Removing Risk to Make Learning Easier in the Martial Arts

Removing Risk to Make Learning Easier in the Martial ArtsI recently made a big purchase for our dojo. I bought a soft 3″ thick portable folding mat. Considering that we already have 2″ tatami mats over top a custom built sprung floor for our dojo’s training surface, this purchase may seem unnecessary. And for anyone who is fully comortable with their breakfalls, it is. What we have is more than enough for general use, and preferable over a soft mat like the one I got for developing a better sense of the ground and how best to do a breakfall on it safely. It’s hard enough that you can feel your mistakes, but springy enough to take the jolt out of solid impacts. But I discovered that even our advanced system isn’t always enough.

A Safe Way to Fully Commit

Our general approach to teaching breakfalls makes it simple to ease new students into hitting the ground safely. We have a graduated approach that breaks the whole process down so that students can build confidence at each stage before advancing to a more challenging fall. That being said, as students progress and they start learning harder breakfalls from higher heights, and with that increased impact, sometimes students become a bit nervous about trying them, even with all the progressions easing them into it. That nervousness can lead to the body’s hesitation to fully commit to the movement, resulting in an uneven landing that can be uncomfortable, or worse yet, cause injury. And once a person has had an injury in the process of learning a fall, it can cause a mental block, a fear, making the fall that much harder to learn. That’s where this mat comes in. That mat is so soft that there are minimal consequences for landing wrong. This serves as a great tool for helping people get past their fear and learn to consistently land properly. And when they have it down well enough to be safe, they can graduate to the regular mats.

A Tool to Keep Training During Injury Recovery

Injuries can and do happen, on and off the mats. One of my students was in a car accident over a year ago and suffered soft tissue damage to her neck. This is not ideal for falling. Once she was given the okay from her physio, she started to ease back into training, doing lower impact breakfalls only. It had been a long time since she had attempted some of our bigger falls, but she kept turning them down, understandably afraid of re-injuring her neck she has strived to heal for so long. This new mat provided the opportunity to do some of the bigger falls by minimizing the overall impact enough to make it comfortable. By creating a safe way of practicing those falls, so she strengthen her neck and eventually, it will become strong enough to do it on the regular mats.

Whether someone is working past a mental block or fear, easing back into training after an injury, the key is to create a way to practice the fall, or any physical action for that matter, that makes failure safe. Easy, step-by-step progressions is one tool, but when that’s not enough, the right equipment like my spongy new mat can really come in handy.

Now over to you. What kind of tools have you used to get past a fear, mental block or injury? Please feel free to share them in the comments so that all our readers can benefit.

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