Re: opening the joints
Hello Michael, much appreciate your effort in writing here. Mike Sigman earlier pointed out the "external" and "internal" training method distinction, and I would say that - from the limited exposure I have had - that the earlier students get away from trying to do things with muscles the better: not because the muscles will not in fact be used, but because our usual understanding of "usage" is not correct for (dare I say) Asian martial arts premised on the use of jin/kokyu/ki. I'm getting a clue that there's a "point of no return" where a flip in thinking occurs and one's body use simply becomes different and never goes back to what it was before. So in that sense, anything one does before that "flip" using muscles explicity, most likely (I think) burns in bad patterns. As Abe sensei and many other teachers say, first use ki, then work on the (very different) "power" and (very different) "speed". Minoru Akuzawa, whose exercises are decidedly physical, also advocates this approach, in my experience.