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Types of Rolls: A Step by Step Walkthrough - #PepsTutorials
Types of Rolls Pop Culture

Types of Rolls: A Step by Step Walkthrough

Types of Rolls: A Step by Step Walkthrough (Additional Notes)

3 Types of Rolls

Introducing 3 types of rolls that are often seen in popular movies. This series will be focusing on rolls that moves in the frontward direction. The basic Shoulder Roll, the  Dive Roll, and the 180 Dive Roll.

The featured movies in the order of uploads are;

  • Captain America – The Winter Soldier
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • John Wick
  • Captain America – Civil War
  • Alita: Battle Angel
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle

The way that I perform these rolls are picked up from my training in Parkour & Free Running. Hence, you may find that the techniques shown in these rolls may differ marginally between disciplines. Each martial art performs the shoulder roll slightly differently from the next. And therefore, so would the progression and teaching methods.

If you use a different method, feel free to share it with me! I’m super interested in learning the various approaches of different arts.



Before you begin learning any of these, we have to do a run down of your physical health. Do you have any history of injury or medical procedures done to your spine? Any history of whiplash or neck sprains?

If yes you would need to take extra care, and be extra aware if any of the postures places pressure on those critical parts of your spine.

Seek out soft surfaces when you begin learning. Yoga mats may be too thin. If you can help it, a thicker cushion like martial arts tatami or tumbling mats are preferable. However if they aren’t available, you can always use our neighborhood fitness corners or soft grass patches.

Types of Rolls A – Shoulder Roll

Disciplines that commonly features this roll;

  • Parkour & Free Running
  • Aikido
  • Judo
  • Jiu Jitsu

Safety Notes – Wrists

Firstly, it’s my right shoulder is the side that contacts the ground. So I’m going to call that my lead hand. If you roll on the other side, just mirror all the instructions.

You’ll want to orientate your lead hand to point completely towards the other arm or at least 45 degrees. That way when you begin the forward leaning motion to initiate the roll, your wrist isn’t at risk of being hyper-flexed.

Secondly, the main contact point isn’t the entire palm. The main contact focus is the blade of your palm. Where the big meaty area called the heel of the palm is, go to the outer side, directly below your pinky finger. If you align your contact properly, you’ll heavily reduce the pressure on your wrists.


Safety Notes – Head & Neck

The best way to remind yourself not to hit your head is to push your ear onto the opposite shoulder that you are rolling on. That way it’ll be completely clear and out of the way.

It’s best to get used to doing this very early on in your progression. Because while it isn’t a huge danger in the basic shoulder roll, the moment you progress to the Dive Roll, it’s a big deal to hit your head. Hence, drill it until it doesn’t take conscious effort to keep your head out of the way.


Safety Notes – Spine & Tail Bone

The reason why the shoulder roll goes diagonally across the back, is because unlike the gymnastic’s forward roll which was made for executing on mats exclusively. However, the shoulder roll can be applied safely on concrete. Going across instead of vertically down, allows the big muscle sets on the shoulder blades to function as cushion against the hard ground.

Moving down the line of contact, you want to be very careful not to strike the middle of your spine rolling across it especially when you are on concrete and hard surfaces. The key is to engage the ‘Erector Spinae‘, which are the muscle chains running down the sides of your spinal column.

When you engage them, the muscles will harden and raise. Thus performing their role as a cushioning layer between you and the ground, protecting the disks of the spines. However, there for those whom are severely underweight, there may be a chance there isn’t enough muscle/fat mass to act as sufficient cushioning. If you find that to be the case, you can feel free to PM me and I can advise on exercises that will help develop those muscle groups.


Safety Notes – Tail & Hip Bone

On one hand, there is your tail bone which you want to avoid striking. But on the other hand, if you slant too far to the side, you’ll end up striking the side of your hip bone. In between them, where the ‘Erector Spinae‘ meets your Glutes(butt muscles), and that’s the muscle group you want to roll over.


Questions & Interactions

@willybunard Imho. We aint need two hand when we do the roll. Just use back of our arm and than do the roll.

That’s very true, the ability to execute the roll with one hand is a good marker that you technique is correct well practiced. Additionally in practice, it is vital to be able to do it with one hand as that is the case when you are slammed by any typical Aikido or Judo throws.

However, it’s best to begin to learning it with both hands, that way we don’t risk smashing our faces into the ground.

Furthermore, the double palm placement is vital in the next 2 rolling techniques below.



