Every year, millions of people 65 and older fall, according to the CDC, and three-million of them go to the emergency room.
You probably wouldn’t think that martial arts could be the answer, because while you can’t plan for a fall, you can practice for it.
Kupuna are falling left and right in this class by the non-profit Kupuna Aikido Hawai’i.
William Doi, Co-founder of Kupuna Aikido Hawai’i coaches a student through a fall.
“Reach, turn turn this way, right there you go,” he explained.
It’s a purposeful fall, the “best” way to fall to cushion impact.
“The thing we want to make sure you don’t do is hit the back of your head and your tailbone,” Doi explained to students. “There are many many classes out there that teach prevention which is really important but we go just a little step further, in case you start falling what do you do next.”
Michael Ho is 78 years old, taking a Kupuna Aikido Hawai’i class.
“We’re all aware of falling and things like that, it’s always in the back of our minds that this might happen we should be able to do something about it,” he said.
As Ho demonstrated the fall, Doi said “that’s exactly how a fall will occur, we’re doing everything in slow motion but when you actually fall you’re gonna fall like that or even faster.”
Take the eggs in a box demonstration – start low, move horizontal.
“As you can see none of the eggs are broken and that’s exactly what happens when you fall,” Doi explained. “If you fall like this you’re gonna get hurt but if you fall like that you probably not gonna get hurt, we cannot guarantee 100% no injury but what we’re hoping a lot to do is instead of getting injured that much you get injured only that much.”
And yet, Doi said, with Aikido, it’s not necessarily the physical, rather the idea of mindfulness.
“On the average, the person comes here with a blank sheet of paper in their mind, they don’t know anything, so whatever we input is the only thing that’s there,” Doi said. “So when they’re falling that’s the only thing that comes to the surface because they know of nothing else, and hopefully that’s the thing that protects them.”
Doi says so far they’ve heard back from 8 students who’ve fallen – scrapes and bumps but not one broken bone. Susan Glanstein is one of them.
“Thank God I was in this class because after the 3rd class I actually fell,” she said. “I was so busy yacking with a friend of mine at the university, that I tripped with my left foot and I actually used one of the techniques we were practicing today.”
These are six of the seven founders who met where they learned, the Aikido Ohana. Their sensei asked them to create a class for seniors, it was so popular they started the non-profit offering 8 week sessions for just $25. Right now it’s at rec centers like this in Halawa, planning another in Mililani.