Basic rolls are a fundamental human movement. Learning how to roll to the front, back and sides in many ways is important for everyone to have. In many athletic situations and also at random times in life you may be called upon to perform various rolls. Lacking this ability can result in bruises, sprains, dislocations, or fractures.
Take for instance when someone is falling. Putting the hands out to break the fall may not be the best way to hit the ground. Instead going into a roll could redirect the force allowing you to get by unscathed. It is all right to break some of the fall with the arms, but most of the shock should be taken with a roll so as to distribute the force over a greater area of the body. Land on the big muscle surfaces and roll like a ball.
There are several versions of rolling and this series of articles will give you details on many of them.
Shoulder rolls are actually the most versatile of all rolls. The front and backwards rolls are good, however you transverse directly over the spine which may not be best suited for doing on anything besides a soft mat or grass. The shoulder roll takes you over more mass of your body only crossing the spine briefly. This move is heavily used in Parkour for this exact reason.
The shoulder roll comes by many other names. Its is well known as a judo roll or aikido roll. (I suppose any martial art that uses it will call it by their own name.) But it is not to be confused with a pure shoulder roll where you roll across from one shoulder to another.
Now that you know the background info lets get started with the technique. Do the stunt in slow motion at first. Start in a kneeling position. Reach the right arm back, your hand toward your left foot. Tuck your head and shoulder, rounding your body. Your elbow and shoulder will come in contact with the floor. Roll over your body, crossing diagonally from your right shoulder to the left hip and to your feet. Your legs will not be even. Both are tucked in but the right leg will be perpendicular to the ground and the left near parallel. Come to a stand.
Work this roll over both shoulders reversing the directions above. When you become proficient at moving forward try going over backwards with the same roll. With practice you’ll be able to easily go into and out of the roll from standing and roll back and forth with ease.
As was stated earlier this roll is the best and safest to use in most cases. For more on how to do rolling check out Forwards and Backwards Rolling.