The side-flip is one of the easiest acrobatics to learn and perform. Physically, it is one of the least demanding, and mentally it poses less of a fear barrier than a front-flip or back-flip since it is possible to spot the landing during the entire flip. It is extremely versatile and, best of all, when done correctly has a very gentle landing.
This is not meant to be a fully comprehensive tutorial on the “side-flip” but rather a collection of tips on a couple of key elements of the flip. The reason for this presentation is because when learning the flip (and any movement), there is no substitute for training and the trial & error process.
Start the flip with a few powerful strides to build momentum. It is not necessary to take a full sprint into the take-off but some speed is required. Take a low, long skip and punch upward. Let yourself travel upward before pulling into a tight tuck. Open up to slow the rotation and get ready to land. Knowing when to open is a skill that simply takes practice and repetition to gain air-awareness. Land on the balls of the feet, back leg first, and then rock to the front leg a split second later. This style of landing cuts impact considerably.
For the purposes of this article the side-flip will be defined and a flip with sideways rotation. The body position (see video) will determine if the flip is truly a side-flip (straight-body position) or a double-leg (doubled-over position). Both have their merits, and it is advisable to learn both techniques. The straight-body type keeps the ground in view throughout the flip, while the doubled-over style will often allow for bigger height.
The two basic take-off styles for the side-flip are 1-2 and punch. The “1-2” style refers to one foot taking off slightly before the other. This allows for the side-flip to be adapted to a raised-object take-off, for instance flipping off of a ledge or bench. Punching on the take-off often translates into a higher side-flip.
Tucking the side-flip can be done at the knees or the hamstrings. The straight-body side-flip lends itself best to tucking on the knees, and the doubled-over style is most compatible with tucking on the hamstrings. This is not a strict rule by any means, so test both methods.
As a general point of advice, great care should be taken when learning this flip as well as all other movements. Build up slowly by using the method shown at the end of the video to gain comfort with the feeling of the flip, and try to find a gym with competent instructors that will offer their guidance (and their foam pit). Barring that, try to learn on the softest possible landing surface.