Learn to Fall

Besides Death and Taxes another certainty that life offers is that we all Fall. As much as we try to weigh every decision we make, mistakes do happen. These Falls may cost us time, money and relationships. Some may be worse than others but all have caused us pain.

One of the first lessons taught to a beginner in Aikido is how to take an Ukemi”. Taking falls on the mat in the dojo is one thing, taking falls on the street on hard concrete is another story. The principle is to dissipate the impact of the fall so that not one part of the body takes all of the impact and breaks. There are even stories of elder Japanese Aikidokas who lost their balance and fell but were able to get back up with just scrapes and bruises because even at their frail age, they were still able to execute a proper Ukemi that broke their fall. Even in the dojo, it is still scary to take a fall, especially from the kind of throws that sweeps the legs from under you and all you can see is the blur of the space spinning around then you meet the ever present blunt force weapon which is the ground. The time and effort Aikidokas put in practicing their Ukemi are what allows them to to get back up and do it all over again.

As painful as they are, the way we take the fall when life throws us to the ground is what makes us who we are. The greater the challenge the greater the victory As the cliche goes, it is not the number of times we fall but that we always get back up.

As martial arts students look to the instructors and senior students for guidance, finding people who have experienced whatever challenges we are going through in life and learning how they have conquered it are invaluable. At the end of it all, despite heeding the warning of their pitfalls, we may still end up committing the same mistakes but at least we have that confidence that someone has gone through the same situation and came out alright. Participation trophies and handouts may cushion the pain of defeat but as with our bodies, pain is the indicator that something is not right. Experiencing the Falls is what forces us to change our habits and decision patterns. Welcoming and learning how to fall are what helps us get back up.

There is no instructor, no book, no lecture, no seminar can teach us better than experience. We may not have the choice of where life throws us but we could at least choose how to take the fall.

 

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