The importance of stretching: why practice stretching?
As we mentioned in previous lessons, stretching is an extremely important practice and can be used for a variety of applications:
- Daily life relaxation
- Sport application
- Martial application
- Mobility recovery
- Contortionism performances
Each of these goals has different rules and methods of acquiring, in this lesson you will learn (broadly) what.
Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).
Daily life relaxation
If you do not plan to learn to fight and you only want to obtain wellness through the practice of Kung Fu, you can focus your daily routine in this way:
- Practice sessions of meditation and breathing control (to learn to recognize and eliminate any unwanted tension, read for example Breathing for immediate relaxation)
- Perform static stretching exercises flanked by the right breathing methods (read for example Meditation method 5)
- Once reached a minimum level of flexibility you can start dynamic stretching exercises
- Practice regeneration exercises (read 5 regeneration practices to recover after training)
- To complete the circle, you can also perform slow running
A note by Master Kongling – In conjunction with a light version of our basic exercises (read Lesson 3.6), this is more than enough for a completely peaceful path, the important thing to know is that you will not be in conditions to face a real fight (read How to use martial arts in a real fight).
Each sport is different but in any discipline, to reach the best performances and reduce the risks of injuries, everyone should:
- Do a warm-up before starting stretching (How to correctly perform warm-up)
- Perform static stretching exercises
- Perform dynamic stretching exercises
- Conclude with regeneration exercises
A note by Master Kongling – This way, each time you will practice physical activities, you will be at the best of your possibilities and after the end, you will reduce the most common negative consequences of the effort (especially regarding the day after).
If you want to employ your body at the highest level during any kind of combat (in Self-defense situations, competitions, etc.), every day you have to:
- Constantly apply breathing control (and possibly practice meditation)
- Do a warm-up and static stretching (when you wake-up and before each training session)
- Do your exercises regularly and each time with the idea of increasing the performances
- Do “tendons transformations” sessions, combining all the various kind of stretching and choosing the most effective to gain, each time, specific goals (more about this later in this course)
- Practice regeneration exercises (at the end of each workout)
- Give time to your body to accept / adapt what you are imposing it (days of pauses, alternations of exercise type, etc.)
A note by Master Kongling – This is the best way to achieve peak performance in any sportive context (sparring, etc.) and to do not be too disadvantaged (read Lesson 6.1) in improvised dangerous situations (aggressions, etc., read Self-Defense: is it possible to always be ready to fight?).
The first and the most important thing to say in relation to mobility recovering is that it cannot be done alone; you need to:
- Ask for the advice and the help of an experienced physiotherapist (with a sport-related specialization if possible)
- Avoid doing alone or worse addressing unqualified people (pranotherapists, magicians, etc.)
- Be patient, if you follow the indications of the right expert you will return to practice in the shortest possible time
- Put the maximum effort and constancy in following the rehabilitative care (this depends on you and not on medicians)
- Learn to know your body by distinguishing pain due to harmful movements from that due to rehabilitation
- Use breathing control (and possibly practice meditation) to avoid unwanted tensions and / or negative reactions
- Do not stop training, if the physiotherapist allows you to do alternative / collateral physical exercises, seize the opportunity
- With the consent of your doctor, practice regeneration exercises (at the end of each stretching session)
Note from Master Kongling – It is not a secret that the more serious the damage you have suffered is, the longer it will take to recover. But you must not demoralize or give up: even in the extreme case that you are completely immobilized, you can still continue to study Kung Fu; indeed, it could even be an opportunity to deepen technical, philosophical or meditative aspects that you would never imagine (read Accept problems to find solutions). I know that there is an abyss between saying and doing these things but I’ve been there too and the advice I’m trying to convey has given me a reason to do not lose hope. Without going into too much detail, I can tell you that if I had abandoned myself to despair I would probably have been forced to abandon martial arts.
Premising that the contortionism is not among the specific goals of the 6 Dragons Kung Fu, for information purpose, we can say that to achieve the maximum level of flexibility it is necessary to:
- Be naturally flexible or begin as a child, there are things that in most cases (eg. the spine) can be conditioned to such level only when the bones are still largely structuring themselves
- Constantly apply breathing control (and possibly practice meditation)
- Do all the kind of stretching (every day for hours and hours, each time with specific goals)
- Achieve the right balance between muscle support and flexibility
- Eliminate all possible fat mass (certain movements are in fact almost impossible in the presence of excessive fat)
- Gain an advanced control of your body to constantly check what is happening, what you can and what you cannot do
- Practice regeneration exercises (at the end of each stretching session)
- Give time to your body to accept / adapt what you are imposing it (days of pauses, alternations, etc.)
- Never stop training (especially after 30 years)
Note from Master Kongling – As for the achievement of high-level martial arts skills, even to be a contortionist requires a constant and complete application.
In conclusion it is important to stress that:
- Most people can do amazing things with the right determination – The fact that extreme levels of flexibility cannot be achieved in adulthood (eg. putting the head between the legs from backward) should not discourage you, much of what you can do remains in the context of the “unbelievable” compared to a normal person (splits, resistance to tension, etc.)
- Contortionists are performers and not martial artists – Regarding the joint levers (read Chin Na), it should be emphasized that even if the contortionist (or the naturally flexible) has a slight advantage in terms of limit reaching but without specific conditioning, arrived at the end of the ROM, the limbs break anyway; contortionists are fantastic but in terms of combat performances, they cannot be compared to a conditioned martial artist
- Body flexibility and martial arts – The relation between martial arts and flexibility
- How to prepare legs to kick effectively – Useful advice about how to train your legs to be able to kick during a real fight
Author: Master KonglingFounder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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