I'm torn...

First up, I'm no expert, nor a sports medical practitioner.  But here are my thoughts on this topic, so please, take it with a grain of salt :)

We often hear conflicting advice on how best to warm up before physical activity.  The latest research shows we perform better with joint mobility warm-ups rather than static stretching before rigorous exercise.  But a combination of the two is not a bad way to go, I feel.  The thinking behind why static stretching is not as effective as we've previously beleived is due to the nature of our muscles.  With static strecthing before training, we are making micro-tears to the muscle fibre.  This is not what we need in order to warm up our muscles.  It feels good, admittedly, but it's not very effective at getting blood into the muscle fibre, or more importantly, our joints.  I hear of more lingering bad knees than bad muscle tears in our art.

We do need to maintain our range of motion and strive to be more flexible as we age, but it's best to stretch at the end of training, or a couple of hours before bed.  While we sleep or rest, the muscle grows more fibres to repair the micro-tears and accomodate the increased attempt at lengthening.  If we do too much intense static stretching and immediately go into our training, the muscle can become like an overstretched elastic band that may not hold our joint structures with enough stability.  This makes us prone to injury, especially with the types of dynamic movement we undertake in studying Kobudo.  We are better to do joint mobility warm-ups and rotate our joints (but not the neck), building and encouraging the flow of cenovial fluid to better protect and buffer our skeletal system, cartilage and meniscus for a safer and full range of motion.

Stretching isn't bad, nor does stretching before exercise mean you're assured of injury.  However, we need to think about our longevity in the art.  If we maintain a stretching routine outside of the two or three nights we come for keiko, then we will increase our range of motion safely and find we are better able to perform the techniques we study.  The goal is to still be training at Unsui Sensei's age, right?.  And who doesn't want that?!?

Travis de Clifford
Sessa Takuma Dojo


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