We started learning Karate six months ago. Starry-eyed at the prospect of learning martial arts and the ability to defend – nay attack someone else left us with a exhilarated feeling. I could see myself kicking, punching and kneeing my adversaries as the crowds cheered my name. Like most stories, the reality was a bit of an anti-climax. Our Karate instructor chose to teach us stretching instead. Stretching? What could that possibly have to do with Karate?
If you have not been to a Karate class, you might imagine that we had chickened out. Perish the thought because stretching correctly is possibly more challenging than being punched in the face. Have you ever stretched? Really stretched? If you have not, trust me, it can make you break into a sweat. If you felt your hands or legs might just fall off, no one would fault you. Stretching done right pulls at the sinews of your muscles in ways you cannot imagine. You begin to feel parts of your body that you didn’t realize existed.
Now before you run away with the mistaken belief that I enjoy torturing myself, let me explain. Stretching improves flexibility which means how much can a muscle lengthen or elongate. If you are reaching overhead for the tub of chocolate, it will help to have flexibility. Stretching improves the range of motions that your joints, tendons, and ligaments can perform while simultaneously lubricating them. Stretching also improves circulation of blood throughout your body. Finally, stretching helps you relieve pain from ailments such as arthritis, lower back or joint pain. All of these collectively improves posture and the strength in your body.
If you are wondering why my Karate teacher was making me stretch instead of teaching me Karate, the answer is simple. Karate is all about mobility, flexibility, agility, and speed. Can’t be done without flexible muscles.