Friday, August 6, 2010

'Falling off a scooter is as easy as "falling off a log"'

The above photograph sequence was printed in 1960 in the now defunct Weekend Mail, a Western Australian newspaper. The narration accompanying this photograph sequence was:
A motor scooter pillion passenger can fall off a scooter travelling at 30 mph and not hurt himself - if he knows how. One of the most unusual lessons in road safety was given to the members of the WA Lambretta Club last Sunday. Jujutsu teachers Jan de Jong ..., Margaret Kellond [(later Margaret de Jong)] ... (the rider) and Ali Scappelli ... demonstrated to members of the club ... that falling off a scooter was as easy as 'falling off a log.' 'The secret is to fall on the back of your shoulders and execute a monkey roll' explained club president Albert Vansteeg. 'The person must keep his head tucked well down and the knees must be drawn under the chin.' Falling off scooters is not a sport.
'Falling off scooters is not a sport' - an understatement if ever there was one. At least the newspaper had attended to their duty of care. De Jong would never encourage this sort of exercise, however, it is interesting to see how the training or testing of breakfalling techniques (ukemi-waza) was conducted by the 'old school.' While stressing that this was not the smartest thing to do, De Jong would, with a sly grin, tell me how he used to jump out of moving cars and trucks to perform ukemi-waza, specifically rolling techniques of course.

I've already described my youthful foolishness in performing bridgefalls (o-mae-ukemi) over wooden and metal card tables in a previous blog. Landing on the cobblestone streets of Europe was one of the more unpleasant breakfalling experiences. But somersaulting in the execution of breakfalling techniques on the sixth floor of an office block in the Jakarta CBD and seeing kite fighting going on outside the window has to be one of the more surreal breakfalling experiences.

Of course my moment of triumph came when I was undertaking rollerblading lessons. I was able to take to the lessons with some ease given my athletic ability honed by my heavy training schedule. We were being taught how to perform grass-stops where you roll off the hard surface onto the grass and come to a halt without a face-plant. The instructors, two lovely female competitive ice-skaters, often assigned me different exercises than the class because (a) I'd mastered the set exercise, and (b) I'm sure to humiliate me when I fell in order to bring me down to earth. After explaining and demonstrating the grass-stop they asked me to go first. As I rolled off the pavement the front wheels of my rollerblades dug in and I proceeded to be propelled face first into the grass, much to the amusement of said lovely instructors. Instinct took over and I performed a forwards roll (mae-kaiten-ukemi), and not only did I roll to my feet, I rolled to my feet facing the direction from whence I'd come and proceeded to skate backwards. The lovely instructors went from amusement to bemusement in the blink of an eye, much to my amusement.

Until next time.

John Coles
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1 comment:

  1. What is it about men and breakfalling? My husband often gets the urge to throw himself to the ground when we are out walking in the countryside - he's lucky never to have landed in a cowpat! Men can be soooo embarrasing sometimes :-)


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