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This is one of the most neglected parts of karate practice and it is a part of karate that a karateka ignores at their peril. (stretching video at the bottom of this article)
Not only is stretching healthy, it also helps prevent injury during karate classes. Stretching should be practiced before and after your karate lessons.
My sensei said to me, ‘the only time your whole body is stiff, is when you are dead!” and he is absolutely correct.
Keeping the body soft and supple should be a priority for all karateka.
But before you start stretching, it is very important to warm the body up. An example could be, gently shaking the legs and arms, gently swinging the arms, walking slowly, then speeding the walk up and finally into a slow jog. Obviously this is just an example, but this demonstrates a warm up before the stretch.
There are many stretches and to get the maximum benefit, these stretches should be held for anything between, twenty five seconds and three minutes. I also encourage our dojo members to hold the stretches longer in the summer and when they are practicing karate at home, as in the dojo, sometimes time is the enemy.
Stretching at the end of training should also be encouraged as this allows the body to warm down slowly, keeping the elasticity in the muscles.
If you wish to explore the different types of stretching, of which there are many, I have listed the different types of stretching below and a google search will uncover some incredible information on stretching.
1. Ballistic stretching is a form of passive stretching or dynamic stretching in a bouncing motion.
2. Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching beneficial in karate, utilizing momentum from form.
3. Active stretching eradicates force and its adverse effects from stretching procedures.
4. Passive (or relaxed) stretching is a form of static stretching in which an external force, like a karate partner, exerts pressure upon the limb to move it into the new position.
5. Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest.
6. PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is a stretching system that was first used in the 1940s and 1950s to rehabilitate patients with paralysis.
Although stretching may feel uncomfortable for someone just starting to learn karate, persevere and very soon your karate techniques will take on a whole new level and meaning.
Great care should be taken when practicing these karate moves for beginners, if practiced
incorrectly they may cause injury, so please find a qualified instructor and sign up for their karate classes.
All Shotokan Dojo practice slightly different warm up and stretches, but however it is done, it is an important part of karate 🙂