We all fall.
We all fall.
Down is the direction, and ashes, ashes don't have to be involved.
For senior citizens, falls hold not only a certain inevitability but also a special fear.
Mike Grigsby wants to teach people "Fearless Falling."
That's the name of a website the Clintonville resident has established and he will begin teaching the technique next week at the Whetstone Community Center.
The first Fearless Falling class will start Wednesday, June 13, and continue weekly through August, meeting from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. A second session designed to cater to retirees will meet from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Fridays, beginning June 15 and also continuing through August.
The cost is $30 and online registration is open at the website whetstonepark.org. The classes are open to the public.
With the proper training and the right amount of practice, Grigsby said, a fall doesn't have to be a big deal.
"Falling is something I never, ever worry about at all," said Grigsby, who turns 61 on Monday, June 11.
That's because it's something the Columbus native has been doing for a long time, dating to the judo classes he took while a student at Whetstone High School and carrying through to a wide array of martial arts disciplines. Grigsby has been coach of the Shuai Chiao Kungfu Club at Ohio State University for the past 26 years.
"Most of the arts I've studied, particularly the judo and shuai chiao kung fu, their primary technique is throwing someone down, and the very first thing you learn when you're studying these arts is how to fall safely," Grigsby said.
Most people, particularly senior citizens, don't know how to fall safely, he said.
"Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls," according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death.
"One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year, but less than half talk to their health-care providers about it. Among older adults, those 65 or older, falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma."
Grigsby became sensitized to the issue of falls and the harm they can do to those unprepared for them as the result of a personal tragedy and a serious injury to a friend.
The tragedy, he said, involved his stepfather who came home from a strenuous adventure vacation only to go to the doctor's office with a touch of flu. Alone in a treatment room, Grigsby's stepdad began to feel ill, and started across the room to vomit when he passed out and fell down.
He died as a result of the head injury sustained in the fall, Grigsby said.
Several years after his stepfather's death, a friend of Grigsby's fell in her kitchen, making the classic and almost automatic mistake of reaching out to try to break the fall. She severely broke her left arm, requiring surgery and a plate in her wrist. The friend later told Grigsby she had wanted to avoid landing hard on her rear end.
"I said, 'That's what it's made for.'"
Grigsby took his friend to the Whetstone Community Center to teach her how to fall, which led to a pilot class being held for a small number of students this spring.
The facility has a "wonderful gym with mats as thick as pillow beds," the instructor said.
"It is important to note that my Fearless Falling course is unique in that we actually practice real falls, albeit on very soft mats, along with the practice of balance and body movement awareness principles from tai chi and kung fu," Grigsby wrote in an email. "I often tell my young students at the OSU kung fu club, 'The falling methods you learn in the kung fu club may be the most important martial arts skills for your real life. You will not be attacked by nine ninjas in an alley, but you will fall sometime in the future.'"
The technique for avoiding injury in a fall involves simply curling up and sitting down, twisting a little in the process to avoid landing on the tailbone. That can make all the difference between "bruising your butt and breaking your hip," Grigsby said.
"The object is to train so that it is the motion to a sudden fall," he said. "The metaphor I like to use, really, is swimming. No one doubts if you're going to be near water it's a good idea to know some of the basics of swimming. A lot of people say they're never going to be a great swimmer or learn to swim a long distance underwater, but any knowledge of swimming, even the tiniest knowledge, is very important if you suddenly find yourself in water.
"It's very similar in falling. Even if you've gone through just the most basic lessons and practiced them a little bit, you'll learn things that work even in a sudden situation."
For more information, visit Grigsby's website, fearless falling.com.