Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

June 26th, 2016

This week's thought is from Sempai Trevor Tezel, Ni-Dan
Ueshiro Merritt Island Shorin Ryu Karate Dojo
Under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione


Onegai Shimasu Hanshi, Kyoshi, Sensei and Deshi,

Stretching is a critical, aspect of our Karate training. Hanshi reminds us that in some styles of martial arts, instructors will have students stretch for 30 minutes to an hour. Stretches fall into two general categories: Dynamic (near constant movement) and Static (holding a stretch with little to no movement). Both classes of stretching are incredibly important to the tempo of our classes and ensuring that students are not injured during training.
Academic articles have explained that “dynamic stretching is recommended for warm-up” (Page, 2012). Dynamic stretches help “to increase blood flow, increase the range of motion, increase your awareness of your joint position, and improve your athletic performance,” (Moore, 2014). In USRKUSA, this dynamic stretching encompasses our opening warm-ups, as articulated in the 50th Anniversary Journal. Instructors should be conscious of maintaining near-constant movement in order for students to fully experience and benefit from these stretches.
This is not to say that our opening, dynamic stretches should be rushed or that an instructor may not pause the class in order to more fully explain the mechanics behind a particular stretch. In fact, this will often be necessary to correct Deshi, as we are all tempted to begin “cheating” the stretch (to our own detriment). However, we should not make a habit of pausing during these stretches as this disrupts the range-of-motion, which our stretches aim to develop. For example, during the stretches in which our hands are outstretched 180° and we touch the fingers to the opposite foot, the instructor may emphasize turning the body fully to the direction we are facing and reaching the hand upwards to “touch the ceiling.” As Hanshi corrected us in a recent Dan-level class, however, we must not make a habit of pausing in this position. This is because the purpose of dynamic stretches is for continuous movement, unlike static stretches.
Static stretching, on the other hand, is stretching “where a specific position is held with the muscle on tension to a point of a stretching sensation and repeated” (Page, 2012). Key aspects of static stretching include “maximum control, little or no movement and minimal to no velocity of movement” (Alter, 2004). In USRKUSA, static stretching may be incorporated at various points during the class, including before class begins.
That being said, this type of stretching may be most valuable as a cool down at the conclusion of class. All too often, instructors feel rushed to fit in everything they would like to during class, and cool down stretching is too often a casualty. This represents a missed opportunity because at the conclusion of a spirited work out, our muscles have been worked extensively. Through proper static stretching, we can build on the stretch tolerance (“ability to withstand more stretching force”), which we have developed through the course of the class. This will lead to further muscle development and great range of motion, which will, in turn, improve our Karate.
Many of our dynamic stretches may be modified into static stretches at the end of class. Examples include: As we reach down to touch the deck, while keeping our legs straight, we may hold the position stretching the back of our legs from behind the knee to the buttocks. Clasping the ankle to the buttocks, moving to bring the knee to the chest and bringing the ankle across while we work the hip and groin muscles is another static stretch that works various leg muscles and helps us achieve balance.
Finally, certain stretches that we practice while sitting offer a natural transition to bowing out at the end of class. From anza position, we may touch the sole of our feet together and pull both into our groin, which stretches the quadriceps. Other similar stretches include extending the legs from sitting position and reaching forward with the goal of touching the toes while maintaining straight legs. We can alternate this stretch on each individual leg to isolate certain muscles.
These are just a few of the static stretches that we practice in USRKUSA. Never hesitate to ask or, as Master Ueshiro would advise, follow and imitate a Shihan or other advanced black belt during stretches to learn what we commonly practice in our style. Understand the difference between dynamic stretches and static stretches and make a point to incorporate them fully into your Karate training.
Alter, Michael J. Science of Flexibility, 3rd edition. Human Kinetics, 2004. Champaign, IL. Book.
Moore, Heather. “Static v. dynamic stretching.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 28 January 2014.
Page, Phil. “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation.”International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. February 2012, pp. 109-119.
Domo Arigato Gozaishimasu,

Sempai Trevor Tezel, Ni-Dan
Ueshiro Merritt Island Shorin Ryu Karate Dojo
Under the direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione