Judo instructors teaching seniors the proper way to execute their inevitable fall


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Useful techniques, for sure, if a fall should occur. Damage control, hopefully. However, should be considered the icing on the cake in comparison to fall prevention.

I took a year of judo as a young man ( couldn’t read the WSJ article ). They do teach you how to fall, but it would still hurt. The instructors ( 2 men, 1 women ) were all very strong and very proficient ( black belts ) at judo. The thing that took me away from it was that the 2 male instructors could just barely lift their arms over their head. They were probably mid 30’s, and they had taken such a pounding over a few decades of the sport that they had lost the range of motion in their arms. That didn’t stop them from being great at judo, and they surely knew how to fall, but the constant practice of getting tossed and landing still took it’s toll on them. The lady instructor was about 10 years younger, and she still had that range of motion. I still remember her being able to flip me like I was a sack of potatoes,lol, no problem at all. I would not have wanted anything to do with any of the 3 of them in a tussle, that is for sure.

Ditto with the judo. In my early teens I was a big fan of one of the UK TV series The Avengers…particularly the main protagonist’ s side kicks Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and later Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) who always took the villains down with “judo” fight moves. My dad found some classes for me after much pestering and off I went. I found it really boring because 90% of class time was…practising falls and drill after drill on exercises to make those falls safe and, well, doable. Stopped after about 6 months…but it all came back to me a couple of years ago when my granddaughter started Brazilian jiu Jitsu and I was able to help her practise the falls and rolls.

What I learned first time around was…

Mrs Gale and Mrs Peel weren’t actually the judo experts they portrayed, and…

With these falls etc, it takes a fair number of times getting it wrong before you get it right. Not really a big issue in the young fit and healthy…all it does is hurt a bit. With a senior who’s worried/has good cause to be worried about fall injury, I suspect it’s a very different proposition. Just the muscular strength, coordination,cstability, flexibility etc to perform that back roll the drawing in the title represents is something that can take months of conditioning to acquire…possibly longer if it wasn’t there in the first place.

I’d say in the context of WSJ’s teaser sentences, dog training classes might’ve given a better bang for the buck/time investment in fall/injury prevention


@VeeEnn, I had a similar feeling when reading the article.

I have a touch of osteopenia, not serious due to decades of weight lifting and other exercises. Even though it’s not serious, I have stopped doing exercises that might cause compression fractures in my spine, such as Plow Pose in yoga. (I still do hand stand and shoulder stand but not head stand which puts a lot of force on the neck.) I would avoid back rolls (which I enjoyed in younger decades), especially multiple reps in practice.

I think that the role of agility and fast nerve-muscle response is neglected in older people. (Even by Dr. Attia, who gives so much other excellent prevention advice.) I practice Zumba 3 times per week, partly because it’s fun, partly for cardiovascular exercise and partly because the fast, constantly changing movements (including turns) forces the brain, nerves and muscles to respond quickly. In a fall, quick response is essential.



Indeed…but, in his defense, he’s a young whippersnapper of barely 50 so possibly hasn’t experienced the rapid decline in reactivity that starts to pose a real problem with increasing Chronological Enrichment. Especially if there’s a break in specific training for this.

Years ago, I started adding training workshops on basically age -proofing the body. The company that presented them seems to have gone totally to webinar mode but before Covid they were a great resource for younger trainers looking for expertise in this somewhat niche market and also trainers who were themselves getting older. Now, their particular offerings centered a little more on senior boot camp style training sessions for strength and agility rather than dance…but the principles were the same. Rapid fire directional change (a choreography in itself) along with plyometrics etc. I did this on my build up for my lapiplasty 2 years ago…can attest that, in spite of this, I definitely lost fast twitch muscle response and probably mass in the relatively short time I was hors de combat

Additionally, my bone density scan earlier this year had be, for the first time in the minuses…- .2 or so. Miles away from osteopenia and within the range of normal variation with the technology but still…what’s the point of a test if you’re going to dismiss it when it tells you what you don’t want to hear.

I’ve added specific balance training and odd tips I’ve picked up from my Healthy Bones FB page that add impact without the undue stress on my dodgy foot that extensive trail running would possibly have.

Low cost balance training tools that everyone should have…

Edit: … and not just for the GRRRLZ either. Osteoporosis/osteopenia can and does affect men too!

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I tiny very useful thing is simply to rehearse some simple moves consciously in the years before you need them so they are automatic.

Rehearse always putting your hand on the bannister, and if no bannister link with a younger friend or (advanced technique) have hand on wall with a little pressure. Then you will very likely not have a bad fall. I knew my great grandmother, and she lived in a three floor Victorian walk-up in Tacoma. She lived there, sleeping in her bedroom two floors up with old rickety staircase with no mishap, nor her daughters in their homes nor my mother nor her sisters. They all agreed, you have to practice normal walking.

