SulKiDo - A Korean Martial art related to HapKiDo, KukSoolWon and TaeKwonDo
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Effective Stretching

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:
  1. passive - slow, controlled movements generally using gravity to provide tension. 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.
  2. PNF - 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.
  3. ballistic - 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.
Groin stretch 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.
Gluteal 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.
Quadricep stretch 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.
Tricep stretch 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.
Deltoid stretch 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 dangerous (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.