Re: opening the joints
One possibly analogous practice from a Chinese martial art, Baguazhang . . . circle-walking with fixed upper-body postures . . . moving zhan zhuang in a sense . . . externally stretched, internally bound, working to open the joints . . . once trained solo, the next step is "roushou," light-contact drills with a partner, circling around varying speed, pressure and contact, then more freeform, all the while trying to maintain the feeling of openness while in contact. It's not sparring (though you're practicing stepping and movements that would naturally lead to set-ups) . . . you could call it contact improvisation. The limitation is too easily getting your awareness caught up in the movement and losing the sense of externally stretched, internally bound.