Oxford SulKiDo Martial Art - Fitness Self-Defence Korean Arts
Stretching is an intrinsic part of martial arts, and our instructors
ensure that everyone learns properly and recieves individual attention
to help maximize their gains.
If you're involved in other sports, you'll soon see benefits
from increasing your flexibility, both
in terms of higher levels of performance and reduced chances of injury.
There are three generic types of stretching exercises:
slow, controlled movements generally using gravity to
The majority of stretching techniques taught to beginners at the club
are passive, since they are by far the safest and produce results at
least as good as other methods.
alternately contracting and relaxing the muscles in the
region to be stretched. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is
often believed to be the fastest way to increase flexibility, but
may only offer short-term gains.
using flinging or bouncing motions to stretch
muscles. This type of exercise is potentially injurious, and should
never be attempted - especially since it may have little permanent benefit.
Often people see experienced dancers doing apparently ballistic
movements and attempt to copy them, however since dancers can
usually already do full splits the bouncing motions are a warm up
for them rather than a stretch - and naively aping them without being
as flexible can bugger you up something rotten.
Below we've put together a photo-set demonstrating and explaining
some of the passive
stretching positions used during sessions at the Oxford club.
Each position is
taken to the point where reasonable tension is felt but never so
far as to become really painful or make the muscle twitch (this
isn't being sissy - if the muscle starts to twitch it isn't
relaxed and thus it's fibres aren't being stretched).
Standing calf stretch (gastrocnemius)
The gastrocnemius muscles are the two elongated triangles on either
side of the achilles tendon. Since their upper attachment is to the
thigh, proper stretching requires that the leg be straight. In this
position both feet are pointing forwards, most of the weight is
be on the front leg, and the rear is positioned so that
it is just possible to touch the heel to the ground.
Standing calf stretch (soleus)
The soleus muscles runs down the centre of the calf and is largely hidden
beneath the gastrocnemius. It's upper attachment is below the knee, and
thus flexing the foot whilst bending the leg
relaxes the gastrocnemius and allows the soleus to be stretched
more thoroughly. Both feet are pointed forwards and body weight
is allowed to `sink' downwards, preferably also tilting the
lower part of the pelvis forwards.
Standing hamstring stretch
The hamstrings are the main muscles at the rear of the thigh, and are
elongated whenever the leg is straightened or the knee raised. They
should be well stretched before any activity involving vigorous
leg movements is performed - whether running, playing squash or
executing SulKiDo kicks. Both feet are pointed forwards, the front leg
is straightened and the toes are gently pulled upwards whilst the
torso is pushed forwards (without bending ones back).
Seated hamstring stretch
Sitting down allows the leg muscles to relax and thus greatly aids
stretching. In this variant the subject aims to gently push their chin
as far towards their toes as possible, preferably keeping the head upright
and hence the back flat. The position of the un-stretched leg is
relatively unimportant provided it is comfortable (the `hurdler stretch'
is similar to this, but can cause knee damage).
Twisting hamstring stretch
By twisting the torso, the oblique (side stomach) and lateral (upper back)
muscles can be stretched at the same time as the hamstrings. Holding
onto the foot helps one relax, but if you can't reach it initially then
just grab a nearer part of the leg.
This stretch improves the adductor muscles in the groin and inside thigh.
Beginners should place their feet together and exert gentle downwards
pressure on the knees with their elbows. When one is sufficiently
flexible that the knees can touch the floor, then bending forwards
can be used to increase the range of the stretch.
The gluteals (ie. your bum) are some of the largest muscles in
the body, and heavily used during running, jumping and any thrusting
motion with the legs. In a seated position put one leg flat on the floor
and fold the other over it aiming to hug the knee into the opposite
side of ones chest. For more effect, the torso can be twisted in
the opposite direction to the folded leg.
The quadriceps are the large muscles down the front of the leg which contract
powerfully during walking, running and kicking. During this stretch the
knees must be kept together and the standing leg should be bent very slightly
while the heel of the raised leg is pressed into the buttocks - for some
people it works better if they also push forward with their pelvis.
The triceps are the muscles down the back of the upper arm, used every
time the arm is extended in a pushing motion (such as punching).
The arm to be stretch is folded so that it's hand is behind the head and
gentle pressure from the other arm is used to lengthen the triceps
either by pushing or pulling.
The deltoids are the muscles surrounding the shoulder joints. This stretch
works on their rear segment. The arm to be stretched is folded flat
horizontally across the chest and the other arm can either press it
in or pull the hand across to lengthen the posterior deltoid.
Obviously there are a more ways to stretch than the ones we've shown
here, but these form a good basis for a flexibility routine, and you'll
learn more during the sessions.
Note that some common exercises and stretches
are now known to be
(eg. the `plough' neck stretch), however
they often continue to be passed around by word of mouth -
so please seek advice before trying new things outside of class.