Martial Art Rolls and Falls by Rick Tew


Rolls have proven to be extremely practical in self-defense and self-protection. Here are the two most common reasons to develop your rolls and falls:

  1. Self-Defense: Protection when someone is attacking you.
  2. Self-Protection: Defense when the ground is attacking you.

These are the two most important reasons to learn your rolls and falls.  A better understanding of how the body works and an increased control of the body in all movements will enable the ninja to get the most out of their ninja training applications.  Once one has become familiar with the techniques, try performing them from each of the stances. For example: cat stance then reverse roll or horse stance then side roll etc.

Stunt Training

People are always asking me “how is it, that with all the seemingly dangerous movements and stunts we do in the Martial Science (just take a look at my Grand Canyon Jump), that we don’t get seriously injured on a regular basis?”  Well, the best way to answer this is by saying, “We are really good at hitting the ground.”  We practice crashing so often, that we actually experts at it. We don’t freak out like the average person would when a crisis arises. So if someone ever was to throw you to the ground, you could handle it.  Most efficient martial artists and all the Martial Science practitioners are great stunt men and women.

Here is something to remember: “Learn the stunt or stunt your growth.”  The reason I say, “learn the stunt” is that when training with your partner you will need to learn how to go with the flow. This isn’t always understood and the exact reasons you need to learn your rolls and falls.  For example, if your partner is performing a takedown and you don’t know how to take a fall, you could seriously injure yourself. Since bone breaking is an advanced skill, we will stick to basics when learning our rolls and falls.

When you work with techniques, you will need to know the limits of your body.  A throw can be used to damage your opponents spine, but you don’t try to do this in a training session. If you or your partner resist too much, you could end up meeting the reality of a technique.  You have to play a stuntman when training – at least at some level you do.

For example, let’s say that your partner is working a basic defense against a wrist grab.  You grab the wrist and he defends with a finger strike to the eyes and a knee to the groin, followed by another strike and then a takedown.  Let me ask you this: Would you like your partner to really scratch out your eyes? Would you like a full knee to the groin? How about having your head smashed into the ground when you fall?  So naturally we can’t practice as if every situation is real or your partner would be sent to the hospital every night.  But your partner does need to act as if it was real.  If you don’t learn the stunt, it will stunt your growth.  So learn to go with your opponent by reacting as if your eyes were scratched and learn how to fall so you don’t break your neck.

Naturally there is a required level of balance here.  Nothing irritates an advanced student more than a beginner rolling over like a rag doll. Offer enough resistance to train your partner and develop their skills and at the same time creating a level of safety for you both.

In the beginning

I remember my first day learning to grapple.  The instructor paired us up and said “wrestle.”  Well, I had never wrestled before and had no idea where to start. My opponent wasn’t any more educated than I was.  We didn’t know how to stand, where to begin or what to do when we hit the ground.  So we just rolled around the mat feeling like a couple of idiots.  Although our instructor had his reasons for starting us out like this, (maybe it was to show us what we didn’t know), it really felt awkward.  The same thing applies in the martial arts.  Knowing how to stand and fall will help you not only fit in with the program, but also keep you from making mistakes in combat, as well as in practice.

Okay, let’s review the basic rolls and falls taught in the Martial Science:


These are basic movements you will start off with in your Ninja / Ninjitsu training. Designed to protect against the ground while falling forward and/or create distance between oneself and an attacker.

Step forward, place lead arm down with elbow near leading foot (arm may touch surface).

Tuck the head (looking back) push off with the rear leg.

Allow your body to rock forward into the roll across from shoulder to the hip.

Keep the feet tucked during the roll.

Come out of the roll hands up turning to face the

direction the roll was begun.


Designed for falling backward and/or broadening the distance between oneself and an attacker.

Lift the lead leg forward and sit straight down onto the heel of your rear leg.

Lower your head arching your back, eyes focused in front of you.

Allow the momentum of your body to carry you into the roll.

Keep the head to one side as both legs go over the opposite shoulder.

Keep the feet tucked during the roll coming up into a defensive position.


An exercise developed to teach students how to fall forward and land with minimum injury.

Facing the falling surface, slide the feet back into a horse stance.

Slide your feet back again falling forward onto the balls of the feet.

The forearms break the fall palms down in the shape of a triangle.

Knees are off the ground and the head is turned  sideways.

Bring one knee up and roll   forward coming into a protective stance.


An exercise developed to teach the student to fall backward landing with minimum injury.

Extend one leg sitting on the rear heel.

Naturally rock back keep the head up slap both arms down to break the fall.

