When I Fell

I was loading some stuff into the back seat of the Blazer when my boot heel snagged on the edge of the cement pad and down I went. Staring up at the sky I took a deep breath and a quick assessment head to toe and…

No pain. None.

I stood up and brushed myself off. What just happened? Not even a bruise, nothing hurt except — oops, a little brush burn on my elbow. Ha — proof I’d fallen and overcome.

A couple of Februarys ago I slid on an ice patch and landed square on my coccyx. I couldn’t sit comfortably for weeks. And here I was again, whoosh-kerplump. But I didn’t land on any one point, so I didn’t hurt anywhere.

Weird. But logical.

My first attempt at martial arts training (15 or so years ago) fizzled out after a few classes. Why? The instructor asked me to fall. From standing. Voluntarily. I tried to do it, I made myself go to the floor but was too scared to really try the technique. And without first learning how to fall I wasn’t going anywhere in my training. So I gave up.

From then till about a year ago, I blocked all martial arts out of my life. I’d just do the usual stuff expected of a mom raising little ones: low-impact aerobics, weight lifting, stretching, running, a foray into yoga. But martial arts? No thanks. Tried that, not for me.

So even darkening the dojo door for self-defense class last year was surreal… And falling? Oh no, here we go again. But unlike the other time, I wasn’t started standing. I could fall from my knees or even from sitting and work my way up from there.

So I tried what felt completely illogical. I threw myself on the floor. First on my knees and sitting for the backward fall, then from squatting. Falling to the left, falling to the right, forward and backward. Over and over at the start of each class. Then one day I realized I was ready to fall from standing. Front breakfall, side breakfall, then tuck and roll backwards. Over and over. And over again.

So when I fell backward by the truck that day, I went right into the tuck and roll. I stood up and laughed. In that tiny way the truth flashed into my mind: It’s actually working – I’m learning to protect myself. Not just to fight off an attacker, but to go down and come back from a fall. And if what they say is true, that most fights eventually end up on the ground, well I can get there uninjured and fight from a strong place.

But then I thought about something else. What if I walked away today? What if I tried, again, to avoid falling? What if I lived my life so I never needed to know how to fall well? Withdrawing from all possibility of danger, hiding myself away…

But isn’t that mindset the very essence of fear? And fear attracts attackers like little else. The strong prey on the weak, that’s just the way it goes. News reports are filled with victims crushed by cruel oppressors. And really, none of us was made to be a perpetual victim, in mind or body (or, in most cases, both). We were made to grow strong and to push the forces of evil back, not to get crushed by them.

Oh and by the way, all of us will fall at some point — there’s nothing wrong with falling. It’s all in how we handle it. When we feel ourselves going down, we give ourselves to it. We quite literally roll with it. And we come up ready to fight back.

So it begins with learning to take a fall. To let gravity take us down but not out. To get back up.
And again.

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