Karate class will generally begin with a warm up. This is one of the most important things you can do prior to working out, so that you get the maximum benefit from the karate class and reduce the chances of injury.
“Contrary to martial arts movies, a warm-up is not a test of will, or a grueling and painful experience. It is used to put some fluid into your joints, and prepare your body to practice karate while avoiding injury. Whatever you may have seen on television, you will not have to do 500 push-ups, we will not hook you up to some contraption designed to tear your legs apart to the splits, and you will never be forced to injure yourself at any Karate Kawartha Lakes class.”
So How Do We Start?
The Warm Up
Part 1 – Get your heart pumping!
Try simple aerobic exercises at a very easy pace. The term cardio is often used interchangeably with aerobic. Aerobic exercise is any repetitive activity that you do long enough and hard enough to challenge your heart and lungs. Any kind of running exercise will get your heart racing and the blood pumping through your body. However, there are so many more to try.
- Skipping with a twist: Begin the movement with simple skipping. You will progressively add intensity, range of motion and a twist to each set, but begin with easy small steps. Skip 10 full strides (5 per side), stop and turn around. Add a full arm swing and drive your knees a bit higher. Skip 10 full strides (5 per side), stop and turn around. Add the torso twist. Take full skipping strides, driving your knees upward and your arms across your body to a full range of motion. Keep your movements smooth and controlled, not sloppy.
- Jumping jacks: arms and legs move together from the sides to the top position. Alternate to having arms move from front and back position.
- Lateral Steps + Pulls: step from side to side, tapping your foot behind the body of the leading leg. At the same time, wave both arms up in front of your body (in front of and above your head) and then pull them back downwards to your sides in a full sweeping range of motion.
- High Knee Pulls: pull one knee upwards towards your core, while reaching up and then down with both hands so that your elbows and high knee are near your core at the same time.
- 4 Torso Twists + Knees: twist from side to side four times, and then bring one knee up to the opposite elbow. If you follow this same count (1, 2, 3, 4, knee), you should be bringing a different knee up each and every time.
- Front Kicks: kick high and in front of the body, alternating which kick is doing the kicking. Keep your core tight for an added toning benefit.
- Boxer Shuffle: hop from side to side, tapping the non-leading leg on the ground in the center of the distance that you are hopping back and forth.
- Butt Kicks: jog in place while kicking your heels back towards your glutes. Make sure the movement is being driven from your hamstrings
- Jumping Jack Planks: Start in a traditional plank (shoulders over the wrists and the body in one straight line), but keep the feet together. Then, simply do jumping jacks with the legs, moving them out to the sides, then back together. Aim for 12-15 hops.
- Sprinter Sit-up: Lie down on your back with the legs extended, arms by your side, and elbows bent at 90-degrees. Now, sit up and bring the right knee towards the left elbow. Continue to alternate sides.
The Warm Up
Part 2 – Release any tension!
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin are made up of soft tissue. These should be strong, free of tension and mobile enough to allow easy movement with speed and coordination. They also protect your bones, joints, blood vessels, and nerves. Stretching is designed to improve the function of your soft tissues by releasing tension, removing waste products and moving nutrients into the tissues for repair and recovery.
Many people start with static stretching which is a method of stretching a muscle beyond its normal limits, then holding the stretch for anywhere between a few seconds and a few minutes. Unfortunately, just doing static stretching before a workout can overextend muscles and actually rob them of the power and strength necessary for your actual workout.
Dynamic stretching, which relies on momentum to engage the muscles, rather than holding a stretch at a standstill, gets you jumping around and gets your muscles loose, active, warm, and ready for action. This primes your muscles and improves your circulation for a great workout that produces your best effort , so that you can perform each exercise with the proper form. Many studies have shown that dynamic stretching can help increase power, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.
To stretch safely, choose movements that reproduce the same actions of the exercise that you are about to do.
- Knee raises: alternately raising the knees as high as possible while walking in place. This type of stretch can help prepare leg and back muscles for sprinting activities.
- Walking knee to chest: bring the knee cap into the chest by hugging your shin while stepping onto your toes with your opposite foot, which will give you more leverage.
- Arm swings: holding the arms out to the sides of the body and continuously swinging them in circles for approximately 30 seconds to stretch out arms, shoulder, and lower back muscles for upper body movement like throwing or swinging during competition.
- Walking forward lunge: Walk forward and drop knee to the ground. This dynamically stretches the hip flexors by emphasizing hip extension and can reduce muscle tightness around the hip joint necessary for competition.
- Walking forward lunge with a twist: the forward lunge helps stretch the hip flexors and activates the legs, glutes, and hips, while the SLOW twist stretches out the upper and middle back and activates core rotation.
- Leg swings: stand sideways next to a wall and swing your outside leg forward and back, increasing the height each time. Next, swing leg sideways and in front of your body.
- Walking high kicks: high kicks help warm-up the hamstrings and improve range of motion. Starting with your right leg, extend your left arm straight out. Kick your leg up while keeping your leg and hand straight so that your toes hit your palm. Try to progressively kick higher, but complete this exercise while staying under control.
- Hip stretch with a twist: this helps open up the hips and groin while stretching the core, upper, and middle back. Start in the push up position and bring your right foot up to your right hand while keeping your hips down and lower back flat. Take your right hand, twist to your left while extending your arm and reaching toward the sky. Come back to the starting pushup position and repeat on the other side.
