Fear to fall

by Kelvin Ho on 2011/10/15

Today, I pushed hands with a few people. I realized how afraid I was of falling. I knew that I needed to get closer, and was trying to do kua-to-kua. However, every time the opponent tried to come in, I knew the kind of move he was trying to execute, and I would get caught and fell if he successfully got into position.

Since I didn’t know what I was to do, I tried to avoid it every time by taking my front leg away. The question is should I? I wanted to get in myself, and it would actually save me work if the opponent did it, but I avoided it instead. I kept thinking the right thing to do would be to let it happen, leave my leg there, and try to find the line/dot and rotate on it. The 2nd person loved to sweep. As his leg came up, I saw a line formed between his front hand and rear leg, however I wasn’t able to rotate on it. I guess back to more yilus.

 

About Kelvin Ho

I started learning Taiji from Master Chen Zhonghua at the Toronto workshop in Nov 2009, and became one of his disciples in Jan. 2013. I currently teach Practical Method in Toronto, Markham and Richmond Hill. Contact: kelvin.ho@practicalmethod.ca.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank October 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm

In my training session today my Yang style teacher said that he was sorry that his two disciples injured somebody (from other schools) during their friendly pushhand ‘match’ and asked us to be extra careful. I pointed out that the weakness in tai chi training (in general) all around is that people don’t train how to fall and therefore causing unnecessary injuries to themselves when they do fall. In friendly matches we don’t do joint lock and we stop our action when someone loses his balance (as compared to judo/aikido when one continues the action until the opponent is pinned and locked down). So in tai chi push hand it is not the one who pushes who is at fault on injuring someone, it is the one who doesn’t know how to fall. Some form of Aikido or Judo training will help to prevent injuries. Also when one is not afraid to fall, one can feel comfortable to move ‘off-centre’ when necessary.

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Todd Elihu October 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

The fear of falling is overcome by becoming comfortable with falling. I once had Master Chen push me down over and over again in order to gain such comfortableness. I have also practiced falling by myself. The more you do it, the more your body learns to adjust itself to falling so that you don’t get hurt. When you can trust that your natural reaction to falling will keep you from getting hurt, then falling will no longer be scary. I don’t think you need to train another art to gain this comfortableness.

When I first started, Master Chen would always coach me to “get in” and “close the gap” when pushing hands. This was a struggle as when I got in close with the opponent I was much more vulnerable. I was afraid of both falling and losing. Since that time, however, I have been slowly eroding this psychological obstacle. I won’t say that I’ve totally mastered my fear of falling or that I’ve given up my concern with winning, but I’m at least making progress.

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Gary Readore October 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm

The taichi classics talk about “investing in loss”. It is OK to get pushed, especially when training for that is one way you will learn and become sensitive to force and pressure. Feel (use and develop “ting jing” or listening energy) to try and recognize what the other person is doing and how they are doing it to you or perhaps what you are not doing and probably not reacting to something soon enough. When you realize that the other person “has you” to the point that you can’t get away or get out, one of the worse things to do is to stiffen, resist and try to fight back. For me, in this situation it is OK to step (back or out) and yield the point. Normally by stepping you can avoid being thrown to the ground. Again this may involve ting jing and knowing when to step. A lot of times (myself included) we get so caught up in trying to push that we don’t listen/feel.

Todd brings up a good point in that it is difficult to move in as that will also make you more vulnerable. But, ultimately that is what one must do to learn and advance, but may involve you getting pushed a lot, especially if your partner is at your same skill level or higher. That is why it is good to have a “training” partner and not always a “competitor”.

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Frank October 19, 2011 at 11:41 am

I personally don’t know that taichi has ‘falling’ techniques so if one wants to train how to ‘fall’, one has to borrow them from other arts like judo/aikido/wrestling or one has to invent them. So long as the end result of the invention is as effective as those from other arts, why not?

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Kelvin Ho October 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I too believe that Taiji is a complete system, I don’t need to borrow anything from other arts. I don’t know simply or can’t do it properly because I am not there yet.

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rgb October 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Hello.

I thought the original post was more about the fear of losing to an opponent and falling as a result vs. fear of falling and huring oneself. But if the issue is with the fear of falling and hurting oneself, I’m in agreement with Frank.

There are well established techniques for falling that will significantly minimize the chance of injury. For people who haven’t trained (and even sometimes for people who have), falling is really an uncoordinated, uncontrolled, violent act. I’ve seen or heard of people got cut up/scraped, gotten broken/chipped bones, sprained joints, and in worst case, bang their head on the ground because of a fall. While you may fall 1,000 times without suffering any injury, it only takes one bad incident to result in something tragic…

There are any number of reasons why you might end up on the ground whether in combat or just walking down the street. But practicing an art where you’re regularly exposed to the risk of falling, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to have these skills in your arsenal.

As far as I can tell, it wouldn’t be corrupting Taiji or changing anything in the forms or go against any of the rules, principles, philosophies, theories or concepts. They also aren’t exclusive to any particular art so you wouldn’t have to “borrow” them from another art and there shouldn’t be anything that would effect the sanctity of Taiji. I honestly don’t even think they need to be viewed as “martial skills” at all.

For people that may not have been exposed to falling techniques it may be hard to believe, but you can actually become very skilled at taking a fall (people who do Aikido or Judo have really mastered these skills but you can also look at stuntmen or people who do parkour as an example). In some cases, you can use your momentum to pop immediately back up ready to fight or run as necessary. I’ve even heard of a person who used these skills when he slipped on some ice.

The skills aren’t difficult to learn. Though as with anything serious, it will take time before you can do it well and you should learn from someone who’s mastered these skills but you don’t need to take a course or take up another martial art to learn.

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Ken October 19, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Learn this and never be afraid to fall again! lol

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE0_1NKkWjk&feature=related

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Frank October 20, 2011 at 7:26 am

rgb,

Kelvin’s post and my Yang teacher’s news happened within a day, so I was using this opportunity to point out a major drawback in tai chi push hand training and to bring awareness to this problem. A harmless fall for a judoka can be a serious injury for others. One bad fall and you are out of push hand training for life! And don’t practice swimming strokes on land, get into the water; learn to fall by really falling hard and make it a reflexive action in your body. In short, don’t leave the responsibility of protecting yourself to your push hand brothers/opponents.

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rgb October 20, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hello Frank.

I think we are in agreement. Most people have no control on how they fall which is why they get hurt and why it can be scary. I think it makes sense to have the skills to be in control of your fall (to the extent possible).

Human beings are actually very fragile… very easily hurt/injured or even killed. Safety should be the first rule in any physical activity.

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