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How To Perform A Ninja Style Martial Arts Forward Roll

Updated on December 14, 2012


When starting martial arts one of the first things to learn is how to roll properly. This is a useful skill no matter what martial art you train in, as if you do go down, get thrown or whatever, being able to roll and get up again quickly is useful.

This is also a nice skill to have in day to day life, if you ever fall over, then you can either hit the ground hard, breaking your wrists and face, or roll smoothly and get straight back to your feet. I know which I'd prefer. This article will help you learn how to roll properly.

Won't I break something?

To perform a forward roll properly, then you need to roll across your shoulder. If you do this, then you won't hurt anything and the roll will be pain free. If you look at the picture above, then the shoulder is the thing that hits the ground first. This is different from the way children do it, where they put both hands down either side of their head and then roll forwards.

To start your practice, stand with your legs slightly bent and with your lead arm also slightly bent above your lead leg. Something like this here.

Start like this to practice

Practice aiming for one of these as you roll to help the movement

Start by rolling on some of these

Once you can do it, you'll be able to roll on this sort of surface pain free. Yeah!

Trailing leg tucked in

How to perform a roll properly

If you roll properly, then you will end up in this position again very quickly. Notice the direction you're facing when you start the roll. This is the position and direction you want to end up in at the end of the roll.

When I was learning to roll, the person teaching me told me to imagine scooping something off the floor as I went over it in my roll. This was a good tip. So I'll tell you the same, but use something if you like instead of just imagining, something soft like an orange. This won't hurt you if you mess it up!

If you really have no confidence, then start your rolling practice on your knees and then follow the same advice as the standing version. Once you have it, then stand up and try it.

Start by practicing on something soft like mats, or grass. You can always work your way up once you have the technique right.

So to roll, step forwards almost over your item (your orange!), keep your eyes on it as you scoop down towards it, but instead of stumbling forward, just carry on the motion with your arm, so as you scoop down towards the ground and your shoulder then contacts the ground, you carry on scooping up behind you and then forwards.

Scooping will bring your shoulder into contact with the ground first. Tuck your head and trailing leg in (important), then you will roll forwards and as you go over, your trailing leg heel will hit the floor first. Start pushing yourself back to your feet with this leg as your front foot hits the deck flat side down, then get back into your starting posture ASAP.

This is a simple way to learn how to roll. The most important things to remember are

  • Stay relaxed while learning. If you stay relaxed you won't hurt yourself.
  • Make sure you have enough forward momentum to push yourself back onto your feet.
  • Roll over the shoulder to ensure that your back foot hits the floor first as you complete the roll. This will help you stand quicker.
  • Practice on something soft to start with so you don't hurt yourself.
  • Make sure you keep your head and trailing leg tucked as you go over. If you don't do this, then your legs will thwhack into the floor and you won't be able to get to your feet. If your trailing leg is tucked, this won't happen.

When you have mastered the technique, then you will be able to roll on hardwood floors or concrete as easily as grass or mats. This will only be done if you can carry on the scooping motion with the arm, as that is what will allow you to roll over the shoulder, rather than just shoulder barging the ground.

What can I use rolling for in my normal life?

Rolling is a useful skill, of course once you have mastered the technique, which isn't really too tough, then you'll be able to roll in different directions and regain your feet with ease. Something that this is good for is picking things up while training as well. I can roll and pick up knives, sticks etc from the floor easily and quickly. A useful skill in your martial arts training, maybe not so much in day to day life but rolling can still be useful.

I have been with someone who can roll, he tripped on an unseen branch, rolled and was back on his feet walking next to me almost instantly.

I didn't see this, but have been told about a martial artist who can roll who went straight over the handlebars of his motorbike when he hit something, managed to roll when he hit the floor and got straight back to his feet. That is definitely preferable to a trip to the hospital and he said he was almost as surprised he'd done it as the bystanders who witnessed it. This only comes with a bit of practice in the first place though but I'll bet he was glad he'd learned to roll!

Good luck and if you have any comments, please leave them below.



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    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      6 years ago from UK

      You basically launch yourself into it by pushing off your back leg. After a while you can do it while running, or if pushed.

    • cheezeaddict profile image


      6 years ago from Beaverton, Oregon

      Great article! Do you start by stepping with your front or back leg?

    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Well this is the time of year to do it, in the snow! Brrr, get your hat and gloves on first :)

    • AMFredenburg profile image

      Aldene Fredenburg 

      7 years ago from Southwestern New Hampshire

      Wow! I can see that this would be a valuable skill. Now I just have to work up the courage to try it. A thumbs-up and a share.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Yes my son taught me some and I did learn myself for a while, and no broken bones! lol!

    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks Nell, did he ever have you practicing any moves? Sadly I find any time I get any female family members to have a go at some martial art stuff, they usually say they can't do it for a bit, before then really going for it and going way over the top. My sister nearly broke my fingers once like this!

      Rolling is dead easy though.. Anyone can do it and you probably won't break anything.. ;)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      This brings back memories! my son learned karate, judo, and kick boxing! lol! so you can imagine....! interesting hub, and voted up! nell

    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks! You don't have to be into martial arts to have a go at this, get yourself into a field with the kids and all have a go at it. You'll have some fun if nothing else, but it is a handy thing to be able to do. Sooner or later we all fall over!

    • tammyswallow profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      This is very cool! You are a real ninja. I can see how this could be beneficial. You have some really unique hubs here.

    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      Well I have broken my nose and ribs while training but not while forward rolling, although I did get kicked in the head while rolling the other day which gave me a bit of neck ache. But so far nothing too serious!

    • dommcg profile image


      7 years ago

      A very interesting read, have you sustained many injuries while practicing these techniques?


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