When Judo Saved Me from Plastic Surgery

Picture this – you’re running. The street is next to you, The Weeknd is pumping in your ears.

Then your right earbud starts falling out (those damn earbuds). Reaching up with your left hand, you catch it and push it back into place. There’s about 0.5 of a second as your arm crosses your face, that you lose visual with the ground. Just enough time for you to also miss a slight rise in the concrete path.

Your toe snags on the incline and – left arm still across your face – you’re running and you’re falling.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

This exact scenario happened to me. Running home from the gym, I used my left hand to fix my right earbud because I had a bag over my right shoulder, and was also holding my phone in my right hand. Home was in sight as I accelerated for a final sprint when my foot hit the 2cm rise between concrete slabs.

And I could only feel myself falling, because remember – I still had my arm across my face.

What happened next?

I registered “Oh shit” as gravity kicked in and my feet kicked out.

And before I had the choice of what to do, my upraised left arm tucked down sideways and 14 years worth of instinct pulled my hurtling body into a perfect judo shoulder roll.

So perfect, I actually popped back up onto my feet, and was catapulted by my “sprint” momentum to stumble forward a few more steps.

Looking down, my phone remained unharmed in my right hand, bag over my right shoulder, and earbud (now completely dislodged) in my left hand.

I can only imagine what the passing cars thought of it – someone at full sprint in the process of face-planting perform a smooth roll at the very last moment.


Learning to fall properly is a basic life skill – for children and especially for adults.

It is a foundation to play any sport: rugby, soccer, gymnastics – except maybe swimming. Consider that one of the most common injuries is a broken clavicle/wrist/arm due to sticking an arm out when falling (see here). These injuries are preventable if proper falling techniques are already pre-programmed and practiced in your movement patterns.

Judo specialises in falling safely. We call these breakfalls, and there are many variations of these – forward, side, back, rolling.

And on that chaotic, slightly embarrassing day, it saved me hundreds of dollars in medical bills and a possible facial reconstruction.

Bonus: If you read this story, and want a re-enactment, see me at training and I’ll let you laugh in person at my ridiculousness.

By Mel Budiarto