Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (January 2nd, 2005)

From Emiliano Mazlen- Shihan, Boston Chinatown Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate Club


Stretching is an important aspect of our training. It helps us to achieve
better technique, train harder and decrease the risk of injury.

We need to balance seemingly competing goals in several aspects of
stretching (as in the rest of our training and our lives).

One such aspect is the degree to which there is individual variation in
stretching. On one level, we all perform the same series of stretches at
the beginning of class and, as with basic techniques (and sometimes as a
training for basic techniques), we need to employ the proper technique.
Hanshi often takes the time to demonstrate and emphasize the proper form
(for example, maintaining the maximum possible clarity in our vision during
neck exercises, fighting the tendency to let our surroundings blur or to
roll our eyes back into our head as it moves or circles). At the same time,
however, each person's stretching (as with each person's kata) will look
somewhat different because each person's body is different in size, shape
and flexibility. It is important that each person's stretching goals are
set for their body and not set as in competition with someone else. (While
we can be inspired by the amazing performance of others, the true
competition is with ourselves.) In addition (and unlike kata), before and
after class (as well as when we are allowed to stretch on our own during
class), we may want to perform stretches that help particular areas in which
we are tight, even if we do not perform that stretch in the routine at the
beginning of class.

Another aspect in which we need to balance competing goals is the degree to
which we "push" the stretch. We do want to increase our flexibility in
each stretch over time as well as to reach our full range of motion when we
perform the stretch. However, we also need to be careful if we try to hit
our maximum stretch the first count we do the stretch when we are just
starting to warm up (particularly when our muscles are tighter for whatever
the reason, whether it be from a hard workout the day before or from the
cold weather). When we are using the stretch to warm up, we do not want to
go too far too fast, since this can lead to an injury. (Even in this case, though,
we want to stretch to the maximum for that PARTICULAR moment, even if it
may change later as we warm up. We all need to challenge ourselves continually
from within.)

Stretching also has its metaphorical level - we want to stretch our karate
ability, reaching and maintaining our maximum every class as well as
continually working and gradually increasing it over time just as we do the
same for the various stretches.

Keep training. Keep stretching.

Happy and healthy 2005 to all.

Domo arigato gozaimasu to all.
Emiliano Mazlen