuitive. Break-falls do not stop falls, but teach someone how to fall well. It is better to learn to fall well as an automatic reaction than to hope your fall won’t injure your arms or head. The basics of a break-fall: tuck your chin, roll on your back to your shoulders, then slap the ground palms down at a 45 degree angle. Hands touch the ground last, not first.

It is very simple, but this basic knowledge can prevent serious injuries (usually in exchange for a non-serious injury like a bruise) and even save lives. The story from a California middle school this week is tragic. No child should be attacked in school or anywhere else. But, unfortunately, school fights happen. Some parents tell their kids to fight back. Some tell their kids to run and find an adult. Whatever you tell your kid, please make sure they know how to fall. Whether they are bullied at school or fall off of a curb, children who regularly practice break-falls have a much better chance of staying safe.

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