The warm-up is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects of all physical exercise. Warming up is essential when you are about to practice karate because it raises your body temperature and increases blood flow to the muscles you’ll use during training.
As a rule of thumb, you should choose an activity that warms up the muscles you will be using, but since karate is a full-body activity, specific protocols must be followed. Typically, a warm-up should take around 10 minutes and leave you sweating slightly but not out of breath. A properly structured warm-up will include cardiovascular activity, stretching, and sport-specific activities. You may be asked to jump rope for five minutes before stretching in order to begin the process of increasing your body’s core temperature.
Why Stretching is Vital to Martial Arts
You should stretch when you wake up in the morning and again at night to improve your flexibility. Instructors will always ask you to stretch before and after classes to reduce possible injuries that can arise due to tight muscles and tendons. We look at a few common stretches but must emphasize the fact that each stretch should be performed smoothly, gently, and slowly.
Three Stretching Exercises
Responsible instructors will ask students to stretch every part of their bodies and will pay special attention to problem areas, such as the hamstrings.
Loosening your back: Spread your feet so they are double the width of your shoulders apart. Keep your legs straight as you bend forward and allow your arms to naturally move closer to the ground. Keep movement limited to the waist area and you’ll find that your lower back and hamstrings benefit.
Neck stretch: Bring your feet together, put your hands on your hips, and move your head two or three times backwards, forwards, and from side to side. Circle your head back and forth for three gentle rotations on each side.
Hip rotations: Assume the same position as for the neck stretch but twist at your hips from left to right. You’ll find that your left leg will straighten and your right leg will bend as your hips move to the left side. Circle up to three times to the left and repeat three times to the right.
Shadow Striking to Loosen Muscles
In karate, you will be asked to throw various kicks and punches, which act as the sport-specific part of the warm-up and also have cardiovascular benefits. The side kick is one of the most common warm-up strikes.
Begin with your feet together, and lift your right leg straight up until your knee points forward. Extend your leg straight out from your hip, and when you have finished the kick, your foot must be in a horizontal position with your toes pointing forward. Exhale with the kick, bring the foot back so you return to your starting position, and repeat eight to 10 times with each leg. You can expect to be asked to throw straight jabs, hooks, and uppercuts in a similar drill. Listen to your instructor to learn how to get the most power from your strikes, but remember not to tire yourself out in the warm-up!
Sandoval Freestyle Karate
At Sandoval Freestyle Karate in Gilbert and Chandler, Arizona, we understand how important the warm-up is and ensure all students take it as seriously as the session itself. A good warm-up helps prevent injuries and lays the platform for a great session.