Types of Rolls B – Dive Roll

Disciplines that commonly features this roll;

  • Parkour & Free Running
  • Judo

Safety Notes – Wrists

Be very aware of how much impact you are loading into your wrists here. The palm contact should only be a transitory moment, absorbing less than a quarter of all the energy. Do not attempt to eat all the impact with your arms. Even if you got arms the size of Dwayne Johnson it’s still not a great idea.

Take 20% – 25% of the energy slowing your descent marginally, and then send everything outwards and transit onto the rest of the contact points immediately.

Don’t try and eat all the impact with your wrists alright, I don’t want to hear of any shattered wrists. There are 8 tiny and complex bones in your wrist, they are pretty tough to put back together once they get knocked around.


Safety Notes – Smooth transition of contact points

Remember to touch every single on of the contact points; Palms, down the blade of your forearm past the elbow, down the triceps chain, and over to the shoulder blades. Slant line down to the left butt and out.

If you ever skip any contact point, say if you miss the forearm > elbow > triceps points, all that energy is going to go straight into the next point. Next thing you know, you are bashing your shoulder blade right into the concrete. Thus, unless you’re packing serious meat on the shoulders, it’s an express ticket to blue-black town.


Safety Notes – Head & Neck

Hitting your head in a dive roll is a bad idea. Big ouchie, big no no. Keep the brain suitcase tucked clear to the side always.


Questions & Interactions

@ghostdanilo What about your left knee touching the concrete?

During the first progression stage of the shoulder roll above, the knee on ground is there to assist our learning of the roll from a lowered position.

However for the dive roll, the knee shouldn’t touch the ground for the dive roll at all. Your palms should be the first contact point, and follow by the rest of the contact chain. Bashing your knee in this dive roll technique will be dangerous as the energy in this movement is much larger.



Types of Rolls C – 180 Dive Roll

As far as I know, the only discipline that features this roll is in Free Running. Although there is an advanced break-fall in Aikido called the feather-fall that utilities pretty much the exact same principles.

Safety Notes – Wrists

Same safety note as in the dive roll. If your forearm is perfectly perpendicular to the ground, all the pressure is going to go right into your wrist. Hence, always try and contact the ground with your forearm slanted at around a 45 degree angle. Next, direct the energy out onto the next contact point.

Remember that your palm is only a transitory contact point alright. Say no to shattered wrists.


Safety Notes – Engage your core

Firstly, imagine if you hold up an end of a piece of string, the other end touching the table. When you let go it goes straight down and crumples into itself.

Next, now imagine a steel spoon. When you let go, it flops outward to one side, the energy goes out. That’s what you want to be.

If your core is relax by the time your hand hits the ground, you are gonna fold into yourself like that string in the analogy. Although this applies to the Dive Roll as well, this will be a bigger problem in this roll than any others. I made the mistake of relaxing my core once when I was tired, and lemme tell you, I folded harder than my morning laundry.

Be the spoon, be solid and strong. Hold that curve in your spine and your roll will go out fine. Be the spoon.



@ruzainimazani The strength just to safely do it..ooof

This roll does require a base amount of upper body strength and conditioning to perform safely. However it’s not as much strength as you may think.

Rather, as long as you can hold a handstand for up to 5 seconds with good form, you generally have the structure to perform this technique.

On the other hand, although that may be true, I would always recommend that we have a slight excess in power when learning a new technique. In the event that our angle is off, or the energy miscalculated, we can still have some excess strength to save ourselves and break-fall safely.

Conversely, the exact amount of excess strength I prefer, is if you could perform 6 reps of wall-assisted handstand push ups. With that much strength, you can safely say that your shoulders, triceps and wrists can handle your body weight coming down in that angle.



@dikokissimonofficial Do you have any wrist warm up sequence?

This is a very good question, it’s true that the wrists are at some risk of having quite a bit of weight loaded into it here, and so warm ups will be important.

Save for the explosive nature of dive rolls, the warm ups for the dive rolls are pretty much identical as the warm ups for handstands.

  1. Wrist rotations (Inward & outward rotations)
  2. Wrist range of motion stretches (Upward, downward, inward and outward stretches)
  3. Compression stretches (In pushup position, keeping you elbows straightened, lean forward until near the limit of your mobility range. Ease back. Repeat.
  4. Compression rotations (Draw in a circle above your palms with your chest as the marker)
  5. Handstand holds (Maintain proper alignment and hold position for 5 – 10 seconds, with or without a wall support are both fine)
  6. Clapping push ups (to brace for the impact absorption)




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Peps Goh is a Singapore based Fight Designer, providing Action Choreography & Coordination services for both screen and stage.
He also holds screen-combat & stunt seminars annually for actors & performers. Private coaching sessions up to a group of 4 are available. For business inquiries, you can reach him at

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