As always, Ms. Sheets offers a very insightful answer. I am also very fearful of falling, and the Dan Kumite take down had for years exacerbated that fear. I suppose it didn’t help that my original Uechi teacher, Johnny Author, taught on a concrete pad thinly covered with indoor outdoor carpeting.
Mr. Author’s instruction on falling was quite simple: 1) Look at your obi; 2) relax; 3) go down. When I heard Alan Dollar repeat the same instruction once, I suspected that this was how falling was taught at the Kadena dojo. In my twenties, this worked OK, but as I have gotten older, I found a need to explore it further. Turns out, it’s a really good instruction.
Dana notes that in Dan Kumite you are learning to give and take hits, and that hitting the floor is just one more lesson. I agree. But just like with the other hits in Dan Kumite, I would say that really we are not trying to the take the hit straight on. You are learning to take hits by dissipating the force or turning them into glancing blows. Also Dan Kumite is teaching you to connect with the attacker and to fill the voids that are created by the attack. Lastly, Dan Kumite is also teaching you to remain centered and to use your obi to keep a sense of center.
To me, falling is a misnomer. I am not falling when I go down, I am a recentering and redirecting. So, how I go down in Dan Kumite is very much contingent on how well my partner performs the take down. If my partner throws me back, I am going back, not down. If my partner does not know how to do the takedown, I will wait patiently while they figure it out, but I won’t simply go down. (By the way, if your partner is just muscling you down, ask that your partner show you how to do the takedown on the biggest strongest person you can find in the class. If done correctly, and there are several ways of doing it correctly, the Dan Kumite takedown involves unbalancing the attacker and controlling them as they are taken to the ground.)
Look at your obi. Part of the reason we spend so much time practicing San Chin is to learn to be centered. Looking at your obi reminds you of where your center is and also causes you to tuck your chin and head so that you don’t bang your head as you go down. It should also provide a point of reference for you to look at rather than focusing on the ground that is approaching.
Relax. It is true that the drunk is the one who is uninjured in the car accident. You are about to hit the ground. Rather than tensing and contracting, you are much better served by relaxing and expanding.
Go down. Falling implies a lack of control. Going down implies some control by you in the process. As you attempt to get back in your center (assuming your partner has done the technique correctly and broken your balance) you redirect your balance and your body angle. If you can, you want to roll on contact to dissipate the force of landing. This rolling action should initiate in your center.
That said, I totally understand your fear and trepidation. The best way to assuage that is to find a partner you trust. Explore the Dan Kumite take down. Rather than focusing on going down, look for openings in your partners attack. See if they are losing their center. Don’t practice with a sense of “I know what is coming and I am not going to let it happen,” but practice with a sense of cooperation that extends to constantly looking for defensive opportunities. If you are sincere in your attack, and your partner is skilled in the takedown, the takedown is effective and you will have opportunity to practice going down to the floor defensively.
Robb in Sacramento