First of all, in response to some of the comments in the blog I wrote recently on What Do You Teach First, I never said that I DON'T teach falling. In fact, I said that I spend 10 or 15 minutes on it the first day of class and 5 minutes or so every class after that. So, I do teach how to fall and reinforce that teaching almost every practice. For someone to be a good judo player, he or she cannot be afraid of falling and everyone is going to get thrown at some point, probably at several points in every practice.
What I DON'T agree with is the old-fashioned way of spending two or three weeks or more just having people learn falling. I have heard various justifications for this,
"We want to make sure the students were serious about learning before we waste any time teaching them."
"If you don't know how to fall, you can get seriously injured, so we don't start the students on throws until we are satisfied with falling."
"Falling is the most important part of judo and the most difficult to teach."
I think all of those are wrong. Students shouldn't have to PROVE to you their worthiness to learn judo, or anything. If a person comes to me and wants to learn statistics or judo or any other class I had agreed to teach I think it is being an arrogant jerk to first make them go through some ritual to prove they are worth my time.
The second justification is true in some cases. If you don't use a crash pad and students are going to be thrown hard from a standing position in free practice, then yes, you probably have to teach them to fall well first. Personally, I have them do throws from their knees when they are doing matwork in the first practice. I also have them do throws on the crash pad.
So, although we do throws the first day, we don't have anyone getting thrown hard on the mat for a few weeks, just like my friends who teach falling for weeks. The difference is that my students get to do some throws the first day.
At Gompers Middle School, I pretty much start each year with a fresh class of beginners. At other programs where I have taught, if I have more advanced students, I would let them new students work out with them and have the advanced player just defend. Either way, a new student gets to throw and pin someone on day one, that's why they are there.
The whole most important, most difficult to teach part I don't really get. Sylver and Chad both made a great point in the comments on the last post, though, that LOTS of people never get in a fight where they need to throw or arm bar someone but everyone falls down. I've fallen down ice-skating, biking (when some idiot ran across the bike path), roller-blading and who knows when else. So, they do have a point. If you define important as "likely to use outside of judo", then okay.
The most difficult to teach? I still don't get that part.