Durham Modern Martial Arts in Action
Nerf Wars is one of the fun activities we do at the school. These activities are part of our Parent Night Out events. Kids have a great time at the school and you get a few hours out!
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Physical Fitness
Stretching Foundations
Stretching is something “we just do” in the martial arts. It’s also something we continually question and try to improve. What stretch is best? When do I stretch? Will this help prevent injuries? Is this for health, flexibility or both? These are questions every martial artist should ask…and everyone in general! They are excellent questions with some answers that can be a bit confusing. In this article I hope to provide some core ideas accumulative through my years in the martial arts, study of fitness, Chinese medicine, Qi-gong and the study of general health.
When to Stretch?
Let’s just start off that stretching is important for overall health because it creates flexibility!

Stretching before and after any training prepares the muscles and tendons for the activity ahead. Stretching should be part of the proverbial warm-up and cool-down. Let’s call this activity-based stretching or stretching to prepare for an activity. To improve your health and increase your range of motion, stretching is required as well during non-activity periods. A stretch in the morning, lunch time and the evening has significant gains in muscle flexibility, range of motion, and general mobility when done as a consistent activity.

Qi-gong is a series of exercises, similar to Yoga that comes from Chinese Medicine and Chinese Martial Arts. They are designed around improving overall health through stretching and proper breathing. The power of Qi-gong comes from its consistent practice by practitioners on a daily basis. 

Activity based stretching has a cyclical effect on the muscles and tendons. The initial stretch lengthens the connective tissue and tendons of the muscle, after which, during training, they are shorted. Finally, the cool-down will help return the muscles to the pre-workout length. This means that the muscles don’t change in activity-only stretching.

Non-activity stretching is important to have increases in overall flexibility as well as health.

Sun Salutation and its many variations as well as Eight Sections of Brocade (Chinese Qi-gong) are two great exercise patterns the can be done several times a day for health benefits and overall improvement to your functional flexibility.

What does Stretching do?
The muscle-tendon has both an active as well as a passive component. Periodic stretching primarily effects the passive component, elongating the connective tissue and muscle tendon. Consistent stretching adds muscles fibres to the ends of the muscle itself, increasing its length and establishing greater overall flexibility.
Will stretching reduce the chance of injury?
In the last twenty-years, significant evidence has shown that stretching does not decrease the risk of injury in the martial arts or most activities. Damage to the muscles is often caused by overloading of the tissue or physical trauma (punctures, ruptures and compressions as an example). Stretching does not prevent or reverse this type of damage.
Do I warm-up before stretching?
I do. Before doing my strength training I do about 10-minutes on the treadmill. Before my own martial art training I am seen doing empty-hand and weapon forms. These are activities I do before stretching to “warm the muscles up.” A small increase (1º) supports the passive element of the muscle, allowing for greater elongation…and thus, improved flexibility. This is a great idea if you have been sitting in a chair all day, just waking up, or have been inactive in some other way. Been out walking all day…a warm-up is probably not needed or helpful.
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