When it comes to enrolling children under 10 years of age in sports, we look at Swimming as a survival skill first and a sport second. As it should be! However ... Gymnastics is looked at a bit like ballet. That being, as an elite sport that is great to watch, but not really relevant to the general public. I want to change that perception from sport to survival skill. Like swimming … One particular element of gymnastics ... specifically ROTATION ... should be something all parents have their kids learn and master ... in order to keep them safe. We swim not to drown. We should learn to rotate in order to not to end up with serious life threatening injuries. Just to be clear ... when I speak of 'rotation' I am talking about going upside down and rotating either forwards or backwards. I am not talking about twisting (IE: jumping with a full turn). Learning the ability to 'rotate' ... is a LIFE SAVER! At some point, somewhere and sometime you or your child, will fall and land upside down ... why? BECAUSE YOU CAN'T ESCAPE THE PULL OF GRAVITY!
It might be off the couch when you are 4
It might be off the monkey bars when you are 8
It might be off the skateboard at 15
It might be off your bike when you are 40
In the year 2000 I was living in LA teaching Kung Fu and one of my students was related to the famous Flying Cadona family. They were the first living trapeze troupe in history to do a quad sault to a catcher during their flying trapeze show. Since I had been a trapeze flyer in another life his father showed me all these original articles he had, one was written by his granddad, Alfred Cadona back in 1931 and it was all about ‘taking the fall’.
He wrote it beautifully let me read a quick transcript.
‘The chief concern of a person unfamiliar with the life of a circus performer usually runs to their insatiable curiosity concerning our fear of falling. The question necessitates a qualified answer. We don't fear falling, but we are not afraid we are going to fall. We know we are going to fall and all we can do about it is prepare ourselves that the results will be as negligible as possible’.
He then goes into detail about one particular incident and what goes through the mind of the falling performer and how the body reacts. At the end of the article he sums it up perfectly …
‘Please understand that I do not mean to convey the impression that the falls of a circus performer are a childish matter or that they are not dreaded. They are and there are times when in spite of everything one can do, the ambulance is summoned. BUT there are times when a herculean spasm of tumbling tricks and mid air manoeuvres have saved a life.Falls come from natural causes like gravity. The pull is always there. We never escape that pull but we can learn to master it, by practicing it and respecting it. Incidentally it is something more people should know.’
What should stand out is that last line …
Falls come from natural causes like gravity. That pull is always there!
This is why gymnastics or acrobatics or diving or body control sports that are similar ... are primarily life saving skills first and sports second.
Just like swimming!
What you instinctively do when you are falling ... will determine whether
a) You end up with a neck or spinal injury or brain damage
b) just bruised and battered and sore.
When you fall and it involves some form of rotation through the air, unless you are trained you get totally lost and have no idea which way is up or down.
So your brain says … stick your head out and look.
You do this and you expose the top of your vertabre and the bone structure, the muscles and the nerves.
You will end up in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.
That's not being dramatic ... It’s fact!
What you need to do ... needs to be a trained!
It needs to be a trained reaction because the most natural reaction is the opposite action and the worst thing you could do!
The life skill you need to learn and have so ingrained into your muscle memory like swimming … is to tuck your chin in ...
Because … Chin in saves skin!
Basically this rule applies to all forward and backward rotation skills.
It is a safety mechanism that must be learnt correctly, trained, practiced and mastered so it becomes ingrained into your subconscious reflex reaction.
... If you land on your neck/upper shoulders and your chin is in, you will be sore and bruised but a lot wiser for the fall.
That is why turtles pull their neck in when they sense danger … and this is a good analogy to give kids. If they left it out it would be exposed to risk and danger.
At Kids in Motion we understand the importance of mastering this skill and since the kids only do one hour a week, this basic skill is repeated in nearly all their classes, despite their age or length of time in the program.
To back up this concept let me tell a personal story:
When I was around 40 I was riding with my dog in the park each night … But since my bike was stolen I borrowed a spare bike from Sweat, that had no light or helmet. I knew the route well ... I had ridden it many times with my trusted kelpie.
But this time there were council works going on in the park and a ditch had been dug and not filled in by the workers.
I was riding my usual route when SUDDENLY ... my front wheel hit the ditch and before I knew what was happening I was mid air.
I landed on the concrete on the top of my head and almost knocked myself unconscious.
But one simple, learnt and practiced body action saved my life.
I tucked my chin in!
It was a subconscious action, wholly born back in the years when I either took the fall on the roll or took a licking.
Helmet or not … if I had kept my head out and chin exposed I was going to suffer a neck and spinal injury.
As it was I had to have brain scans and my hands and shoulders were sore for a few weeks for taking part of the brunt …
BUT my physical mechanical structure remained in tact.
My advice for parents with their kids at home … Get kids rolling at home as often and as frequently as you can.
Better still ...
Get them enrolled in a program that will teach them how to do it correctly and reinforce those lessons week in, week out.
SWIMMING ... AND ...ROTATION ARE THE 2 ESSENTIAL PHYSICAL LIFE SKILLS EVERY CHILD MUST LEARN AND MASTER!