Cross the arms above the face and bring the rear foot against the leading thigh.

Apply kicks then proceed with a reverse roll coming up in a protective stance.


An exercise developed for dropping sideways and landing with minimum injury.

Facing the falling surface sideways, slide the lead leg up and to the left.

Lower your weight straight down onto the heel of the ground leg.

Fall to the right and slap the ground with the right arm breaking the fall.

Enter a protective position and apply a side kick.

Safety First

All falling techniques are designed to minimize shock or injury whether falling, being thrown or just practicing techniques with a partner.  In the beginning, the rolls and falls can be learned by lowering yourself closer to the surface.

Advanced rolls and falls in this manual require a safer, more direct instruction. You can’t get this from a book or manual.  These skills can be dangerous and may cause serious injury if not performed properly. Even the rolls and falls can be dangerous, but you will most likely only receive a few bumps and bruises.

It is not unusual for a student to easily break their collar bone during a diving roll or to damage the elbow on an air fall.  These skills require proper training in order to save yourself from injury.  Remember, these skills are designed to protect you, not injure you.

“Perfect Practice makes perfect”

Rolls and falls are often called “breakfalls.”  Depending on your training, you will either “break the fall” or you will “break on the fall.”

Once you have mastered the basic rolls and falls, the advanced, more difficult skills, will be much easier to learn and perform.  Think of this as three steps.

  1. Learn the basic stances, rolls and falls.
  2. Master these basics.
  3. Begin to train on one advanced skill.

Repeat step 3 until all advanced skills are learned.

Stances, Rolls and Falls are important in learning any new martial art style and your Ninja Training. They are essential and begin to offer a foundation for your training. How to stand, move, and fall are important tools for any beginner.

Stances, rolls and falls are your first step towards mastering the beginning physical levels of the Martial Science and Ninjitsu. As you progress, be sure and take it one step at a time. Too often students rush through the early skills only to end up with a sloppy and less focused development.

Just because you can stand in a particular position in less than an hour, does not mean that you have learned the stance. Learning requires many hours of practice until that skill becomes a part of you. As time passes and your lessons increase, your skills will improve. This is when you test.

Another important concept to keep in mind is that you are also going to be growing mentally. Just because you are learning to maneuver the body, doesn’t mean you won’t be developing the mind. Concentration, technique and discipline are just a few of the skills you will enhance through your training.

Building a strong base
In order to build a solid structure in the Martial Science and for your Ninja Training, you need something to start with. It is important that you develop the habit of beginning each training session with a review of your stances, rolls and falls. Just after your warm up, you can go through your stances. Next, you would perform each roll and fall. Finally, you can work on your freestyle form (explained in the last lesson of your stances).

Even though you will learn most of your techniques on one side of the body or the other, it is important to increase your skill at being ambidextrous. This means, don’t over train one side on any particular technique. This is an easy mistake to get into, since we usually favor the right or left side. Break this habit early on and be sure to practice your stances by reversing the feet.

Along with training both sides of the body, you want to add variety to your Ninja training. Nothing hinders development more than a boring routine. So when you train, have fun and be flexible with your approach.

Try changing the terrain Practice on grass, sand dirt and when you advance – cement. Also, add some spice to your training by practicing at different locations. Train at the beach, in the mountains, at a park, in front of a river or deep in the woods. Try to get as much variety with environment and terrain as possible. These classes will be great memories and offer more than the traditional, (on the mat in a box) approach.

This isn’t something that most martial artists think about, but it is a key factor in the development of an Rick Tew Martial Science Ninja Total Warrior. With most training, techniques are taught in a linear, forward and back concept. For example: you roll forward and you roll backward. Changing the angle is simply the concept of changing directions. Instead of doing all your stances facing one direction, try twisting and turning. This is more realistic to how you move in real life. Also, try some techniques with a partner and see if you can develop some new training ideas.

NinjaGym Martial Arts & Fitness Home Study Program

Learn Martial Arts Online with our Martial Art Home Study Program and Ninja Training – Black Belt Distance Learning Course!

0 thoughts on “Martial Art Rolls and Falls by Rick Tew”

  1. Pingback: Martial Arts Forward Roll and Its Applications by Sensei Rick Tew and NinjaGym

  2. Pingback: Martial Arts Reverse Roll/Back Roll

  3. Pingback: NinjaGym Martial Arts | Blog | Flat Fall Forward

  4. Pingback: NinjaGym Martial Arts | Blog | Side Roll

  5. Pingback: NinjaGym™ Martial Arts and Fitness | Blog | Personal Security Course / Self-Defense

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top