How to learn to do the split
As we already mentioned, in Kung Fu and in martial arts in general, body flexibility involves a myriad of applications (read Body flexibility and martial arts) but some of the biggest advantages come from the improvement of the opening of our legs.
In this discussion, we will see:
- One of the most simple, safe and effective method to get a perfect side split
- How to improve what we are already able to reach
Premises and preparation
Before starting, some important premises:
- Read How to train without risks
- There are people more “rigid” and more “flexible” (and it not depeends only on the age), everyone has its times, the focus is on increasing the opening (nothing more nothing less)
- Despite what you may have heard, a full and perfect martial split is not something that we can improvise in a few days
- A martial split is not a contortionist, a gymnast or a Yoga split (it is made to resist to dynamic, if not violent, use)
- It must also be said that forcing the body (eg. to speed-up the development process) is dangerous and counterproductive
- The ultimate goal is to open our legs far beyond the 180° (but for this, we will need other exercises)
A note by Master Kongling – I’ve seen 80 years Kung Fu masters that can express contortionist level performances and 8 years children unable to touch below their knees: it is true that the age slows down everything but natural talent disappears in front of real dedication (read Natural talent and martial arts).
- Let’s wear very ample, elastic and “slippery” clothes, we must avoid any possible external friction (the ideal is the Tai Chi trousers)
- As always, let’s perform the right stretching / warm-up for the legs (read Basic soft stretching and Basic warm-up)
- A good idea is to choose a place where no one will bother us and / or where we can listen to ambient relaxing music (read Workout music: how, when, why)
- Let’s find a wall as flat as possible where we can lead (without obstacles and without dangers of any kind, the ideal is big and perfectly flat wooden wardrobe)
- If possible, let’s remove our shoes (the exercise can be performed better with the socks on but pay attention to the fact that they could dirty the wall)
- Especially at the beginning, the less traction we create, the better will be the result (at an advanced level this becomes less and less relevant)
A note by Master Kongling – Let’s do not underestimate the resistance that our wearing can oppose (some of them can be worse than a rigid / short tendon). It may seem incredible but I remember a 33 years old BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) “instructor” who has lost 70% of his split capability due to the wrong Gi trousers (in addition, of course, to an occasional and too superficial training).
How to do the split: phase 1
Let’s see how to train / reach our side split:
- Let’s put our body on the ground in a supine position (with the belly up)
- We have to raise our straight legs and place them on the wall (keeping them together and parallel)
- Our buttocks should be perfectly attached to the wall (our body must describe a 90° angle with the wall)
- Let’s stretch our legs in such a way that they completely lie against the wall
- Let’s slowly drop the legs (right and left respectively) keeping them attached to the wall
- If the descent is not linear, we can put a paper between the wall and each of our feet (so as not to make it irregular)
- We must not exert any muscle force (no vibration or thrust)
- Let’s relax the whole body to let the legs go down gently, slowly
- Let’s breathe slowly and deeply (read Meditation method 5), we need to eliminate all the possible tensions
- The sheer weight of the legs and our relaxation will do all the work
- Let’s maintain the position for 10 minutes a day (especially at the beginning we need constancy)
In the meantime, we can:
- Read / study / watch something
- Perform other arms’ exercises
- Meditate and / or do other regeneration exercises (read 5 regeneration practices to recover after training)
A note by Master Kongling – It is important to stress that the split that we obtain doing only what we have said so far is not enought ot build what we call a “martial split”. This first type of split is obtained through pure relaxation, this means that, if our muscles are not trained to sustain it, we cannot use this kind of opening in a dynamic situation (eg. during a combat). To start to build a more combat-related flexibility opening, let’s continue with the second phase.
How to improve our side split: phase 2
After the first few weeks of daily practice (at least):
- Every 1-3 minutes we can add a delicate, slow but linear movement of closure (up) and opening (down), this makes our muscles stronger and able to start to resist to the position even in a dynamic situation
- After the warm-up and before starting the exercise, we can make a slight lateral split (this time without the wall, starting from standing, going gradually down, to rest then on our hands on the ground)
- At the end of the exercise, we can make a more “profound” (but always slow and gradual) split to see the eventual difference
If we are not already quite flexible, let’s read the next article of this series Side split: a few tricks before performing the exercise: we will complete the topic with some precautions, tips, and how to overcome the 180°.
In-depth video courses
- Basic 6 Dragons Kung Fu Exercises – The fundamental practices of our styles that will sculpt your martial body
- Physical conditioning: how it works – The general and most important aspect of body development in 6 Dragons Kung Fu
- The right age to start practice – An important advice about the correct age to start and the related considerations
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- Do you feel pain?
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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