Almost every physical, fighting discipline you will be taught how to roll correctly, an invaluable skill that I’ve had to use more than once in my life thanks to my knack for tripping over things when running without looking where I’m going. But how does one roll correctly?
Well the theory is pretty self-explanatory: The idea behind a roll is to transfer the impact you body would receive on landing into forward momentum and in so doing, prevent your joints (particularly knees) from taking too much strain.
To do this correctly, you need to set your body position up correctly. If you have jumped from an elevated position, you can take the initial landing impact with your legs, but at the point of landing, bend your knees and lean forward with your arms bent out in front of you to act as the start of your roll curve. From this point you tuck your head towards your chin and roll over on your favoured shoulder, aiming to begin the roll from the top-right hand side of the back of your shoulder down to the your bottom-left side of your back, crossing over instead of down the spine in other words. (If your preferred shoulder is the right one. Change direction if you start from the left side).
You want to avoid rolling straight down the centre of the spine as the impact received directly on your spine will most certainly badly injure your back.
The best way to learn how to roll correctly is to select a soft underfooting like a spongy yoga mat or the lawn perhaps, crouch down low so that you are already sitting on your haunches and then launch yourself into a roll from that position. As your roll improves, so the height at which you launch into a roll increases and eventually you can move onto harder floor types in order to perfect the skill.
Back when I did monkey style Kung Fu, the goal was to eventually be able to comprehensively (and without pain or injury!), execute a roll on a tarred road – from a running leap! Needless to say, in order to achieve this took a lot of practice and effort! But that said, once learnt, it is one of those invaluable skills if you ever find yourself living out a bit of a rough and tumble lifestyle! :)