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Anf's picture
Flexibility training

Hi all.

I find myself wondering lately if the classic high energy 'hard' style martial arts training is the best way to develop flexibility. I'm not criticising the format of such classes. There's limited time in class to cover the main subject, which is the particular martial art that people have paid to be taught. I think therefore any instructor that gives too much class time to exercises we can do without expert supervision is going to quickly lose students.

So I fund myself thinking. I know 15 minutes of stretching a couple of times per week is nowhere near enough. But what to do for the most efficient use of time in practice/training at home? Should I stretch before practicing kicks, which means I'm less likely to snap things? Or after kicking practice when the muscles and tendons have warmed up? Lately I've started kicking low and very, very slowly at home. My logic being that it develops strength and coordination as well as stretching, but I'm not sure I get much of a stretch that way. I'm really not sure what is the best plan. Replicating class is probably not the best plan, as I think class is organised for best use of time with a knowledgeable instructor. I suspect that in some perfect world where class was the instructor's full time job and we were all full time students, there'd be a lot more time given to strength and flexibility, but as it is, I think those are things for us to figure out ourselves, saving instructor time for teaching the art we are paying to learn.

Chris R
Chris R's picture

Mobility has much more to it than just stretching. If you want to understand mobility, you will have to research the topic. If you ask a bunch of people how to gain mobility, you will likely get a bunch of different opinions and answers. Will this help you? Maybe, but not as much as having an understanding of how mobility works from a science based perspective. In my opinion this is the only long term mobility solution. I have struggled with mobility for years and I have learned this the hard way. Basically, learn the theory and take control of your own mobility programme and training. Everyone is different, and some guy's ideas may have worked for him, but that doesnt guarantee much for you. If you are looking for sources to teach you this type of information, I would recommend "Becoming a Supple Leopard" by Kelly Starrett, and for stretching look at the work done by Pavel Tsatsouline on this topic. There are other sources and online programmes too, but those are two commonly used options that are good to look at when you are starting out. In terms of Karate ... The training can have positive benefits for mobility, but those benefits will never compare to the benefits of actual mobility training.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Anf

As Chris said, focus on mobility  I also agree with Chris about the recommended people Pavel and Kelly are my main resourses at work.

Kind regards


Paul_L's picture

I found the book Stretching Anatomy by Arnold G. Nelson & Jouko Kokkonen to be helpful. I used this book to devise a daily dynamic stretching routine that perform twice daily and takes around 7 minutes. These light streches helped with my overall flexability and I see them as a basis on which to build a more demanding stretching routine. After 3 weeks of performing the dynamic routine twice a day and after long car journeys I saw a good increase in my flexibility.  This was in addition to my “karate” stretching at training and after exercise.

Now I can roundhouse kick at chest height without any prior warm up or stretching where as before I was barely able to kick waist height and then my hip would emit a loud “pop” unless I had had a very though warm up. I also found that leg conditioning was quite helpful. At training sometimes we have to perform various squat execises and then hold a low horseriding stance for a coupe of minutes while our legs are fatigued. Absolutely horrible experience, but it does actually help quite a bit.