Martial arts are, for the most part, seen as a way to learn how to fight, and moreover as a way to learn self-defense. Yes, striking, grappling, and learning to use weapons are all major components of most martial arts out there, but they are not the only components. You probably know that stretching your muscles is very important when doing any kind of exercise or physical activity. Well, this goes for martial arts too. Stretching is an inherent part of any martial art, because professionals know that it is vital to preventing injuries, to improving your technique, and so much more. Most people don’t see stretching as a vital component of martial arts, but that just is not true. Let’s talk about stretching, why it is important, and what some of the best stretches out there are.
The benefits of martial arts stretching
There are many different benefits that you can reap from martial arts stretching, each one being just as important as the next. Why is it so important?
Stretching your muscles will help make them loose, warm, and limber. Exercising and practicing martial arts with cold and stiff muscles can quickly lead to injuries like pulled muscles. Pulling or even tearing a muscle will hurt like no tomorrow, plus it will put you out of commission for weeks or even months, not to mention that it can cause permanent injuries. Stretching before any kind of martial arts practice will help to ensure that you don’t injure yourself.
Martial arts stretching will help you become much better at striking. In order to connect with a strike, whether with your knees, feet, shins, elbows, or fists, means having to be able to reach your opponent. Your opponent is not just going to stand there and willingly allow you to clobber him or her. They will try to avoid your strikes, which is easily done if you are not flexible. The more flexible you are, thanks to stretching, the better your range of motion you will have to connect with your strikes. On that same note, being more flexible, loose, and limber will also help you avoid strikes that are being thrown at you.
Martial arts stretching is also very important for the grappling aspect of things. Grappling requires you to be able to reach around your opponent and maneuver yourself so that you can get in an advantageous position, often for that finishing submission. If you are more flexible and limber, you will more easily be able to outmaneuver your opponents and apply those deadly submission holds on them. On that same note, being more flexible will also help you be able to resist submissions much more effectively. That painful arm bar won’t be nearly as effective on you if your arm is much looser and able to stretch further.
Finally, stretching is great because it helps to increase blood flow to vital areas of your body. Having a steadier and increased supply of well-oxygenated blood will help your muscles last longer. Your muscles need blood and oxygen to function, both things which come to them more readily when they are loose. Therefore, stretching can actually help increase your overall stamina and endurance.
Different types of martial arts stretches
There are a few different kinds of martial arts stretches out there, three main ones to be exact. So, let’s go over these different types of stretching and flexibility right now.
Dynamic stretching refers to stretching through motion. Dynamic movements help to increase your range of motion, mainly from the joints. This type of flexibility is needed for those high kicks and other far-reaching maneuvers. These involve your agonist and antagonist muscles, such as with a leg raise for a high head kick. For instance, when you do a leg raise, the hamstring muscles are the antagonists because they relax and the quadriceps muscles are the agonists, meaning that they contract. In other words, dynamic stretching benefits both muscle groups used for motion, the pushers and the pullers, used in many martial arts techniques such as those big kicks.
This type of flexibility can be illustrated by a gymnast holding their leg straight up in the air, usually with little or no visible effort. Generally speaking, this involves extending a particular limb like your leg and holding it there. Also, this means having tense agonists muscles while also stretching the antagonists at the same time. This is important for techniques where you might pause half way during the motion such as an axe kick where you may hold your leg in the air for a few seconds before dropping your foot down to crush your nemesis. It is all about being able to stretch a certain way and hold it there. To be fair, this is the least important of three types of stretching in terms of martial arts techniques.
This is the most well-known type of flexibility and stretching. It’s what you seen when people are doing Yoga or Pilates. It involved simply stretching something and holding it there. The splits are a perfect example of static passive stretching. They help you develop your general flexibility and range of motion. Together with dynamic stretching, this type of stretching is very important for martial arts. Having a better range of motion when doing static passive stretching will help increase your range of motion and success when it comes to dynamic stretching.
Stretching may not be the best or most glorious part of a daily martial arts routine, but it certainly is very important. There are many different kinds of stretching and flexibility, each which have their own specific benefits, and all of which work in unison to help improve your overall fitness. Martial arts stretching will indeed help make you better at martial arts, but it will also help make your everyday life easier too. Injury prevention and becoming a more comprehensive and well-rounded fighter are just some of the benefits you get from martial arts stretching.