We all fall in life. Falling physically though, can have some serious consequences. Whether we fall in sport, trip on the street, or get pushed by someone intentionally or unintentionally, the effects can range from mild to devastating. It is wise to be able to have some purpose and plan when this sort of thing occurs. Many martial arts teach proper and useful falling techniques. This discussion stems from the grappling realm. Although, this can potentially be applied to other arts, scenarios, and situations.
Awareness should usually be the first thing that comes to mind. Be aware of your surroundings. No matter if you are walking down a busy sidewalk or in a parking garage late at night, it never hurts to have a feel of what is going on around you. Also, when you have a better feel for your physical environment, you also have a mental note of what items and objects are around you. You might notice that the terrain is uneven or sloped. Maybe there are sharp objects or small spaces nearby, all of which could complicate the situation if you happen to fall, trip or be pushed.
First and foremost, it is paramount to protect your head if you do fall. When falling backwards or on your sides, be sure to keep your chin tucked so that there is less chance of an impact with the ground. Also, an important technique that is used to break the fall is using your hand or hands to slap the surface that you fall on [if it is flat]. Keep your palms down for this. This will help distribute the force towards your hands and possibly lessen the impact. One important thing to remember, though, is to not post out with your hands or extend your limbs fully in an attempt to stop the fall. This could potentially lead to a sprained or broken arm, or other injuries.
The overall goal is to minimize the fall as much as possible. A fall from a higher elevation will typically hurt more than a fall closer to the ground. When a fall does occur, the instinct is to immediately tense up. Rigid bodies can suffer greater injuries, try, and stay limber. Also, attempt to fall on the muscles, such as thighs or back, rather than on your bones. If possible, keep the fall going until it stops, rather than trying to end it as quickly as possible. This will spread the impact in more places rather than a concentrated area.
In martial arts and real life situations, falling with purpose can minimize injuries. It can help you get up quickly and make an escape if needed. In martial arts, especially in grappling ones such as judo, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling, training proper falling techniques will help you practice the sport safely and for a long time. When falling in training or competition scenarios, be sure to quickly get into a defensive posture when the fall is over. In general, it is always a good idea to practice in a safe manner, preferably under supervision of a trained professional.