Junior Student’s Corner
I know that a lot of you kids, especially when you first start Kung Fu, wonder why we spend so much time stretching at the beginning of class. When you’re young you want to get right to the fun stuff, like kicking and punching. As with everything else at Kung Fu, there are specific reasons for stretching the way we do.
I’m sure you’ve already figured out some of the benefits of flexibility training. For example:
- It prevents injuries.
- It allows for quicker recovery after exercise.
- It increases balance and coordination.
- It reduces muscle tension.
In addition to all those things, being flexible also has some benefits specifically for kids your age. For one thing your bodies are growing all the time. For “non-flexible” kids, muscles and supporting connective tissues can’t always keep up with bone growth, which causes those dreaded “growing pains”. Having pliable muscles, tendons and ligaments should help you avoid some of that discomfort.
Furthermore, being flexible allows you to have proper posture. That means that as your body matures, it will be growing into that good posture you’ve already established.
As an added bonus, the flexibility you get when you’re young should stay with you throughout your life. Well, you’ll lose some of it as you grow older and muscles stiffen (especially if you don’t continue stretching), but trust me, you’ll be way more flexible than someone starting fresh. I know that from experience. A friend of mine was a hockey goalie from the time he was a kid until his late teens. To this day he can still drop down into a pretty good version of the Center Splits without much effort. I, on other hand, had never worked on my flexibility before I started at the WKFA in my mid-30s—and nearly 14 years later, my Center Splits still aren’t that great (something about those adductor muscles just won’t loosen up). Though I am pleased to say I’ve made a lot of progress in my Side Splits, so there is hope.
Sifu Rebecca wrote a great column a couple newsletters back about the different types of stretching. Check that out if you’d like more information. For our purposes, I’ll separate stretches into two categories:
- Static Stretches are ones in which you stretch a specific body part and hold the position. Centre Splits are a good example.
- Dynamic Stretches are ones in which you put a muscle through a range of motion, hoping to get it a bit further each time. Leg Raises, for example.
Remember that you don’t have to be at WKFA to work on your flexibility. Do a mix of Static and Dynamic stretching while you’re watching TV or when you wake up in the morning and you should definitely feel the benefits—if not now, at least when you’re in your 30s.
Keep up the good work!