- Spiderman steps: push up position. Alternately bring each leg up to each hand.
- Jump squats: stand up with your feet about shoulder width apart while holding your hands behind your head, or on your hips. Squat down until the hips are about parallel with the ground, then forcibly jump off the ground. Land softly and repeat the jump.
- Jump lunges: this exercise also requires balance to help activate your stabilizer muscles in your legs and hips. With your hands at your sides or behind your head, start with one foot extended forward and one behind. Drop your hips downward and forcibly jump into the air. While you are in the air, switch your legs so that your forward leg is now behind you and your back leg is now in front of you.
- Over the fence: step like you are going over a fence. Knee comes up, goes out to the side or knee goes out to the side and around to the inside.
- Hip extensions: lie on the ground in the sit up position with arms flat beside your hips. Raise hips and repeat.
- Sit ups: isolate core muscles. Feet flat and lower back pushed to the floor. Raise shoulders off the ground only an inch or two and hold for one second. Drop down and repeat. Lift one leg and raise to that side. Again only an inch or two off the ground. Repeat and switch legs.
Note: As an instructor working with children, the heart pumping exercises and the dynamic stretching is the time to help them work out the ‘wiggles’, engage them in something fun and prepare them to focus on the karate activities to come. Your warm up should not be repetitive from week to week and should be designed to engage their minds and bodies. Try getting them loud and engaged by counting in Japanese as you do the repetitions.
Let The Learning Begin!
Now is the time to start on basic movements and/or slow and extended kata, moving into the main body of your workout.
The Cool Down
Static sustained stretches are designed to hold a position for a joint or a muscle that is minimally challenging. The focus is on relaxing the body part being stretched and letting it go further on its own. Research suggests that holding the position for 30–60 seconds will increase flexibility in the tissue; conversely, done prior to exercise, static stretching may actually inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire.
The best time to stretch is at the end of an exercise session. Make sure that your muscles are warm before you begin stretching. Your skin should be flushed and you should be slightly sweaty. This is the time to relax and begin recovery. After exercise, cool down and hold a given stretch only until you feel a slight pulling in the muscle, but no pain. Do not bounce during the stretch. As you hold the stretch, the muscle will relax. This is the easy stretch which reduces tension. As you feel less tension you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same slight pull. Hold this position until you feel no further increase. This is the developmental stretch and will safely increase flexibility.
It is possible for the muscles and ligaments around a joint to become too flexible. Extreme flexibility may be due to loose ligaments and muscles which may offer less joint support and may even increase the risk of injuries such as joint dislocations. Excessive flexibility can be just as bad as not enough, so don’t overstretch.
- Quad stretch: while standing, grab the top of your right foot and bring it closer to your glutes while pushing the hips forward.
- Groin stretch: while lying on the ground, bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall gently apart to the side. Hold and bring knees up
- Knee raises: while lying on the ground straighten both legs and then pull your left leg toward your chest. Keep your head on the floor. Hold and switch legs.
- Neck stretches: while lying on the ground in the knee bent position place hands behind your head and slowly bring your head, neck and shoulders forward until you feel a slight stretch. Hold and relax down.
- Shoulder blade pinch: while lying on the ground in the knee bent position pull your shoulder blades together to create tension in the upper back area. Your chest should move upward. Hold the relax and then gently pull your head forward as in the neck stretch exercise.
- Arm stretch: while lying on the ground in the knee bent position and head resting flat on the ground, put one arm above your head with the palm up and the other arm down along side your body, palm down. Reach in the opposite direction. Hold and switch.
- Knee cross: while lying on the ground in the knee bent position, lift the left leg over the right leg. From here, use your left leg to pull your right leg toward the floor until you feel a good stretch. Hold and then relax. Switch legs. Keep the upper back, shoulders and the elbows flat on the floor. Next, straighten your right leg and with your right hand pull your bent leg up and over the other leg. Make sure that both of your shoulders and your head are on the floor. Drop your knee and turn your head towards your opposite thigh. Hold and repeat on other side.
- Sitting knee cross: with your right leg straight put your left foot flat on the ground on the other side of your right knee. Reach over your left leg with your right arm so that your elbow is on the outside of your left leg. With your left hand resting on the ground behind you, slowly turn your head to look over your left shoulder and at the same time, turn your upper body, but not your hips, toward your left hand. Gently push your right elbow against your bent leg. Hold and switch.
- Standing elbow stretch: with arms overhead, hold the elbow of one arm with the hand of the other arm. Keeping the knees slightly bent, gently pull your elbow behind your head as you bend from your hips to the side. Hold and switch.
- Lunge stretch: move one leg forward until the knee of the forward leg is directly over the ankle. Your other knee should be resting on the floor. Slowly lower the front of your hip downward to create an easy stretch. Hold and switch.
- Hip stretch: with legs bent under you, reach forward with one arm, palm down. Pull hips back at same time. Hold. Relax. Switch arms and pull/push.
And finally, you should breathe deeply and fully during the stretches to expand your lungs and relax your body. This is a great time to review what has been learned throughout the class or to check in with each participant. As well, it is highly recommended that you drink enough fluids each day and during the class, to keep your soft tissues well hydrated. Hydrated tissues are less likely to bruise or tear. Both the warm up and the cool down are important parts of a karate class and should be taken seriously so to prevent injury and increase the benefits of practicing your karate techniques.