You might be a bit confused. Isn’t the whole point of parkour to be able to perform movements without falling? It most certainly is. Well why then must we practice falling? Because you will fall, plain and simple.
In practicing to become better, parkour involves trying movements that are on the edge of your comfort level. You will likely mess up some time… possibly many times. The trick is to learn how to handle yourself during these ‘slip ups’. If you become comfortable and skilled in catching yourself or falling in a way that you won’t be injured, wouldn’t you be more confident?
This is where fall training and learning to correct yourself come in handy. It really breaks down into two separate but similar categories. The first, is constantly training to catch yourself when you do fall, the second is learning to fall in control so you won’t get hurt. Let’s explore catching yourself.
This tactic is when you first slip up, and you have that split second chance to save it. Perhaps you did a precision to a railing, and your foot slipped a little bit so you hop off the rail. No problem if the rail is hip or even head height. What if this rail is higher though? What if you fall off a railing from two stories up? No good.
Lets say next time you jump to the rail, your foot slips, and instead of just hopping off, you catch yourself in a cat leap position on the rail. While it doesn’t make much difference with a hip height rail, it could mean all the difference with the second story railing. Learning to catch yourself is really conditioning yourself to “save it” when it doesn’t matter, so you can react correctly when it does. Integrate this idea into your practice. Whenever you slip up, even at low levels, practice saving it so when the high pressure situation does come, you’re more prepared.
If you can’t catch yourself and you are going to fall, now we need to be able to have a little control over what happens. You will naturally be out of control, but practicing fall techniques gives you a sort of quasi-control, which is just enough to avoid injury. Generally, falling techniques are drawn from Ukemi which is part of the martial arts discipline Judo. It focuses on correct body positioning to spread the force of landing out over a wide surface to avoid injury.
To learn specific Ukemi and falling techniques, check out this video to get the basics.
To learn a little more in depth about Ukemi and falling for parkour, here is a great video from Parkour Visions out of Seattle. They are a highly credible and skilled group of traceurs and very knowledgeable about parkour and falling techniques.
Now that you know why we must learn to fall, and how to do it, get out there and start implementing this into your training. It will improve your reactions when you slip and give you confidence in trying movements at the edge of your comfort level. As always, have fun and happy training!