Lesson 1 – Flexibility training

Flexibility: a fundamental part of a Kung Fu workout

In previous lessons, we have repeatedly referred to stretching (read How to correctly perform stretching) and warm-up (read How to correctly perform warm-up) in terms of body preparation for training.

In this chapter we want to go further with the elongation topic and start to focus our attention on what the Shaolin monks call “tendons transformation”; we are talking about that practice which:

  • Allows us to achieve joint openings precluded to 90% of ordinary people
  • Allows us to better withstand active and passive combat dynamics
  • Allows us to better exploit the intrinsic qualities of our body

Read Body flexibility and martial arts.

Flexibility in martial arts

When we talk about martial arts (aimed at fighting) it is wrong to link the concept of flexibility solely to the idea of relaxation and elongation of the tendons.

For example in a Yoga class the performances (high or low level) are achieved:

  • Voluntary
  • In a controlled way
  • In the right conditions / moment / environment
  • To gain wellness and not to cause damage

In martial arts the mobilizations (twists, openings, etc.) are often achieved:

  • Dynamically (eg. in throwing a kick)
  • Unintentionally (eg. during a fall)
  • Passively (eg. undergoing a joint lever)
  • Suddenly (eg. while we are focused on other aspects of the struggle)
  • In conditions of high emotional tension (eg. during an improvise aggression)

If your preparation is limited to a basic flexibility in which relaxation is a forced passage the risks to suffer serious injuries increases drastically.

Flexibility workout for martial artists

To avoid the most common injuries the goal is not necessarily to gain contortionist’s abilities (some people are more capacities, others less), the goal must instead be:

  • Reinforce the muscles in such a way that they can support dynamic stretchings (read Conditioning check for flexibility)
  • Reduce the need for stretching (for example, in an unexpected personal defense situation)
  • Know and learn to control your elongations (in relation to what you can and you cannot do)
  • Reduce the consequences of intense training sessions (eg. Fa Jing developing)

Our body knows what we can do and what not.

It is no coincidence that, in the absence of deep relaxation, our unconscious instinct categorically forbids us to assume “unnatural” positions; it is a defensive mechanism that prevents us from suffering serious damage.

Many of the people who are able to reach intermediate levels of flexibility through relaxation cannot do the same in a sudden situation, not without the risk of causing strains, dislocations (etc.).

With the constancy and the practice of the right exercises you will not need to access to high levels of relaxation to get that kind of performance necessary / useful in combat (both in sports competitions, both in street fights, read The 6 types of martial clash).

Your body, in the most natural possible way, will not stop you from reaching the positions you have trained (split, etc.).

In-depth articles

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Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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