Do You Need to be Flexible to Do Martial Arts?


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If you are a fan of martial arts, you probably noticed that the high kicks, jumps, and turns show quite a bit of flexibility. It is impressive to see how flexible professional martial artists actually are. If you are interested in taking part in martial arts, you might wonder whether flexibility is required to do martial arts. 

The sweet and short answer is yes. It is crucial to be flexible when participating in martial arts. Although flexibility in the legs seems to be most important, flexibility in the arms and core also positively influences the skills. Flexibility will contribute to good posture and lower the risk of injuries. 

Perhaps you are not as flexible as you wish to be. However, this does not have to be a problem, as long as you are willing to put in the work. Everyone can gain flexibility. In this article we will have a closer look at the required flexibility in martial arts, and what you can do to improve yourself in this area. 

Why Do Martial Arts Require Flexibility?

Flexibility is, especially by beginners, often an underrated aspect of the martial arts. As most martial arts require qualities such as high kicks, fast movement, and muscle coordination, flexibility is key. Trying to do all these things without proper stretching, might cause injuries. 

Flexibility is important for good posture, and it offers a lower risk of injuries. Gaining flexibility can help you to be one step ahead of your opponent. It results in the relaxation of the muscles. On the other hand, a lack of flexibility leads to more tension in the muscles, which wastes energy. Therefore, we can say that being flexible will provide you with more energy. This might eventually result in a better fight. 

Furthermore, flexibility has a great impact on your balance. Which is another utterly important quality in the world of martial arts. If your stability is not on point, this can be a big obstacle.

Which Martial Art Requires the Most Flexibility?

In the different branches of martial arts, different levels of flexibility are required. Below we will have a look at some martial arts that require a lot of flexibility.

Capoeira, also known as the dancing martial art, is definitely one that requires a lot of flexibility. As the movements reach further and are broader than other martial arts, capoeira requires flexibility and stability on an extremely high level. Capoeira is all about moving fast and steady. Flexibility can be an enormously helpful tool for this purpose. Also, the high jumps and turns ask for flexibility in the legs, hips, and core.

Capoeira Show
Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen

Another martial art that requires quite some flexibility is Taekwondo. If you ever saw Taekwondo yourself, you know that a pair of seriously flexible legs is a necessity. 

The kicks, flips, and high jumps that occur in Taekwondo require great flexibility of the practitioner. Especially the flexibility of the hamstrings is important when it comes to Taekwondo. The stretch that is being offered in class, will not be enough. Make sure to gain flexibility in this area and do this consistently every day. 

If you are interested in any other kind of martial arts, for example, karate, judo, aikido, krav maga, or kickboxing, flexibility is still something that is not to be underrated. As mentioned, flexibility does not only help with high kicks, but it can also be very useful for stability, posture, and muscle coordination. 

How Do You Become More Flexible?

The most important thing to remember is that gaining flexibility does not happen overnight. It is understandable that one wishes to be flexible, especially when this is required for a certain sport. However, patience is key when it comes to gaining flexibility. 

Another crucial point, next to patience, is dedication. To become more flexible, you will have to train each and every day. You have to devote yourself to your daily exercises, to achieve the goals you have put for yourself. 

One of the most important things about gaining flexibility is proper, professional training. Working on your flexibility should always be done in a safe environment, guided by a professional. You might be tempted to start the flexibility journey on yourself, but you should know that this does not come without risk. If you are not a professional, the chances of having the wrong posture or doing the wrong stretching exercises are huge. You might have the feeling you are on the right track; however, you can easily get injured without even noticing.

To prevent injuries, get yourself a personal coach that is willing to help you on your flexibility journey. As there are many different guidelines and programs when it comes to becoming more flexible, it might be difficult to determine which on fits you. A personal trainer will also be able to provide you with a schedule that fits your needs and capabilities. 

Is it Possible to Become a Competent Martial Artist Without Being Very Flexible?

The fact is that all professional martial artists have a certain level of flexibility. Some movements or tricks simply ask for it. Although one might be more flexible than the other, you won’t meet an artist that is stiff as a rock. 

When you are new to martial arts, you might worry about the fact that you are not as flexible as your fellow students. You could even think that you will never have what it takes to become a competent martial artist. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

You can do anything you put your mind to. This also goes for gaining flexibility, and therefore, becoming a more competent martial artist. As mentioned before, there are a number of important aspects that you must adhere, in order to achieve your flexibility goals. Below I created a list with the key elements.

1.Patience and Persistence

Gaining flexibility is a job that can take quite some time. Especially when you come from far. Therefore, it is important to be persistent. Always keep your goal in mind and never let anyone or anything stop you from reaching it. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should make reasonable goals. 

Expecting yourself to be able to kick the ceiling lamp within a week, is an example of an unreasonable goal. Goals like these won’t bring you anywhere. They will only result in disappointment and frustration. 

2.Make a Plan

In order to achieve your goals, a solid plan is required. Find out which areas you should be most flexible in, in line with the respective martial art. After this, it is time to make a schedule. Plan your moments of stretching and determine the best stretching routine for you. Do not let anything come between you and your practice. When skipping a session, there is always the danger of straying from your right path. 

3.Good Nutrition

Although you might not expect it, nutrition can have a great impact on your process of gaining flexibility. Especially enough protein is essential. Of course, taking protein will not miraculously make you flexible. However, it can contribute to a fast recovery of the muscles after a stretching session. It can reduce soreness and therefore be an effective tool in reaching your goal to become more flexible. 

Clay E

Clay E is a MMA/Muay Thai practitioner who was a collegiate wrestler at James Madison University.

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