Also, all you life learn to laugh at yourself when you slip or fall or misstep. Laughter sends relaxation into the muscles making a huge difference in keeping bones from locking and then breaking.

david fb


Actually, David, this isn’t as tiny a thing as you’d imagine. I don’t think it’s part of human nature to take objective looks at oneself and ask “What am I doing wrong?” without outside prompting (and even then…) Especially the movement patterns etc we do “automatically” and assume they can’t be changed.

For myself, I got a heads-up on this during physical therapy after my foot surgery. The orthopod’s prescription was for exercises to improve balance, ankle flexibility, and proprioception among otherthings. “No biggie,” sez I “I got this”…thinking of the workshops I’d attended, training tools and toys I’d purchased along with personal practice to make sure I could use them. Well, I didn’t “got this”. I obviously hadn’t practised some of the range of motion moves enough to develop the sort of muscle memory to make my “disorientated” foot work. My PT sessions were initially a sea of frustration and pain. Just for the heck of it one day, I tried them on the other, “unsurgurised” foot…and, lo, couldn’t hack them with that foot either. I’d actually allowed the skills to diminish over time so I was actually dealing with a double whammy after the surgery.

My PT sessions took off after that realisation and with me taking the steps to remedy the deficiencies. I discussed the revelation with the physical therapist and we both agreed that incorporating the remedial stuff I was doing into the average person’s day preemptively, and at an early enough age, would be a gift that gave back big time.

Basic self tests/activity drills for balance and proprioception…

Stand on one leg for 30 seconds. Add eyes shut. On unstable surface (per photos upstream)

Stand with feet “in tandem”…progress as above.

Sit to stand (no arm assist). Low chair. Sit-squat to stand. One legged sit to stand (struggling a bit with this myself)

Or…ignore all the above and sit down until the proactive feeling passes.


Have you tried balancing on 1 foot with your eyes closed ? Very good safe little exercise that helps challenge your balance.

Dynamic balance is really important. A good sport for that is cross country skiing. Going down hills on skinny ski’s is a challenge. I have a few friends who are downhill ( alpine ) skiers who kind of mocked xc skiing, but only till they strapped on a pair and tried navigating around a tough trail. No chair lifts to haul them up to the top of the hills either,lol.

I see people in their late 60’s early 70’s skiing really, really well.
Everybody falls, no matter how good you are.
Just being active in the outdoors will improve balance. Hiking trails are not level and smooth, balancing on a bike on dirt trails is also good for us. Lots of fun ways to improve balance. Gotta be active, though.


VeeEnn and UpNorthJoe

Yes to both of you. And thanks for expanding the message.

What I recounted were multi-generational experiences that have long been successfully taught in my family, but I did not go into how my parents, sibs and me, and kids have added more to our great grands prescriptions.

Yoga (with lots of balance moves) combined with wild asz dancing for Mom continues down the generations. We have video of Mom at 91 doing insane jitterbug moves at my godson’s wedding. Yoga and complex balance and strength moves dancing are very us now, with weddings often reminding people to wear dance clothes. X-country ski for me and about half my nephews and grand nephews.

The great thing is across all of those people our only broken bones are simple breaks from extreme activities (a nephew downhill ski racing and my brother climbing extreme cliffs in Yosemite valley), and no breaks – not one – for our long lived oldsters.

david fb

david fb


Lots of that as a kid. Just on the outskirts of a small town. Roads in our area were not paved. Where roads were going to be was cleared smoothed, but all dirt. Woods on both sides of the road everywhere. New housing being built, so kids riding, running, playing everywhere–but the paved road ended at the bottom of the hill leading into the neighborhood. Within five years, some of the roads were paved for the first time. Some areas were left alone for a while, as the future streets were also cut and flat–but dirt, not paved. For future development.


So, whether it’s an example of synchronicity, coincidence or just noting a topic that I wouldn’t normally have done, my Strong Bones FB group has a thread on almost this subject…i.e., not how to effect damage control if you fall or even the ways we can future proof our own bodies but rather how to accident proof our environment.

A whole thread of personal accounts of things that the contributors had experienced that caused them to fall…and that they consciously avoid/compensate for now. Use of bannisters/grab handles being one common suggestion. Night lights, area rugs, footwear, eyewear (new bifocal prescriptions) etc. etc. With me, I could empathise with new puppy/puppy toys being left around.

Our old dog Rose (the Basenji) wasn’t one for toys…she had fun eating things she shouldn’t. Underwear, corners of sheets, jigsaw puzzle pieces etc (all readily identified a couple of days later IYKWIM!) Twice this week, I’ve stepped on one of Sir Fur’s toys…and spotted a couple more that could’ve tripped me. So, accident proofing the home is at least as important in injury prevention, methinks.

Here’s the miscreant showing off his new hairdo.

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Husband and I have long loved and collected rugs and runners and throws from cultures all over the world. Figuring out how to make them stay flat, or hang them on a wall, of gift them out instead will take up much of the next months as I realized only a week ago that my eyesight is now starting to have difficulty discerning dangers from them in low light…

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Count the trip hazards! We’re doggie sitting for the kids. Accident potential is huge in this house!