The Parkour Roll, PK Roll, Shoulder Roll, Martial Arts Roll, Judo Roll, Safety Roll, or simply the Roll, is a breakfall widely used in Parkour and Freerunning. It is preformed by rolling from one shoulder to the opposite hip. The shoulder roll was first utilized by martial artists, who used it to dissipate the impact of throws and falls.
Unlike the gymnastics roll, the shoulder roll does not roll straight across the spine; rather, the roll starts from one shoulder across to the opposite hip. A good way to start is to go into a full squat and lean forward, placing both your hands to one side of your head (make sure not to put one hand outside your leg). Tuck the chin in, look behind you, and roll forward from your shoulder. Keep your knees tucked tight and remain in a ball shape; do not slap the ground with your feet. Eventually, do this standing with one foot forward (make sure you roll over the same shoulder as your lead foot) and finally with your feet parallel. Roll over your shoulder rather than coming down on top of it. Remember to practice both sides.
Going into the rolls
A roll must be executed with forward momentum; this makes it difficult to perform from a straight drop (although possible, this takes great strength in the legs, as forwards momentum must be created to allow the roll). Generally, traceurs leap outwards to perform a roll.
When you land and roll, always land with your feet parallel. Putting one leg in front of the other can cause anything from a sprained ankle to a broken leg when dealing with high drops.
When you touch the ground, push off into the roll rather than just crumpling into it. This is called "reverse blocking" and transfers dangerous downward momentum into harmless forward momentum.
There are many variations on hand placement. In most martial arts, the arm of the shoulder to be rolled over is kept slightly bent, and the roll moves over the whole arm to the shoulder to the hip. This method spreads the force over a larger area, reducing the risk of injury, but is slower, so it is used less in Parkour.
Another method, called the "thread the needle", involves placing the hand of the non-rolling shoulder on the ground, and bringing the other arm through the hole between your leg and other arm. This method is considered more dangerous as you cannot brace with your arms; therefore it is mainly confined to low impact applications.
The most commonly used methods in Parkour involve forming your hands into a triangle, then putting to the side opposite the rolling shoulder. This method allows the traceur to brace against the ground, making this a much safer version.
- Side roll: Not to be confused with the barrel roll. This roll is performed by tucking in the chin and holding out the arms as if holding a large exercise ball. The roll moves from one arm, across the shoulders, and over the other arm. The hips stay off the ground. Useful when over-rotating a sideflip.
- Backwards roll: Identical to the forwards roll but reversed, rolling from one hip to the opposite shoulder and back onto one's feet.
- Dive roll or diving roll: Identical to the forwards roll but diving so that one is completely in the air before rolling. The arms are the first part to touch the ground, then the roll is preformed normally. This can be used if one accidentally falls, to get over small obstacles, or for aesthetic purposes (in free running).
The roll is most commonly used in Parkour to dissipate the energy of a high fall. It can also be used if one over-rotates a flip, or simply if one trips (while doing Parkour or not).
- Make sure you have enough forward momentum. Not having enough can cause you to strike your shoulder rather than rolling over it.
- Never let your knee touch the ground, either when landing or coming up.
- Don't try it on cement at first. Practice on a mat, then carpet, then cement. Take it slow. If it is not painless, you are doing something wrong.
- A common mistake is rolling too straight, causing your Posterior Superior Iliac Spine, or PSIS (the little bone that sticks out just above the back of your hip) to strike the ground. When you exit the roll, make sure the knees are facing to the side (not forward).
- Even if you roll perfectly, your legs still take some of the impact. Make sure they are properly conditioned (see Landing).
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