Stretching to Success: The Secrets of Flexibility in Martial Arts Training

Flexibility is crucial in the Martial Arts, but it’s also an extremely important part of success outside the dojo. What does doing the splits have to do with being successful? Better yet, how can I take the flexibility that I learn in class and use it to become more successful in life?

At the beginning of class, we usually start with some breathing exercises, then some warmups, and just recently, I’ve added in a stretching routine that I kind of stopped doing a few years back. Why’d I add it back in? Stretching is very important and helps us maintain and improve our flexibility, enhances our range of motion, helps prevent injury, improves our circulation, reduces muscle tension, enhances our posture, Improves our athletic performance, gives us a better mind-body connection, reduces soreness, and improves functional movement. Wow, that’s a lot of benefits for stretching. Wow, and to think you get all that from my Aikido Class at the Texas Rock Gym. But wait, you don’t have to take my class to benefit from stretching; you can just do it on your own, or take a yoga class, or subscribe to Yoga with Adriene.  Wake up every morning or before you go to bed, watch one of her videos and do some yoga with her. I did her 30-day challenge. It was great!  

But what does that have to do with success? Or again, better yet, how can you use what you learn in the dojo to become more successful?

Let’s take a look at flexibility on a philosophical and mental level. In Aikido, we have to be flexible in the way we think and in our movement, more so than being able to do the splits! By the way, I’ve never been able to do a full-on split! Even, with all my years of stretching. Anyway, let’s get back to the point of success. Have you ever heard of the word pivot? Like when your business isn’t going anywhere and you have to pivot or change direction in order to be more successful. Some people find it really hard to change direction. Don’t be one of those people who keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.  

When we train in class, and the technique is not working, we’re the ones who have to change something in order to make it work. We have to allow our thinking to be flexible, to accept that what we’re doing doesn’t work, and to change or pivot.

Now, I know some very high-ranking Aikido people that, when the technique doesn’t work, they get mad at their uke. Can you believe that? I find it very hard to accept, especially since I’ve been on that side of the world, and I’ve had a few people get upset with me when they couldn’t perform a technique. In other words, they had no flexibility! I kind of feel sorry for those people. Jim Carey did a wonderful job demonstrating that on Living Color.

When you leave the dojo, always allow your mind and your movements to be flexible. Like Bruce Lee once said, “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.” 

This quote reflects Bruce Lee’s philosophy of adaptability and the importance of being flexible in one’s approach to life. 

So, yes, physically stretching has so many benefits that have been passed down for hundreds of years in the martial arts. And all martial arts, whether Tai Chi, Karate, Kung-fu, Tae Kwon do, Krav Maga, Capoeira, Kickboxing, Muay Tai, Hapkido, Judo, Jujutsu, or Aikido, incorporate some kind of stretching in the class. And yes, you can learn that routine, or take a yoga class, or just build your own stretching routine and do it on your own, but what you get out of the philosophy of the martial arts about flexibility can have a powerful impact on your success in life; learning to be flexible, mentally, being able to pivot and change as you learn more things and as you grow and level up in life.  

Take that out of the dojo and always strive to create a better you for a better future.

Scroll to Top