Youth karate teacher falls back on training to save his life in accident

Published 7:02 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

Bainbridge karate teacher Walter Lang is known as Master Lang to his students.

He can be found training with both kids and adults almost every day of the week at Goju Karate and MMA Fitness Center on Florida Street, teaching them self-defense, the importance of fitness and guiding them to build a relationship with the Man Upstairs.

Lang was able to teach his students an entirely new lesson when they came to class on Wednesday: what he’s teaching them saves lives, including their own.

Email newsletter signup

While coming down from the roof of the karate center to turn on a water pump during a rainy Tuesday evening, Lang’s ladder slipped out from under him. The 62-year-old found himself free-falling more than 10 feet before landing on the hard concrete below.

“So many things flashed through my head at that moment,” Lang said, but his karate training came naturally. “We teach the kids that you don’t fall, you prepare for a landing.”

So Lang’s muscle memory kicked in and did just that. Decades of learning how to properly land on the softer mats while training in the gym suddenly became a lifesaver. He turned his body and hit the ground with his arm a split second before his body did to absorb some of the impact.

“It was just automatic,” Lang said. “I laid there, and even though I was is pain, I was crying and thanking God that I didn’t fall forwards or backwards. It would have been a totally different story.”

About to pass out from the pain, Lang was able to crawl back inside and reach a phone to call his sister. He was immediately driven to Memorial Hospital, and then taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital the next day.

Miraculously, nothing was broken.

“The doctor said I was so lucky, but I said luck has nothing to do with it,” Lang said. “It was my guardian angel.”

Lang will be walking slowly with a hobble and wearing a sling for the next few months while his bruises heal, but he was thankful nothing worse happened, and also plans to use this as a lesson for his kids.

“All that stuff we teach them about not falling, but landing; it’s real and it works,” Lang said.