Slips, Trips, And Falls --- Studio Or Real World Safety?

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Aug 15th, 2012

Modern culture often views slips, trips, and falls as a reason to laugh. From Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” bumbling along in City Lights, to Chevy Chase’s stumbling characters on Saturday Night Live, or Kramer’s shenanigans on a Seinfeld episode, we laugh when comedians hit the floor.

As a Safety manager, I’m all too familiar with the tragedy associated with falls when they occur on a jobsite. Whether on the job or off the job, thousands die as a result of falls every year. I have a co-worker who is regularly bothered by changes in the weather due to the metal pins in his leg; the result of an on the job fall.

As a Martial Artist, experience assures me that causing my opponent to lose his balance, and hit the ground will greatly benefit me in a self defense situation, allowing me to follow up as necessary or quickly flee. So, I may decide to drop my opponent or decide to go to the ground for my own defensive purposes. Whatever your reason for going to the ground while defending yourself, you must “let go” of balance and be able to fall, maintaining your environmental awareness and limiting any injuries.

Balance, a Principle of Motion, is second in importance only to Posture. While erect posture enhances your ability to maintain your balance, you must have balance to move effectively. You have balance in direct proportion to your base. A larger base makes for superior balance. A smaller base aids maneuverability. A sweep or trip functionally removes part of your opponent’s base. By sweeping the leg, the upright opponent is forced to momentarily balance on one leg, or fall. We have balance when our center of gravity falls within our base. Buckles are methods used to force a part of an opponent’s base to bend in or out, forward or back. Properly used, it can unbalance, twist, sprain; even break an opponent’s limb. A buckle affects balance by spreading the opponent’s base while simultaneously affecting posture forcing the opponent’s center of gravity outside his base.

Safety professionals have identified three primary factors involved in someone hitting the ground:

Gravity is the force that accelerates the individual toward the earth when falling. THROWING MANEUVERS are methods that use leverage and counter manipulation to hurl an opponent to the ground. Throwing maneuvers make excellent use of gravity and characteristically require the person throwing to have better balance than her opponent. The defender lowers her center of gravity, her leverage increases, allowing gravity to do most of the work of throwing.

Friction refers to the resistance between your contact point with the floor and the floor itself. Friction is minimized when we use sweeping moves or trips to unbalance our opponent. TRIPPING MANEUVERS refer to quick methods used to unbalance an opponent along a particular Angle of Disturbance and have him stumble to the ground. Trips occur when the base (foot) collides with, strikes, or is struck by an object, extensions of an object, or counterparts of an object in its path of travel. This causes a loss of contact with the “walking surface” and a loss of balance, inducing a stumble and often, a fall.

Momentum relates to the mass and speed of an object. Throws, sweeps, buckles, etc. are ineffective without sufficient speed. If executed slowly, your partner can simply adjust his balance, easily compensating for the change in his position. When training these methods in a studio setting, their effectiveness is frequently limited simply because the speed and intent to do real damage must be restricted to prevent injury.

How much training time do you spend on falling, rolling, and diving safely? Proper safety equipment can minimize injuries, but nothing can take the place of consistent training. Do you emphasize the importance of proper falling technique for safety in your studio? Do you educate your students on the serious injuries that can result from a “bad fall” whether in the studio, on a jobsite, or from a skateboard?

After many years of martial arts training, you may never engage in a life and death struggle, but someone slips, trips, and falls every day. Will you be prepared?

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

Other Articles by Dennis Lawson

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