Stretching 101

Stretching is one of the most important parts of a martial artist’s training. Proper stretching can increase flexibility, improve range of motion, improve posture, and simply make techniques easier to perform. Unfortunately, many people do not know the correct way to stretch.

Sadly, many martial arts school have their students stretch before they even warm up! This is backwards and can lead to injury. Your muscles need to be warm before you stretch or you could risk tearing a muscle. You will want to do some light cardio before you begin your stretching routine.

Another common mistake is using the wrong type of stretch at the wrong time. In order to know how to stretch correctly, you will need to familiarize yourself with the different types of stretching.

Stretching is usually divided into dynamic stretching, static stretching, isometric stretching, and ballistic stretching.

To get it out of the way I will start with ballistic stretching. This basically means that you pick a stretch and sort of bounce up and down in hopes that the momentum will push you further into the stretch. While this can be effective to help you overcome a plateau, it is not advisable as it often results in injury. While many people do use this type of stretch, at Arkansas Wushu we simply believe the risk outweigh the benefits of the exercise. Especially when there are other effective ways to achieve the same goal.

Dynamic stretching will be what you want at the beginning of your workout. You do increase and decrease how far you go into the stretch, but unlike ballistic stretching, you use slow controlled movement. Stretch Kicks are an excellent example of a dynamic stretch. You will want to go through the full range of motion in a controlled manner, and then return to your starting position. A dynamic stretching routine for Wushu often consist of front rising kicks, side stretch kicks, slap kicks, crescent kicks, reverse and reverse crescent kicks.

Static stretches are better to use at the end of a work out. You will to use them as a cool down to aid in muscle recovery and relieve soreness. These exercises require you to hold a stretch for a small period of time. 30-45 seconds is a good time to start. Remaining in the splits or holding a back bend could be considered a relaxed stretch. You do not necessarily need to stretch to those extreme limits, but you will progress faster by pushing yourself a little. Static stretching may also be divided in passive stretching and active stretching. Passive just means that you have assistance like from an object or another person. Active stretches require you to hold a stretch just using your muscle groups. A good example would be holding your leg as high as you can in there and trying to maintain that position. Use a combination of both for the best results.

The final type of stretching is isometric stretching. This is one of the fastest ways to increase passive flexibility. Isometric stretches basically consist of tensing a muscle by trying to force it into a stretch against an impossible amount of resistance. An example of this would be instead of trying to do the splits, put your legs about twice the length of your shoulders. Next, try to pull the ground together with your feet. Your feet should not move but now you will have resistance against pulling your legs inward. After holding tension for 30 seconds, let yourself relax. Your legs will naturally want to spread further into the split now that the tension has been release. Repeat this exercise with your legs a bit further and slowly work your way down. Isometric stretches are great to do before ending your workout with a passive stretch as it also provides some strength training and may help you go further into your cool down stretches.

What’s new in Arkansas Wushu?

At Arkansas Wushu, we have been working very hard on putting together a comprehensive online manual. This way all of our practitioners have a reliable reference they can turn to whenever there are questions about a particular style or technique.

Programming these manuals has been a rewarding, yet challenging experience. Trying to get everything clearly formatted has raised almost as many questions as it has answered and as a result, many changes have been made.

One example of this is the Chuan Fa/Kenpo manual. When we look back at some of the documentation Sifu Kyle Russell had to learn from, it is amazing anyone could make any sense of it all. The written manual was not broken into steps, there were no pictures, and every self defense technique was simply written as run on sentence. To make matters worse, many of the techniques were written incorrectly! In some cases the technique was given two different names due to extremely minor changes, making the manual larger than it actually needed to be. This created a lot of unnecessary confusion. A video was put out from the original school in an attempt to clear things up, however the video only includes the name and the performance. With no breakdown and all the video being taken from only one angle, the practitioner was still left with many questions. If you would still like to see the original video we are working on improving from, you can find it at https://youtu.be/EhAQQL2jJPA.

