how to fall

One of the things I have noticed watching Kris Holm in trials and Muni is that
he falls (when he falls) like a cat and seems to avoid injury by landing well. I
don’t know if there is some calculation that prevents bad falls, instinct, luck
or if this is just an incorrect observation.

I am wondering about this as the unicycle riders in my Scout troop are
attempting more difficult tricks and I am wondering is there is some way to
teach how to land after a failed attempt at a trick so as to avoid injury. Woody
has told them about the Universe video and I am sure that once they have seen it
there are atleast 2 guys who will immediatly go outside and attempt some of the
more dangerous stunts.

Any suggestions.

John Hooten

RE: how to fall

> One of the things I have noticed watching Kris Holm in trials and Muni is that
> he falls (when he falls) like a cat and seems to avoid injury by landing well.

I have noticed the same thing. Perhaps it is unfair to judge by the crashes seen
in the Universe video, as Kris has been riding since he was 12 (about 15 years),
and Dan and Adam are a lot younger. But Kris definitely seems to land “softer,”
and in greater control.

> I am wondering about this as the unicycle riders in my Scout troop are
> attempting more difficult tricks and I am wondering is there is some way to
> teach how to land after a failed attempt at a trick so as to avoid injury.

I think there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from future
crashes. This is based on my experience of lots and lots of crashes in my early
years, and a lot less crashes in recent ones:

  1. Admit to yourself that no matter what, sometimes you are going to fall hard
  2. Plan for those crashes–by dressing appropriately and thinking where you
    will land in case something happens
  3. Practice crashing/learn from your crashes

Two things immediately apparent about Kris, if you actually see him fall. First,
he usually doesn’t (a good thing when he’s riding on a bridge rail 500’ up!).
Why? Because, at least when the cameras are on him, he tries to ride within his
limits, doing things he is comfortable with (let’s not go off onto a tangent
about the amazing stuff). He also doesn’t fall because he practices a lot, and
is very confident in his abilities.

The second thing about when Kris crashes, he seems to be in control of the whole
fall. Once he knows he’s off the unicycle, he directs his body through the
necessary motions to absorb and stop his motion with minimal damage. This is
accomplished by being familiar with all forms of falls, and having practiced (or
at least experienced) them.

I’m making assumptions on Kris’ part, so please disagree or add anything if you
want, Kris. Thank you for inspiring us not only with your amazing feats and
fearlessness, but with your good example of safety equipment and controlled
dismounts.

On to something more useful.

Practice crashing. Huh? Every time I teach someone to freemount a giraffe
unicycle, part of that instruction includes telling them to practice falling
in every direction of the compass. This way, they will not panic when it
happens for real. What happens if you’re only half mounted, and the cycle is
between your legs? If you already know, you can simply land and not even drop
the unicycle.

If you crash at any kind of speed, you may need to roll to dissipate the energy.
If you try not to, you focus more energy on the body parts you use to stop
yourself; often the wrists and knees. Rolling spreads the damage around.

To successfully use a roll in a crash situation, you have to be used to the
idea. Just like pumping the car brakes in a skid, if you panic you will not be
able to let up your foot to do it. It may take a few crashes to get that roll
right. If you’re learning, you might crash a lot and get good at it. If you
don’t crash often (which is okay), it will be harder to develop a “rolling”
instinct. Of course it’s not really an instinct, it’s a conditioned behavior.

Not all crashes require a roll. You could go down at any angle, and in a MUni
or Trials situation, on any shape of terrain. The first step in protecting
yourself is to think of paths you can take if you have to bail. On a steep
downhill slope of slippery rocks, I may feel confident I can make the ride, but
not confident in my ability to safely dance to a stop if I bail. In that
situation I may walk it.

That’s why I also might not try the same moves on the edge of a big drop-off
that I might try on level ground.

The key to falling is first to be mentally ready for it to happen. This doesn’t
mean to expect to fall (which will kill your confidence), but to be ready to
switch instantly to crash mode if you do. Then to be prepared to go in the
direction you’re falling. If you already gave it some thought, you will know
what to do if it happens. Thirdly, if you have practiced (or experienced)
various types of falls, you will be able to instantly repeat those motions to
use them to more safely absorb those impacts.

And it’s true, a softer body will absorb impact better than a stiff one. The
hard part is relaxing when you hit the ground. Taking a martial arts class might
help there.

Hands: Try not to lead with your hands in a crash. The instinct is there, but
beyond a certain amount of force, you’re going to do hand or wrist damage that
might better be absorbed by letting your body fall in a heap.

All of this depends on the angle of your trajectory, body position, and the
terrain you’re heading for. In Jack Hughes recent crash, for instance, based on
what I could see in the video his unicycle stopped suddenly, ejecting him in an
unexpected way. His first foot to find the ground went between two rocks, and
his weight came down on it as his body fell to the side. How to avoid this? Not
easy in that particular crash. A fall like that, where you get “tossed” from the
unicycle instead of it going out from under you, is usually going to hurt no
matter what. But if Jack had managed to not put his weight on the first foot,
and instead crumpled to the ground more, it may have saved his ankle.

Don’t forget to dress appropriately. Here’s the body parts to cover, in my rough
ranking of order of importance:
4. Head
5. Hands/Wrists
6. Knees
7. Shins
8. Elbows
9. Calves
10. Back
11. Butt

Ride safely, John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone http://www.unicycling.com

“In the walk of life sometimes you are a dog, and sometimes you are a hydrant.”

  • Anonymous

Re: how to fall

On Mon, 02 Oct 2000, John Hooten wrote:
>One of the things I have noticed watching Kris Holm in trials and Muni is that
>he falls (when he falls) like a cat and seems to avoid injury by landing well.
>I don’t know if there is some calculation that prevents bad falls, instinct,
>luck or if this is just an incorrect observation.

I also noticed this in watching the UNiVERSE video. He just naturally recovers.
I think that’s an incredibly good skill. Wish I knew how to learn it myself…

Greg

RE: how to fall

Me thinks it’s due to being relaxed as you fall. If your body is tense as your
greet Mother Earth head on it’s harder to roll in to the fall and you’re far
more likely to end up hurting. That’s my theory… but in reality… when I
fall relaxing is the last thing that enters my mind :wink:

Neil

-----Original Message----- From: ghouse@southwind.net
[mailto:ghouse@southwind.net] Sent: 03 October 2000 00:48 To:
unicycling@winternet.com Subject: Re: how to fall Importance: Low

On Mon, 02 Oct 2000, John Hooten wrote:
>>One of the things I have noticed watching Kris Holm in trials and Muni is that
>>he falls (when he falls) like a cat and seems to avoid injury by landing well.
>>I don’t know if there is some calculation that prevents bad falls, instinct,
>>luck or if this is just an incorrect observation.

I also noticed this in watching the UNiVERSE video. He just naturally recovers.
I think that’s an incredibly good skill. Wish I knew how to learn it myself…

Greg