Flexibility Training for Martial Arts

Flexibility and stretching for martial artsQuestion:  What I am struggling with the most is gaining flexibility . Any suggestion in that particular area is most welcome.

Charles H.

Answer: Flexibility and mobility training is one fo the most important aspects of martial arts training, yet greatly misunderstood as well.

Practitioners waste a lot of time on unimportant and basically useless exercises and aims, like achieving a side split – absolutely not necessary for Hung Kyun or most other martial arts, with exception of Taekwondo and similar styles.

On the other hand, martial artists often neglect other, much more important areas, like ankles, hip flexors, hamstrings, pelvic floor or thoratic spine.

The aim of the stretching is not „to be more flexible“, but to move well and be able to express the explosive power (Ging) well, ie. get rid of the „brakes“.

My strength, conditioning and flexibility Master Pavel Tsatsouline says: “Only a small flexibility reserve is needed beyond the needs of one’s sport or activity. Excessive flexibility can be detrimental to prerformance in many sports.”

Practical Tips

  • Buy a foam roller and foam roll daily – you will be surprised by the flexibility gains, without any stretching.
  • Concentrate on your stances – the truth is that you will get most of the mobility/flexibility needed (ankles, hip flexors, pelvic floor) from your basic training, IF practiced properly. Both „Four Level Stance“ (Sei Ping Ma) and „Meridian Stance“ (Ji Ng Ma, also called „Bow and Arrow Stance“) are excellent for developing the basic flexibility and mobility. Covered in great detail in our PHK Intro Kit.
  • Breathing is one of the keys to mobility and flexibility (and well, everything else). Concentrate on your Daan Tin breathing and you will see immediate improvement.
  • Stretch your hip flexors daily, mobilize your T-spine daily (one of the best stretches we do is so called Brettzel – video link)

Jon Engum performing “Frog Stretch” from his excellent book Flexible Steel

  • Dynamic stretching is a must for martial artists. Northern Shaolin method of dynamic stretching and kicks is hard to improve on. Flexibility is speed-specific!
  • Work on your bodyweight squat (eg. so called „Wall Facing Squat“, Deun Cheung Gung – taught in our PHK Intro Kit) and back bridge – these two exercises are big bang for your buck. Mastery of these two exercises is by the way part of the grading for Level 1 of our Practical Hung Kyun curriculum. No high repetition are needed – they are more health exercises than strength exercises.
  • Get stronger – lack of strength and so called „reflexive stability“ of the core is often manifested as lack of flexiblity/mobility. One of the best introductory exercise you can start with is crawling, tradionally called “Shaolin Art of Crawling” (Siu Lam Pa Gung). Just get on your four and start crawling forward and backwards. Again, you will learn more about various methods and benefits of crawling in our PHK Intro Kit.

Flexibility and stretching for martial arts

Here are in my opinion the best stretching resources available today:

Check out our online ecourse, devoted to the Practical Hung Kyun fundamentals – we have  thoroughly covered the most important stretching drills there.

Pavel Macek Sifu, Practical Hung Kyun

Basic exercises, techniques, sets, application drills, sparring, self defence, weapon training, strength and conditioning, names of the techniques, history and philosophy…

Don’t hesitate and feel free to ask Pavel Macek Sifu anything that you would like to know or anything that you struggle with in your martial arts training!

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