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John Tjia
04-05-2004, 11:37 PM
In the warm-up session at my dojo, one of the routines that the sensei does is to spread his legs in a wide V (something like 150 degrees) while sitting on the mat and then, after a few gentle rocks from side to side, he leans forward and lays his chest and face on the mat. The people who are in the higher kyus and the black belts also seem to have a pretty good spread.

I am just in my 5th month or so, and in any case, I have a 50-year-old set of legs that are not used to this kind of a balletic spread. In the warm-up, all I can do is put my legs in a 90-degree V, if that, and then just barely lean forward!

I'd like to be more limber than this. My questions are: How do I get the old thigh and back ligaments to stretch and lengthen? Does it take a long time? And also, how much does this kind of a more elastic set of lower body musculature help in the aikido techniques?

paw
04-06-2004, 05:48 AM
And also, how much does this kind of a more elastic set of lower body musculature help in the aikido techniques?

Do you often find your legs in a large "V" shape when doing aikido?

If yes, there's your answer.

If no, why are you worried about developing an attribute you won't use?

Regards,

Paul

cuguacuarana
04-06-2004, 07:24 AM
I have trouble with that one too, and I just have 21 year old legs. Just hang in there, flexibility can take a long time to develop. I have been working on it for a matter of years and am still nowhere near wher I'de like to be.

happysod
04-06-2004, 07:38 AM
Naughty Paul,
If no, why are you worried about developing an attribute you won't use? the answer's always "tradition!"...or perhaps it's for mounted aikido? (leaves quickly before I start on normal rant concerning other bizarre warm-up routines:D )

Buddy Iafrate
04-06-2004, 09:34 AM
"If no, why are you worried about developing an attribute you won't use? "

This one always irks me as well. I develop my shooting skills, aikido skills, bokken/jo/tanto skills, etc ad infinitum. My hope is never to have to use these 'attributes' in a Real Life(tm) situation. But frankly, I would rather have put in the time to have them, than to not have them. Same applies for strength and flexibility training as well.

I can appreciate the minimalistic approach, really. But sometimes I think the 'if you dont use it everyday, don't bother practicing it' attitude takes that methodology a bit too far for practicality. This is especially the case in things like flexibility, balance, and strength training, whose benefits just seem overwhelmingly obvious to me, even outside of an Aikido context.

<insert shrug here>

All my oppinion though of course.

To answer the original posters question, since this thread appears hijacked already, give it time, and get into the habit of a stretching and flexibility routine a few times a day, instead of only when you are at the dojo. That's not schientificated, or official, just what worked for me. Breakfast lunch and dinner stretching, in addition to the usual warmups during training at the dojo. Everyday, even if you arent training.

~Bud

Qatana
04-06-2004, 09:39 AM
My 53year old sensei can do this. My 48 year old 5th kyu legs can do this. NOBODY else in my dojo can do this and they range from nokyu to 4th dan.

No this stretch is not entirely necessary for aikido, obviously.

paw
04-06-2004, 10:44 AM
Buddy,
This one always irks me as well. I develop my shooting skills, aikido skills, bokken/jo/tanto skills, etc ad infinitum. My hope is never to have to use these 'attributes' in a Real Life(tm) situation. But frankly, I would rather have put in the time to have them, than to not have them. Same applies for strength and flexibility training as well.

This isn't a hijack, it's a serious question. More specifically, it's a question of carryover and diminishing returns.

I'm the first one to advocate improving athleticism, but that should be tempered by the goal. Would strength help in aikido? Yes. Absolutely. But is it necessary to develop strength to the point of bench pressing 400 pounds? No.

While having that ability(attribute) may help an aikidoist, the time taking to develop that attribute would be better spent on the mat, training.

Flexibility is the same. Would being able to do the splits help aikido? Maybe. Is it necessary? No. And the time spent developing that extreme flexibility would be better spent on the mat training, at least if the goal is to become better at aikido.

If we were talking about a kicking art (muay thai, karate, tkd, etc...) or gymnastics, I'd be the first to change my answer. For those activities great flexibility is needed (side note: it's need in motion....will static stretching aid that? Science is increasingly suggesting, "no").

Regards,

Paul

Janet Rosen
04-06-2004, 12:35 PM
I've trained for over 8 yrs and am simply not flexible in that direction. Doesn't matter.

Paul Melsness
04-06-2004, 12:48 PM
Hi John,

To answer the "How do I ..." part of your question, here are a couple of good sites:

http://www.cmcrossroads.com/bradapp/docs/rec/stretching/

http://www.stadion.com/

Happy stretching,

Paul

Buddy Iafrate
04-06-2004, 12:53 PM
I'll agree with you there Paul, especially on the diminishing returns element, if your goal is improved Aikido performance.

