We’ll talk about the differences between static and dynamic stretching, and how doing it properly in our classes can not only help you kick higher, but also reduce your risk of injury!
We need to stretch properly to improve our technique and form.
Some common misunderstandings
First off, there is a lot of different opinions out there about stretches. Some people believe they should only do one type of stretching (dynamic stretching), that static stretching is bad, or confuse the type of stretching they’ve been doing all along. Worse, many don’t even warm-up at all before they start exercising!
Why do we need to warm-up and stretch?
The main reason is physiological. You need your body temperature to reach a higher level, and your heart rate to increase, so that your heart is pumping more blood to various parts of your body that will need the oxygen and nutrients to do the intensive exercise your karate instructor demands.
What's the Difference?
What’s up with all that online chatter about static versus dynamic stretching? Which one is a karate student supposed to do?
Traditionally, most people do static stretches only. According to Human Kinetics blog, this is the kind of stretch where you stretch a muscle or group of muscles for about 15-60 seconds, and repeated only a handful of times (2 to 4).
Dynamic stretches (or active warm-ups), on the other hand, involves action-specific movements. This includes bodyweight lunges, trunk rotations, jogging. In Ashihara Karate classes, a good example is the leg swings done before we go into our basic kicks (front rising kicks, side rising kicks).
Many blogs say dynamic stretches are the way to go. The belief or fear is that static stretching can overrelax your muscles, so your kicks later actually get weaker (because you lose the muscle tension needed to move fast and generate explosive force). And some blogs, like Openfit.com, advocate for it to be done after the exercise is over instead.
Stretching Routines in Ashihara Karate
In Ashihara Karate, the preference is a combination of both types of stretching at the start of class.
This is why we often start off with a brisk jog around the dojo venue, and cover a range of movements like high knees, upper-body and hip rotations, knee rotations, leg swings, before we get into the stretching components.
And when students join the class late (missing out the warm-up movements), they are asked to run a few rounds around the classroom to get warmed-up first.
Covering both types of stretching gives us the combined benefits of both stretches:
The fact is that static stretching, despite its newfound “bad reputation”, still helps to condition your body to get used to holding your knees higher, to push your body further.
The key is to warm-up properly and stretch often
Hopefully, as your body adapts to the stretches, you will increase your range of motion and be able to perform an awe-inspiring high kick like karate black belt Rina Takeda (who turned her smooth moves into a career on the big screen):