Many karateka both past and present refer to stretching and flexibility training as an essential element of any karate training programme.
A karateka actively seeking self-enlightenment will say that his stretching and flexibility training is essential if you want to become a true karateka.
As a perquisite for the practice of karate which is after all is a combat training. Stretching brings the body’s muscles, joints and tissues to a state of readiness and perfection so the karateka can not only control the movements of his hands and feet to maximum effect but also his breathing as well.
To this end, stretching utilises all the muscle groups in the body and is the driving force behind many of the techniques in karate that require strength and focus (kime).
Indeed, flexibility in your joints and muscles can add power and dynamic movement and also act as the anchor point for speed, stamina and balance.
What’s more, training for flexibility can contain a large number of exercises. I know some practitioners of the martial arts and karate in particular; think that some of the old traditional styles stretching exercises are somewhat dangerous for your joints. However, some of the exercises have improved through modern understanding of how to do certain types of stretching exercise through bio-mechanics and kinesiology. But unfortunately, there still remain a few such exercises used in some dojos and as part of tradition even passed down to younger students.
So from your perspective, in order to understand how certain muscle groups react when you do a stretching exercise and how the muscles work in relation to each other, you must first learn to isolate and train each muscle group to achieve the maximum effeteness
Any stretching as with all forms of exercise you should build up slowly always putting more emphasis on correct technique rather than the number of reputations performed a common mistake is attempting to stretch too far too fast which can result in a pulled muscle or tendon. It’s important to remember, to include stretching in your training schedule because the all-round benefits far outweigh any risk of injury. Plus, regular stretching practice can help prevent serious injury during a training session.
Dojo training should be used to develop the flexibility and in turn the strength needed in karate or any other martial art for that matter. The key to stretching is to isolate the various muscle groups and to take them through a safe range of movement gradually increasing the amount of stretch being performed.
Stretching and gaining a good standard of flexibility does require a lot of training but as long as you take your time and adopt safe up-to date practices then your efforts will be effective and help you to improve your techniques in the true spirit of karate. On top of that, you would have discovered why stretching is the driving force of karate-do.