Advanced Technique: the Front Roll-Fall
The front roll-fall technique uses the third principle of Fearless
Falling, rolling, to absorb and redirect the dangerous forces of a forward fall at
speed. This kind of fall usually happens when engaging in some
sport activity: skating, skiing, biking, running, Parkour, etc..
The bad things about these falls are the velocity and danger; the good
thing is that you are usually aware of the potential hazard, so are not
as startled and have more time to apply a safe falling technique.
roll-fall technique requires some arm strength, core strength, and good
chin-tuck and rolling skill. You should not attempt to learn the
front roll-fall technique until you have mastered the basic
"tuck-sit-roll" side back-fall method.
* * * IMPORTANT NOTE * * *
The main idea is to transform the energy of your forward and downward
momentum into angular momentum: the forward rolling of your whole
body. You essentially shape your body into a hoop which then
rolls across the ground. By curling up and tucking your head out of the way you land mostly on your back shoulder area
instead of striking face or head-first. The energy of the
fall is absorbed by the landing of the feet and by sliding along the ground on the side of your back
and buttock. In the most advanced version, the legs are pulled in, and
the remaining angular momentum is used to lift you right back up off of
the ground into a standing position. This method is rather magical
looking and can allow you to avoid scraping along the ground to "burn
off" the excess energy of the fall.
The figure to the left shows the areas of the body that are used to
absorb the force of the roll-fall. The extended arm is "dashed"
because it does not absorb much force -- it only guides the upper body
into the roll. The major force absorption is by the upper back,
behind the shoulder, down across the back to the opposite gluteus
maximus muscle and into the back of the thigh and side of the leg. Note: you do NOT roll across the hip bone (major trochanter) in a proper roll-fall.
The First Roll-Fall Step: Rolling at floor-level.
The "floor" in these photos is a gymnastics mat. You should learn the movements on a mat up to four inches thick.
The lead arm must be rotated inward and gently bent. The
extended fingers of the hand are pressed together, and they point downward
and backward towards your legs. This arches the arm in
front of you with the elbow joint up, the hand below it.
Note: your lead elbow is pointing out in the direction of the
The other arm is arched with the fingers pointing forward. Your two
hands are close to each other,
pointing opposite directions, so that your two arms form an angled hoop.
Tuck your chin towards your chest on the lead arm side, and your
head will be close to the hoop formed by your arms.
Push off with your rear foot, and tighten your core muscles to hold the
curved body shape. Keep your lead arm "springy" and extended, so
you will roll right over it to the back of your shoulder.
As you continue rolling, try to maintain the curve of your body,
and keep the legs bent at the knee. Rolling at an angle across
the back, the gluteus maximus will impact the mat, followed by the left
leg (in these photos) which will come over and strike the mat on its
side. The right leg should strike with the foot alone (preferably
the ball of the foot, not the heel) due to the 45 degree angle of the
frontal plane of the body.
The arms and hands wrap protectively around the head as the roll finishes.
As seen in the video below, the energy generated by the roll is absorbed by the feet striking, and the remainder is
"burned off" by the friction of the body sliding across the mat a bit.
In the beginning learning stage, at low speed with proper mats, this is not a
Remember, the most important objective in a head-first forward fall is
to protect the head from traumatic brain injury. Some scrapes and
bruises from sliding are a small price to pay for avoiding a serious or fatal injury.
Here is a full floor-level practice roll, shown at half-speed.
This is usually called a "right-side roll-fall" because it starts
on the upper right side.
You should always practice roll-falls on both your right and left sides.
The Roll Fall from a Standing Position
The next step is to start from a higher position.
First, just crouch down very close to the kneeling position as
shown above. Then gradually move higher until you can confidently
start your roll from a normal standing position. At this height,
it is important to think of the lead arm as the start of a great curve,
arcing down to the mat with your body following its line. Here is
a full practice roll to side-fall position at normal speed:
Again, notice how stopping the rotation at the end of the roll fall transforms the angular momentumback
into forward momentum. Some of the energy of the fall is lost
through the action of the buttocks, legs, and feet striking the
mat. The remaining kinetic energy must still be
dissipated by frictional heat loss as the body slides across the mat.
The Complete Roll Fall back up to Standing Position
The final version of the roll fall recovers the energy in the
angular and forward momentum of the fall by using it to lift the weight
of the body back up from floor level to a standing position again.
neat trick is done by folding the left leg (in this "right-side" roll)
in closer to the pelvis, with the right foot coming over a bit ahead of
The body is kept in a circular shape, and essentially keeps rolling.
As the center of mass lifts up over the feet, the forward and
angular velocities are both reduced as the energy is drawn off by the work required
to lift the whole body back up to a standing position. In this demonstration, with little forward momentum to start, the
kinetic energy gained in the fall closely matches the energy needed to return
In a higher speed fall (from running or biking), you may have to take several steps to run off
the energy at the end, or even do two or more consecutive rolls.