Learning How to Fall – Literally

300-kidsKids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

As a parent, there is an instinctive cringe associated with your child venturing out into the wild blue yonder of life, sports and self-determinative play. For most children, as they progress through normal development, their exploration and movement will inevitably lead to a fall or two – or a thousand. And while it might be tempting to turn your child into a walking “bubble-wrapped” super hero, anyone who has ever learned to ride a bike knows that if you want to learn to do it without the training wheels, you have to take the training wheels off, and then fall – a lot.

So, failure is important, but that is a topic for another day. What many parents do not realize is that children are not born with instincts regarding vertigo, falls or how to protect themselves should they take a tumble. Over time, if left to their own devices, they develop certain fall reflexes that are intuitive, yet risky. I see these reflexes all the time in the form of kids falling and putting their arms straight out to catch themselves. Nothing makes a gymnastics coach cringe more than this.

The truth is, most children – and adults – respond to a fall by placing their arms in front to protect their face and body, and while this might lessen the injury to certain areas, it exponentially increases the likelihood that they will injure their wrists, arms, elbows or shoulders. An unbelievably high number of injuries in gyms are caused by this specific, non-intrinsic, learned reflex. It does not have to be so. We can protect our face and body while not increasing the injury risk to our extremities. And that is where the Ninja Roll comes into the picture.

Starting as early as six-months-old, children can be taught to get up and down off of stairs and furniture feet first and instinctively roll should they take a tumble. This special safety roll, or Ninja Roll as our new NinjaZone program calls it, transfers and dissipates the energy of the fall into rotational motion and disperses the impact across the whole body instead of focusing it on one or two joints. It is simple enough, but this critical skill is something that is being lost on today’s generation of kids.

This skill – being able to fall from a tall height or at a full run and walk away probably unscathed – is universally applicable across all sports and the day-to-day adventure of play. Any reputable gymnastics center will have a wonderful preschool program in place that focuses on teaching this reflex, in addition
to the other fine and gross motor skills, rhythm, balance and so much more. Even for older kids, it is never too late to enroll them in some form of gymnastics, cheer or ninja sport. There are plenty of incredible programs all across the area to help!