Lessons from Falling


I’d thrown a rather slow kick – a bad habit of mine, and my sparring partner thought it was high time I learned the consequences of not fixing this.  I scrabbled to my feet and faced him once again.  Hot fury shot through me.  I shut it down instantly, recognizing that I was merely angry at myself.  I’m learning that if my internal state is not what it ought to be, I go into a tailspin.  This is not what I want to have happen during a sparring match!  A little while later, yup, I threw another slow kick and my sparring partner dumped me on the floor again.  I got back up calm, cool, and collected – my defeat was really a triumph.

141204_Image1NoStripeRI think I’m beginning to understand that on a really deep level, I’m fighting against myself.  Really and truly there are so many things I do to undermine myself while I’m sparring.  I have only a few tools in my toolbox, but they are good tools, and if I stop shooting myself in the foot, I can improve on how I use those tools.

What do I do to undermine myself in real life? How many times have I figuratively fallen to the floor – dumped there by life circumstances?  I have no desire to try and count.  What’s important is, how have I reacted?  Have I sulked, whined, screamed, pointed fingers,  etc. when I found myself “falling?”  Yes, I admit I have.

Ando Mierzwa (senseiando.com) in one of his articles advises, “Here’s the trick to falling safely—accept that you’re falling! Don’t hop around on one foot, clawing desperately at anything (or anyone!) that might keep you on your feet.” Accept that you’re falling.  Denial, throwing blame around willy-nilly, and clutching at bad habits (like eating to comfort myself) are all ways I try to shield myself from adversity.  These reactions just make the “fall” worse.  I’m not saying don’t cry, don’t grieve, and don’t hold other people accountable for their actions.  I’m saying acknowledge the circumstances for what they are.  Then move beyond.

I’ve certainly given myself ample opportunity to practice falling in the dojo what with all those slow kicks I’ve thrown.  Wait – did you catch that?  It was something I did that started the chain of events that ended with me on the floor.  So maybe in my life circumstances, I should see if there’s something I did that led to the “fall.”  Sometimes I might find there isn’t anything I could have done differently, and sometimes I might find I could’ve done better.

black eye 2015 Joelle White
Bruises are fun!!!

After the adrenaline and endorphins and all those other fun hormones wore off, I discovered sore spots from those two falls.  Yes, falling hurts, and the hurts can last a good long time.  I tended those physical bruises for a few days until they healed.  Emotional “bruises” from being “dumped to the floor” by life circumstances hurt too.   It’s part of being human, and part of learning.  The trick is to become better, not bitter.

Assuming I am physically able to do so, it’s very empowering to get back on my feet and into fighting stance again.  Don’t get me wrong – if Sensei calls a halt at that point I do indeed breathe a sigh of relief!  Overcoming adverse life circumstances is immensely empowering too.   It might take  quite a lot of time to overcome adversity, or perhaps the struggle will end only when Death calls out, “Yame! (Stop!)”  But how one reacts and what one learns is crucial to developing the very core of one’s own self.

When one gets back up again, hopefully others will learn that there is hope for them too.  You can serve as a good example to others, or you can serve as an example of what not to do.  Very nearly every single time I was knocked or dumped or swept to the floor while sparring someone, there were children watching.  Their need to see someone bounce or stagger back up and into fighting stance outweighed my desire to curl up into a sobbing, frightened little ball.

I’ll let the following short video wrap up this post (thank you Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts Center for sharing this with me)…

Dear readers, soon after this publishes I will be on my way to Gasshuku, so I won’t be able to get to your comments until sometime during the week.  Thank you for reading, and thanks for your patience!

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

8 thoughts on “Lessons from Falling”

  1. Lol…..I thought for a second this was a suggestion on how to handle my situation…..actually may be so….I get knocked down but I get up again…you aint never gonna keep me down….so ghe song goes. Have fun at gasshuku. And wish me luck….iykwim.

    1. Hi there, Rach! Hope things work out for you soon, and I’m flattered you see some things you can apply to your situation. I’ll catch up with you soon 🙂

  2. I’ve found the older I get, the slower falling is. It’s like I have time to contemplate what choice led me to landing on the ground. (Talking of falling outside of the dojo) My belt group hasn’t sparred yet. We have learned some takedowns but it’s completely different when you are expecting to be thrown to the ground and have been trained how to fall. Right now my frustration is coming from kobudo training. Our school requires kobudo training with bo as you progress through karate ranks. I thought I’d be able to pick up the basics easily but I’m struggling through it and having to work extra hard to get my form back with a weapon in hand. We test next Thursday in karate and kobudo and while I’m confident with the karate testing, I’m anxious about kobudo. I have quite a bit more training between now and then though to try and correct problems.

    Hope gasshuku goes well for you!

    1. Hi, Marlana! Yep, when one doesn’t spend time on fussing, fuming, and grabbing at straws, one does find that falling is slower (as you put it). Let me know how your testing goes!!!

      1. We tested last night and achieved 6th Kyu in Karate-Do and 6th Kyu in Kobudo with Bo. I was a nervous wreck before the test as the katas were running together in my mind when I would try to run through them mentally. I finally had to just stop and trust that my training would kick in and I would perform the correct sequences.

        It was my first Kobudo test so that was a little added stress but we made it through to gain 6th Kyu.

  3. I fall constantly and it’s always a sign of how to improve and get better. The action of falling means little; but the action of rising means everything.

    1. Ossu, Andrea! Thanks for reading and stopping by! Wise words 🙂 I found out this weekend there’s yet another facet to falling and rising up again. I helped someone overcome her fear of hurting someone while grappling. I might do a “Lessons from Falling” Part 2 blog on that 🙂

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