I never had the goal of connecting a direct benefit of these exercises to my Aikido techniques and training. Nonetheless, it "feels" better(I know, unqualifiable as can be).

"I'd like to be more limber than this."

This is the statement that held my focus. If you wanna be stretchy, stretch John =)

If you want to improve your technique, practice your techniqe!

~Bud

Magma
04-06-2004, 03:00 PM
John Tjia -

It can take up to 8 weeks to gain a noticable difference in muscle length due to stretching. *8* weeks, and probably more depending on the age of the person.

And that's just a noticable "difference." Going from 90 degrees to 150 will take a bit longer.

Is it worth it? I say yes. The hips are the seat/gyro/generator of power for the martial arts, regardless of how many high kicks you intend to do. In aikido, it's just the opposite: it's sitting your hips down. Settling your weight beneath you. Dropping the hip through a technique.

With hip/leg flexibility, both a wider stance and a lower center can be achieved.

Besides which, being more flexible means that nage can throw with more energy, not having to worry *as* much about whether you can take the fall. Being thrown with energy this way is a great way to learn the techniques, so there again I say flexibility is a boost to your aikido training.

I could go on with my reasoning, but my own workout calls.

HTH.

jxa127
04-06-2004, 03:47 PM
Paul said:
While having that ability(attribute) may help an aikidoist, the time taking to develop that attribute would be better spent on the mat, training.

Flexibility is the same. Would being able to do the splits help aikido? Maybe. Is it necessary? No. And the time spent developing that extreme flexibility would be better spent on the mat training, at least if the goal is to become better at aikido.
The problem with this approach, Paul, is that the student may well choose to not do that stretching exercise so he can spend more time working on aikido (I assume he's already "on the mat"), but the rest of the class is doing the stretching exercise, leaving the non-stretcher all by himself.

And, anyway, if the stretch is at all like what we do, it only takes a minute or so from training time. Our whole stretching and warm-up routine, which includes a fair amount of ukemi, only takes about 15 minutes. That leaves plenty of time in our 1.5 hour and 3 hour classes for aikido.

Now, it's possible the student could talk to the instructor and convince him or her that that particular stretch is a waste of time. In that case, disregard my comments. My point, though, is that this kind of thing is usually up to the instructor, not the student.

My view is that the warm-ups help. Some of them don't really do anything for me, and some are very helpful, but overall I do better after a warm-up. We usually warm up together as a class, but we have one class a week that's preceded by an open mat session where folks are responsible for warming up by themselves. That works out pretty well too. But, most folks end up doing some form of the regular warm-ups.

In a traditional class and at the seminars I've attended, whoever leads gets to set the tone for the warm-ups. The rest of us have to follow. That's just the way it is, whether we like it or not.

Regards,

Qatana
04-06-2004, 07:42 PM
rew- stretching is Not a warm-up. Stretching is done when you are already warmed up.

Paul W- does science really say that if i don't do my static stretches every day I'll still be able to do the cancan?

paw
04-06-2004, 09:01 PM
Drew,

My impression was John was asking what he could do on his own, outside of class, and my comments are based on that assumption. During class, barring some medical reason, I would suggest a student follow class.

Jo,
Paul W- does science really say that if i don't do my static stretches every day I'll still be able to do the cancan?

It's being suggested that static stretching has little, if any, carryover when someone is moving. In other words, if someone wants to be flexible when they are in motion, they should stretch while moving.

Regards,

Paul

zachbiesanz
04-06-2004, 11:45 PM
My sensei loves this kind of stretching. He frequently talks about how flexible legs make for the most beautiful breakfalls. Personally, I think it's a great way for doka to practice something where there are clear visible results: you can measure how far apart your legs are, or how close your face is to the mat in a way that you can't measure centering or taking someone's balance.

mantis
04-14-2004, 02:17 PM
John Tjia, I can't do it either. I never could, and will never do it.

I even ran hurdles in high school, and could barely touch my toes. I was in the army, and we stretched and stretched and stretched, but it barely made any difference.

Some people aren't limber and never will be.

You might fall in to this category.

You do have to still stretch (especially when you get older) to stay in good shape, and not tear muscles etc., but as far as touching your chest to the ground, I see no need in trying to reach that goal if your not built for it.

good luck.

