Lesson 3 – Stretching: goals and applications
The importance of stretching: why practice stretching?
As we mentioned in previous lessons stretching is extremely important 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.
Daily life relaxation
If you do not plan to truly learn to fight and you only want to gain wellness trough Kung Fu you can:
- Practice Meditation and breathing control (to learn to avoid any unwanted tension)
- Perform static stretching exercises flanked by the right breathing (read Meditation method 5)
- When you have gained a certain level of flexibility you can start dynamic stretching exercises
- Practice regeneration exercises (read 5 regeneration practices to recover after training)
- If you want you can also perform slow running
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 has its specific parameters and objectives, in terms of professional / competitive application, it is ridiculous to talk about general indications. The advice we are going to suggest are related to amateurs. Said this, to have better performances and to reduce the risks of injuries you can:
- Do a warm-up before starting stretching (How to correctly perform warm-up)
- Perform dynamic stretching exercises
- Perform your sports activity and conclude it with regeneration exercises
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 the day after).
If you want to employ your body at the highest level during any kind of fight (in Self-defense situations, competitions, etc.), every day you have to:
- Constantly apply breathing control (and possibly practice meditation)
- Do 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 training session)
- Give the time to your body to accept / adapt what you are imposing it (days of pauses, alternations of exercise type, etc.)
This is the best path to achieve peak performance in predetermined fights (sparring, etc.) and to do not be too much disadvantaged (read Lesson 6.1) in improvised dangerous situations (aggressions, etc.).
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)
- Avoid doing alone or worse addressing to unqualified people (pranotherapists, magicians, etc.)
- Be patient, if you follow the indications of an 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 to 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 allow 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)
The more serious the damage you have suffered, 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 be imagined ( read Accept problems to find solutions).
Note from Master Kongling – 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 objectives 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 (read Mind / body control)
- Practice regeneration exercises (at the end of each stretching session)
- Give the time to your body to accept / adapt what you are imposing it (days of pauses, alternations, etc.)
- Never stop training (especially after 30 years)
As for the achievement of high-level any martial arts skill, even to be a contortionist requires a life of constant sacrifices.
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 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 articular levers, it should be emphasized that even if the contortionist (or the naturally flexible person) has a slight advantage in terms of limit reaching, without a specific training, arrived at the end of the ROM the limbs break easily anyway; contortionists are fantastic but in terms of fight 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 Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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