Monday, 14 November 2011

Your (Not-So) Flexible Friend.

So, here I am again after a week back in the karate fold. I've had a much more positive attitude towards my training this week which was clearly evident to my Shihan and my fellow karateka. Definitely got my head back in the karate zone. Phew!

Now I'm back to full steam I'm incredibly conscious of the fact that I really need to be stepping up my game now. Knocking on the door of 1st Kyu I need to make sure that I'm focusing on doing the absolute best I can with the tools I've been given.

Following on from my post last week about confronting your weakness I've decided that I'm going to take a look at the areas of my training that really need work and implement some stragegies to improve them.

Perhaps the biggest weakness that I omitted from the list in the last post is FLEXIBILITY, or rather lack thereof.

As a young child (up the age of 10 or so) I was quite a sporty individual. I took 4 gymnastics classes a week, was on the squad for the gymnastics club, I ran, I swam and generally had a good level of fitness and flexibility.

Around age 11 (or there abouts, I not sure exactly how old I was but I recall it was around the time I started Secondary School) I had a somewhat  ridiculously stupid accident at a local park. It involved one of those old-fashioned A-frame log built slides that were really popular in kid's playground in the 80s... like this one (sorry for the awful photo, its the only one I could find!)... do you remember them?

Sitting on the top of the wooden frame (not on the metal bit) as we had want to do at that age I was nudged off by another person sitting next to me and slid down the steep side (where the steps were) and landed on the bottom of my back. Cue a bruise coccyx (youch!) and many months of pain. The  result of this childhood stupidity was that I had trouble bending at the waist for a very long time which ultimately led to very short hamstrings (as well as I think being a contributing factor to ongoing back problems I've suffered as an adult).

In terms of my karate journey, short hamstrings make for painful stretching sessions and pretty crubbish kicks. Not so much of an issue for front and side kicks but for round kicks I find that I can't get enough rotation on my hip (my pelvis doesn't tilt very well) to get a good kick in and for crescent kicks I struggle with getting any height (I just don't stretch that far!).

A little while ago I purchased this book:

Unfortunately apart from a brief look through and an attempt to formula a stretching plan when I first purchased it it's mostly been languishing on the bookshelf for months. I've recently dragged it down again and I'm hoping to put together a plan that will improve my all over flexibility as well as more specifically my hamstrings. Hopefully it will mean an improvement in my kicks (as well as my other kihon in terms of hip rotation) and might even help with my recurrant back problems.

So, any stretching tips from all you martial arts bloggers out there? All ideas gratefully received.



  1. Oh, I like this blog. I like your disclaimer.

    It reminds me of my early days blogging about karate. You see, I have a sarcastic sense of humor and I wrote the blog initially for myself as a kind of journal about karate. I kept notes about the kata.

    But, the blog started getting popular and I received a number of shocked comments by people who noted the lack of respect that I was showing towards my art, my instructors, master instructors, my sensei, my kyoshi etc. Never mind that it was mostly self deprecating humor.

    I tried an increasing number of disclaimers and continued to offend people.

    Finally, I switched to the humorless straightforward earnest tone that we use inside the dojo.

    Just a minor sacrifice but for me, it seemed worthwhile.

  2. I would say stretch often (like 2xs or so a day), but here's the thing: never stretch a cold muscle. By that I mean you should always have warmed up a bit first - a light jog, some jumping jacks or something to get the blood circulating and the muscles warm. Not doing that could result in micro-tears to the muscle you are trying to make as flexible as possible (in this case your hammies) as you may tend to over-stretch them.

    Some strength training (lifting weights) IN ADDITION TO your stretching routine might help as well. Good luck with it :-)


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