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by Joseph Spainhour

Part of being a martial artist is knowing how your body will perform in a given situation. Most of the time, this involves kicking and punching various parts of your opponents’ body. In order to be effective you should have a wide range of motion. Keeping fit is only part of the solution, one must also stretch daily.

Stretching helps keep the muscle fibers elongated and reduces stress. Stretching also helps maintain a good range of motion and should be part of your daily routine.

Two types of stretching are dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching involves motion. Neck rotations and shoulder rotations are good examples of dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves holding a particular position for a period of time. Hurdler stretches are a good example of static stretches.

In general static stretches should be performed before dynamic stretches. This will allow the muscles to warm up.

Some of the benefits of stretching include:

  • enhanced ability to learn and perform skilled movements

  • increased mental and physical relaxation

  • reduced muscular soreness

  • enhanced physical fitness

  • enhanced development of body awareness

  • reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles, and tendons

  • reduced muscular tension

A particular stretch should work only the muscles you are trying to stretch. By isolating the muscles worked by a given stretch you do not have to worry about having to overcome the resistance offered by more than one group of muscles. The fewer muscles you try to stretch, the better. In other words, you are better off trying to stretch one hamstring at a time than both hamstrings at once.

Care should be taken when stretching to minimize the possibility of injury. Over stretching can cause more damage than it helps and should be avoided. A simple way to minimize the risk is to stop stretching once pain is felt.

In summary, being a good martial artist also entails a good stretching routine. Most often, this is part of the initial class warm-up. In order to maintain a full range of motion one should stretch daily.

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