Erik
04-14-2004, 04:50 PM
the answer's always "tradition!"...
But is it really, an ancient tradition, so to speak? Granted I never saw Morihei Ueshiba in person but from what I understand he really didn't do a lot of warmups. In fairness, this is probably in his later years where he wouldn't be doing this sort of thing, but nonetheless how did it become tradition? I suspect it's due more to the 70's and on when stretching became more of a staple in the sports community. Our teachers probably hybridized the process a bit by bringing in Yoga and other things until it became a more modern tradition.
(leaves quickly before I start on normal rant concerning other bizarre warm-up routines:D )
Good Advice!

John Tjia
04-14-2004, 06:01 PM
Thanks to all, especially James Bennington. I will stretch as much as I can during warm-ups. In any case, it seems that my aikido is progressing well and that my inability to do a wide split and touch my chest to the mat has not caused any problems about improving my techniques!

batemanb
04-23-2004, 04:25 AM
John,

My sensei in Kobe is extremely good at doing this, he is in his mid/ late 50's and can quite easily touch his nose on the floor whilst doing the box splits. Paul's right, this exercise is not neccessary for Aikido per se. I've been doing this stretch for about 12 years, and I still can't open my legs any further than I could on day one (about 90 degrees), although I can get my nose closer to my knees than I used to be able to:). My wife does this exercise daily, and she does have more flexibility than she did at the start and a lot more than me, it really depends on individual bodies. My Sensei says that Aikido is stretching, and despite not using this particular stretch in practice, stretching in general is probably not bad for your body and general well being. When I did one of my Aikido coaching courses, we were discussing warm ups and stretching, Jo is right, a stretch should follow after you are warm. One of the interesting points mentioned at the time, was that you will only ever match/ get back the suppleness you had when you were 12 years old. So if you could do the splits then, you should be able to get back to that level, but you are unlikely to do the splits now if you couldn't do it then.

Regards

Bryan

Lyle Laizure
05-17-2004, 06:37 PM
Flexibility is great. The flexibility you mention may not be necesary for your Aikido training but it certainly couldn't hurt it either. I think though one of the worst things one can do is to stretch when you are cold. I think a light warm up of walking or something would be best then go into stretching.

Jepi
05-18-2004, 04:50 AM
I have found that many stretching exercises in aikido warm-up are exactly makko-ho exercises. Makko-ho are exercises related to shiatsu: the goal is not stretching (in occidental point of view), but balance energy meridians.
Examples:
cranking --> bladder and kidney meridian
sitting in seiza and then lean back --> stomach meridian

Gareth Hinds
06-07-2004, 03:13 PM
I think it's important to stretch *after* class, so you don't tighten up.

aikitim23
06-10-2004, 01:06 PM
man, im 13 and i cant even get my legs to stay unbent, while im trying to strech......

giriasis
06-10-2004, 08:46 PM
The importance of this stretch is to stretch your inner thighs and quadriceps. You legs don't have to be straight or at a 180 degree angle for it to work. Just make sure you use proper form. Sit on the floor with your legs in a "v". If you're legs don't straighten out don't worry about it. Sit up straight and place your hands on the floor in front of you. If you're really tight, you should already feel a mild burn in the muscle. If not, hinge forward from your hips keeping your back straight. If you hunch over your stretching your upper back and that's not the goal of this exercise. As you hinge forward, keep your hands on the floor and bend your elbows. Use your hands to support you and to help you keep your back straight. If you want an even deeper stretch walk your hands out and bend your elbows some more. If you begin to hunch over then you're breaking your form and you're pushing too far. If you feel a pleasant mild burn in the muscle, and no pain in the joints, tendons and ligaments, you're doing it right.

You do get a much better stretch when your body is warm. If you're really tight do some jumping jacks, run in place for a couple of minutes, then stretch. In other words just work your legs a bit so they are warm. I suggest showing up to class about 10 minutes early to warm your body up so when you start the class "warm-up" you'll be warmed up.

Remember, you don't have to do what everyone else does. You only need to do what your body allows for. If your legs just don't open up that much then they just don't. Focus on proper form.

Also, to get more form points go to you local bookstore and checkout their fitness section. There usually are some good athletic stretch books on the self that you can read and/ or buy.

Williamross77
06-11-2004, 01:56 AM
i think it is important to stretch, mainly because in rondori you can find your self in strange places. the key is to warm up using Aikitaisos, if you do not have those in your school just pretend you are doing an Aiki technique in the air about 20 min, then slowly sit into the posture and proceed to push but not bounce for at least 30 sec. the key is to be warm and to mimic the move ment you will use. as i also have a shodan in a kick boxing style this is the way it is done, i have seen people over 50 get very llimber like this and Koichi Tohei seemes to stress the impotance of being limber.