In Russian, there is the term сгруппироваться ("to group yourself together"), which means "fold your body, bend your legs and arms". This action is believed to be helpful when falling, since it helps one minimize injury.

I looked up translations for сгруппироваться in Multitran and found these:

wrap; ball the legs; draw the knees up to the chest; tuck; tuck oneself up.

Which of them is the term you would most likely use in this sentence:

During training, while trying to perform a move, the athlete failed to ___, and he went sprawling.

Here's a description of this "group-yourself" action in Russian, with a picture:

enter image description here

  • I think you have to go for the expression fall properly/safely: wikihow.com/Fall-Safely
    – user 66974
    Jan 18, 2018 at 14:07
  • @user159691 - no, the expression I'm seeking is not "fall safely" but that particular action; it could be performed by a diver who is making multiple moves in flight from the platform to the water surface. Jan 18, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    Google Books thinks fetal is twice as common as foetal (900K hits compared to 464K), but it has more hits for adopt a foetal position (85) than for adopt a fetal position (61), which to my mind suggests this is more of a BrE usage. Jan 18, 2018 at 14:13
  • 1
    In athletics, you would say: failed to assume the/ a tuck position. One assumes a position in gymnastics, etc. Those programs like Multi-tran don't list the meanings properly. The trick here is the verb assume.
    – Lambie
    Jan 18, 2018 at 14:58
  • There is also the 'brace' position, used in air transport, which is as close to the 'foetal' or 'tuck' position as aeroplane seating permits.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 18, 2018 at 17:40

4 Answers 4


The tuck position

  • resembles a ball with the knees bent and the legs pulled as close to the body as possible. Each hand should grasp the leg on the shin, midway between the knee and the ankle. The toes should be pointed and the legs kept together as the diver goes off the board.

(Encyclopedia Britannica)

enter image description here From (yogawithv.wordpress.com)

The term comes from diving:


  • As a folded-up diving position, from 1951.
  • To expand on the "least dangerous" aspect of the question, the
    – Oldbag
    Jan 19, 2018 at 1:42
  • In some sports, tucking would kill you.
    – Lambie
    Jul 3, 2018 at 14:38

The expression, "brace oneself for the fall" (or "brace oneself to fall"), may be what you are asking.

  • 1
    This can be a good answer if a citation/reference can be provided. Jan 18, 2018 at 15:14
  • Not sure what you are asking--if it's a good answer which appropriately addresses the question--and presumably not in dispute, why is there a need for citation? Still, here's one source: macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/brace_1
    – YLearn
    Jan 18, 2018 at 15:24
  • 3
    I am just trying to help. Please refer to a different answer which is written in a better way. Also refer to the info on single-word-request tag (not able to figure out the link on mobile app, but I trust you will be able to figure it out) to understand how to write good answers. HTH. Jan 18, 2018 at 15:34
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    ‘Brace’ was the first word that came into my head, too, though not necessarily as a full-on verb—I was thinking more of “Brace, Brace” as (thankfully rarely) used in the airline industry. Jan 18, 2018 at 17:27

In martial arts and some sports, adopting a specific posture when falling to avoid injury is called a breakfall or sometimes break fall.

It originates from the phrase "break one's fall" which is a more general phrase that means reducing the impact of a fall, but this phrase is more general, and while it could mean the person took action, it could also mean someone or something else helped reduce the impact, for example: "He fell out of the window, but the awning broke his fall, and he was not seriously injured."

There are various different breakfall techiques for specific situations, but the concept is the same: adopt a posture which allows you to roll and distribute the force of falling over time rather than having a sudden jarring impact. Martial arts breakfalls are also intended to allow you to quickly regain your footing and adopt a defensive posture.

Breakfalls may not always look exactly like the picture provided in the question, but they generally involve tucking or curling the body and rolling.

Examples: "During training, while trying to perform a move, the athlete failed to breakfall, and he went sprawling."

"Bobby, you need to work on your breakfalls or you're going to hurt yourself in the judo tournament."


You could say 'compose himself' while falling, which has the sense of 'organising the body tidily' and 'getting ready'. You can say 'composed himself into a ball'.

'Prepared himself for impact by composing himself into a ball'

He curled up to protect himself from impact.

  • 3
    composing into a ball doesn't sound English to me.
    – Lambie
    Jan 18, 2018 at 14:56
  • Here's an example: books.google.co.id/…
    – Jelila
    Jan 18, 2018 at 15:38
  • 1
    I'm with Lambie, 'composing into a ball' sounds completely unnatural/non-native-speakerish Jan 18, 2018 at 16:04
  • I am a native English speaker, from England. It sounds fine to me, and I have heard it. Maybe it has fallen out of use, as I can only find one example of it, from a book. It isn't 'composiing into a ball' It's 'he composed himself into a ball' as in 'he composed himself into a ball - to resist attack' or 'he composed himself into a ball - and rolled down the hill'
    – Jelila
    Jan 18, 2018 at 23:43

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