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I practice Taekwondo. My biggest hurdle at the moment is that I am afraid of falling down. For example, when I do a scissor kick, I was told to level my torso to kick higher. But I am afraid that I keep it straight. The same to the legendary 540 spinning kick. My fellows told my to just let my body go, but I just can't.

Sometimes when I try jumping from a few steps higher, my landing is really bad. One of my fellows weigh 40lbs heavier than me, lands like a ninja. I envy him.

How to be comfortable jumping around?

Is there any method to train jumping around, like those fearless parkour guy?

Do you practise jumping or flipping on soft mat? Does it help? (I don't got access to these)

-- Update --

Wow~ I never could have expect to get so many useful replies in such a short time!! This place is great!!! By your replies, I should try more jumps and get some training in falling. Thanks for the replies.

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Good to hear the update. If you feel you've received an answer that suits your needs and answers your question, please consider selecting an answer by clicking the check mark. If not, then you can wait to see if you receive a better answer. –  stslavik Feb 23 '12 at 19:15
    
Too bad I can check only one answer. –  Lai Feb 24 '12 at 7:20
    
Can still upvote many tho. :) –  eidylon Mar 27 '12 at 19:08

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

tl;dr: The key to comfort in the air is learning how to fall.

There is no One True Answer to building this sort of confidence. Instead, I'm going to try to give you some specific tips that I've shared with students in class. Some of these suggestions have worked for some of those people: your mileage will vary.

How to be comfortable jumping around?

First, you must learn to fall safely. This front falling video and this side falling video are both excellent illustrations of fundamentals. However, watching them isn't close to sufficient. You must practice falling to the point where your instincts won't lead you to a broken wrist (or worse).

Worst case: if you ever fall over in real life, you might injure yourself less.

Do you practise jumping or flipping on soft mat? Does it help? (I don't got access to these)

I do but that's not the only option. I was the knife wielding attacker in our senior demo team at our local tournament some years ago. We were demonstrating in a high school gymnasium / basketball court. I was flipped and flopped many times during that demo and, while I can't say that the wooden floor was pillowy soft, it was much safer (and more comfortable) than a concrete floor.

Worst case: buy some exercise mats, stack them a couple of layers thick and practice falling at home.

Sometimes when I try jumping from a few steps higher, my landing is really bad.

Add jumping rope and jumping jacks to your daily routine (i.e., hundreds of each per week). Concentrate on landing towards the front of your foot (i.e., less weight impacting on the heel). That's where you'll have the most control over your balance. You'll also strengthen those calves: your landings might not be ninja soft immediately but you'll be able to put your whole leg system to work.

Worst case: Jumping rope is great exercise. Even if you don't turn into a ninja, you'll be more fit.

The same to the legendary 540 spinning kick. My fellows told my to just let my body go, but I just can't.

The 540 kick is very hard.

Full disclosure: I've never managed a clean 540 kick.

If I were coaching you, I would ask that you put that out of your mind an concentrate on achievable goals in the short term. Consider, instead, the tornado kick. Notice how, in that video, the instructors show you all the pieces of the puzzle on the ground. Also, even when everything is running at full speed, they never really get very high. Once you feel confident falling safely, you'll start to feel that that small number of inches off the ground really isn't so daunting.

Once you are approaching mastery of the tornado kick, I wouldn't advise going to the 540 kick directly even though that might seem logical. Instead, start practicing a series of tornado kicks: two in a row, three in a row, etc. Concentrate on the flow so it's not kick - pause - kick - pause but instead is a constant series.

Full disclosure: the combination of repeated tornado kicks is a bane of my existance. As soon as I think I can do N kicks in a row cleanly, I try N+1 and feel like a lumbering elephant.

Victory: if you get to this point, you'll realize that you lost your fear of falling long ago.

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The break fall video is great. I should try those falling techniques. I saw a 540 tutorial from the same master and he is making it seems very easy. I could do about 8-10 tornado kick in a row. But the last few kicks are not really kick :P I always move to the left side and they are not clean kick. I feel that once I can keep in position after each kick, I can do as many kick as I like. But tornado kick is a bit different coz I always got a leg pointing to the ground. But 360, 540 needs both legs in the air. –  Lai Feb 23 '12 at 14:45

Might sound silly, but practicing on a trampoline can help you get much more aware of where your body is in space, and a deeper understanding of your orientation.

it doesn't necessarily help your control or power, but understanding how you are about to fall can directly improve your ability to fall correctly, and that then makes you more confident.

Other than that - practice, practice, practice as often as you can.

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You could learn how to take ukemi (break fall). I would recommend learning from someone who knows how to teach it as well as do it. Otherwise, start small and build up -- that's how the parkour people do it.

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Remember to start low to the ground as well. It will allow you to be less afraid of the ground, and work on your technique. Eventually, however, you will have to just stand up and fall until you realize that you have trained yourself to be relatively safe –  Chris Feb 22 '12 at 13:54

The key to a successful jump is knowing how to land. In martial arts where trips, throws, sweeps, and such are common (jujitsu, aikido, etc.) you are also trained how to fall without hurting yourself. And the only way to be confident in your landing is to practice landing.

The key to landing is not to be already rigid when you hit the ground. Think about how crumple zones work in a car. In order to absorb the impact, you start out relatively loose, and only tighten up as you are either absorbing the force or redirecting it. For example, if you land into a roll, you are redirecting the energy of the impact behind you.

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Part of completing a jumping technique successfully is jumping high enough, so that you have more room/time to complete your technique. With that in mind, it might help to do some exercises that strengthen your muscles. Box jumps are used in parkour to train the body to jump higher, as well as a lot of muscles that involve strengthening the quads - squats, lunges, etc. Breaking down the technique will also help if you're having trouble with a particular part of the technique. Try evaluating what is holding you back - jumping, landing, technique, confidence?

Knowing how to take a fall is also important. Being able to walk away from a fall without injury goes a long way in boosting confidence. As others have suggested, break falls will help to learn how to recover from a fall. In parkour, (shoulder) rolls are one of the first things taught to ensure safe practice of the sport. If something feels like it's going to go wrong as you land, drop and roll. If mats aren't an option, rolls are usually more practical than breakfalls for a hard surface, but you should learn breakfalls too. If you can, start on standard mats (or soft grass) with someone who knows breakfalls. Enroll for a month at a martial arts that teaches breakfall if that's an option, or ask your instructors at your school to see if they teach it. Some taekwondo schools will. Regardless of your end goal, breakfalls are good to know if you plan to practice martial arts. You never know what can happen in sparring matches.

Again referencing parkour, one jump that may improve landing is the tuck jump. The focus placed on landing on the balls of your feet. It will help you work on balance when landing, and work on developing a soft landing. Here's a video:

tuck jump video

Parkour also builds on the tuck jump by then using it to hop from one "block of wood" [used abstractly, could be anything flat] to another. It's usually elevated from the ground so that you're actually jumping across a gap to land on the other side. Not something you would need to practice, but just putting it in context.

Ultimately, practice makes perfect.

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