I recently watched an interview with Dr. Bob Beck. Besides being a brilliant engineer and inventor, Dr. Beck was also a Judoka for ten years. He told a story of when he once fell on a street side walk and injured his hand because he “slapped out” on the pavement. Most NIHON GENDAI BUDO “New Japanese Martial Arts” instructors teach their students to slap the mat hard when they fall. They give two reasons for this. Firstly, it’s supposed to dissipate the force of the fall and secondly, it’s supposed to distract your mind from your body actually hitting the ground.
If we study the history of Japanese KORYU “Old School” battlefield martial arts, we’ll see a total absence of this slapping falling way method. Why? Because on a real life battlefield you most definitely don’t want to slap the ground as you fall. The reason why this slapping method developed is because most Gendai Budo systems were taught in doors, on debris free large flat tatami mats. In this environment you can safely slap the ground as you hit the deck without injuring your hand or arm. However, this conditions in a very bad habit into your muscle memory, what you do in training is what you’re going to do under pressure in real life.
So then, what’s the answer to this challenge? Firstly, we want to be on top of our take down defense. If you don’t go to the ground, you don’t have to be concerned with how you fall. Secondly, if you do fall you want to practice rolling right back onto your feet, as opposed to lying down on your side and slapping out. This method is infinitely more practical from a tactical perspective. Watch how TAIJUTSU and SYSTEMA practitioners execute their rolls, that’ll give you an excellent model to work from.