Source: Gisoku no Jutsu
Original post date: 12 April, 2007
Okay, I’m off to actually delivering on my aim to blog like crazy this week! Today I thought I’d touch on my stretching regime, what I’ve found out, and about these new kicks I’m trying to learn!
Okay, first thing’s first – stretching. The big thing that gets bandied about in martial arts circles/the general public is the ability to do the splits, whether they be front splits or, more dramatically, side splits (aka ‘Chinese splits’). So, with my previous style of socket on my fake leg, I could do the full side splits and front splits, but since moving to the different style of socket last year (as well as having 12 months off from training :P), things got more difficult – the way in which the new socket holds onto my leg gives my stump less movement within the socket itself (which is a good thing – less stress on the skin), which means it places more stress on my tendons/muscles/what-not when I stretch; to summise it simply, it means I can’t get away with being able to stretch as easily as I used to.
Anywho, when I first started doing karate I was determined to be able to do the splits, so at least five nights a week I’d take the time to go through our leg-stretching routine we did at karate, and after about 2 months, I could do the full splits (yay!). Despite the fact I’ve had only limited time to train over the last 5 weeks, I’ve been trying to make time to at least work on my flexibility. I’ve been working hard on pushing my body, and I’m stoked to say that I’m almost at the point of being able to do full side and front splits! While some may question the utility of this style of stretching (I’ll get into that below), I’m finding that it helps strengthen my legs and relaxes the muscles in my real leg, and is helping take pressure off the knee as a general rule of thumb; I feel stronger and more in control when I walk, which is in and of itself an awesome thing.
Now, in the pursuit of information (as you do – I’m a librarian after all), I started looking up ways in which to increase power and flexibility in kicks, and I found out about these different types of stretching, at first via Wikipedia, then by a handful of other great websites. It turns out that while the splits is beneficial to flexibility, it isn’t the most efficient way of stretching for the purpose of kicking, for example; this is much better developed by Dynamic Stretching. I found another great website that I can’t find the URL of that contained a massive amount of info on the entire subject of stretching, which then got me onto reading up some more on the best way to achieve the best kicks in martial arts, and all of them pointed to Dynamic Stretching. In the case or martial arts, it appears that simple leg lifts are the best way to achieve real flexibility and strength in your kicking technique. The gear I’ve read recommends performing front, side and back leg lifts as high as you can go, gradually increasing the height as you go conservatively – obviously you don’t want to overdo it until your legs are ready, or else you’ll do some serious damage.
The reason this is deemed effective appears to be owing to two points – number one, because you’re using your leg in a kick-like manner, it is re-enforcing the stretching movement as directly related to the act of kicking; it is developing neuro-muscular coordination. Secondly, doing leg lifts can actually be more beneficial in preventing injury should you be suddenly placed in a scenario where you need to use the technique to defend yourself, as the dynamic nature is apparently better at prepping your muslces/tendons/etc for spontaneous action that static stretching doesn’t employ. Or something like that. Some of what I’ve read notes that by doing dynamic stretches for 8 weeks (I’m assuming maybe five times a week or more for only 5 minutes or so for each session?), you can achieve the extent of what your body is capable of.
As always, the proof’s in the pudding, or in this case, kick – I’ve done combination split stretching + leg lifts in all four directions over the past week, then tried a couple of kicks – the results were certainly evident. I was kicking higher and with more control and power than I have in a while, and I’m going to make it part of my stretching routine to add these in, and I’ll also be sure to do extra leg lifts before class each week. Since I need to hold onto something to balance while I do the leg lifts, I can’t really partake during class when I’m lined up with all the other karateka, so I’ll take the time to balance myself against the wall prior to class and get started. It is very awesome 🙂
I mentioned some techniques I’ve decided to study. Now, they may not necessarily be the world’s most effective techniques, but they test your form, strength and agility… plus they look cool, and appear to be pretty tricky for people with two legs, let alone someone with only one… so I’m taking it as a challenge 🙂 The first move I’ve decided to tackle is the modern Wushu technique that most people refer to as a Butterfly Kick; click the link and you’ll see a happy animated GIF file showing an awesome one being performed in motion (there are some good ones on YouTube though – I’ll post them in a later blog). The technique requires the martial artist to jump and spin the body with kicks from each leg while the body is kept almost parallel to the ground, then land facing the same direction you were when you started the technique. The tricky bit (well, aside from the inherent trickiness :P) is that the technique appears to require you to leap from your left leg in everything I’ve read on it – since I have the equivalent of a pole instead of a functioning leg on my left, I’m going to have to learn how use my right leg and work on the torque, control and leaping high enough. Since I want to avoid a serious injury, methinks I’ll work on it where I can safely land on a padded surface 🙂
The Tornado Kick is probably a bit more realistic to achieve – it involves spinning your body 540 or 360 degrees to launch a round kick that uses the momentum/force of the action to deliver a powerful strike. The Wikipedia article’s a little light on images, but there’s a great vid on YouTube showing someone demonstrating the technique from a Taekwondo background:
Hopefully that one worked 😛 My HTML is still a little dodgy, so I hoped that all went in ok! So yeah, that’s the other technique I’m working on.
That pretty much covers the kick/new technique side of things (hopefully that helped Renato!) – I’ll post something up tomorrow, either some comments on martial arts movies, or some YouTube/Google Video stuff.