There was no reference at all for Shotokan is Sifu Kyle Russell’s school. Everything was done from memory or by asking an elder student. At Arkansas Wushu, we fixed that by doing a step by step breakdown of every form all the way to black belt! We plan to continue and get a full reference of all the 26 Shotokan forms. This step by step breakdown is also linked to the Arkansas Wushu Youtube channel. Originally we did very short videos for each technique. This became problematic as it created 100’s of videos that were only a few seconds long. We are now in the process of remaking the videos as an entire belt, and adding time stamps to for the individual techniques.

We have began the list of requirements on Chan Quan, Nan Quan, Wing Chuan, and Shaolin but do not currently have much content to train from. The website does have a good insight to how the styles are broken down as these styles do not necessarily use a belt system. Instead Chan Quan is broken down into 4 levels while Nan Quan and Wing Chun have 3 levels. Weapons are an optional addition to the Wing Chun system.

With everything formatted and mapped out, we should begin adding new videos this week. Hopefully before much longer, we will have a complete distance learning program in place for those who choose to use it.

Step by Step Shotokan Form reference complete!

We have been working hard on the website here at Arkansas Wushu, and are happy to announce that we are now a step closer to completing our online Shotokan manual! Each form has been broken down into step by step movements for quick reference.

The most important part of grading for a belt in Shotokan Karate, is to know and be able to perform the forms. In the beginning ranks, there are the Heian Katas. These Katas may also be known in The Pinan Katas or the I Katas. All of them have two Kiya spots throughout the form.

After the 5 Heian Forms, there is Tekki Shodan, Bassa Dai, Enpi, and Kanku Dai. Tekki Shodan is part of a series of forms that are performed almost entirely in Horse Stance, helping build a strong foundation. This form is aimed at helping someone fight with their back against a wall. The other 3 are advanced forms that are required curriculum to obtain a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate.

The steps have been typed out but we are still trying to improve! We are slowly adding video links for each step to avoid any confusion about how each movement should be performed. This will make it easier to learn things that might get over looked, such as which direction you should spin.

We at Arkansas Wushu hope this helps you with your Martial Arts journey and makes it easier for to master your Shotokan forms!

Kung Fu vs Karate

I find that people often ask me, what is the difference in Karate and Kung Fu? Today, I would like to explain some of those differences.

Let’s start with Karate. Karate generally refers to a form of martial art that originated in Japan. There are several people who assume that Karate refers to one style of martial art. It would be more accurate to say that Karate refers to the striking techniques found in Japanese martial art. Judo would be the throwing arts and Jujitsu the ground work. The main styles of Karate taught by Arkansas Wushu are Shotokan Karate, and Kenpo Karate. You may hear someone who has practices Karate called a Karateka

Wushu, refers to the martial arts that have originated from China. There are many styles of Wushu, though most people in America refer to this as Kung Fu. Kung Fu is not actually specific to martial arts, but translates to mean a skill that has been acquired through years of practice. Today, Wushu generally refers to the styles Chan Quan, Nan Quan, and Shaolin. Jeet Kune Do and Wing Chun were also made into very famous styles thanks to the help of Bruce Lee.

Kung Fu and Karate often have similar techniques and may even teach the same basic movements. Techniques like the Back Fist and The Front Snap Kick are almost Universal to most Martial Arts throughout the world. Though the movements may be similar, they are often combined or used in different ways. To prove a point lets use forms to compare the styles.

A Karate form is called a Kata, and it almost always begins with a bow. In contrast, a Kung Fu form is called a Taolu. Rather than bowing, Chinese forms tend to begin with a greeting known as a Salutation. These can very from a simple gesture to an almost dance like introduction. Sometimes self defense techniques are incorporated into the salutation itself.

After the introduction, there is always a particular stance every movement is performed in. The stances for Kung Fu can be found in Karate as well. In performance, Karate tends to use somewhat higher stances. This makes it easier to transition from one movement to another but does not have a very appealing look. Kung Fu often tends to use deeper stances both for flare, and to help build flexibility and leg muscle. You will see many more flashy techniques such as spin kicks and performing the splitz in Modern Kung Fu forms than you will in your traditional Karate, however that is not always as practical.

Outside of the stances, you have the actual movements. This is where things get very confusing. There are soft style and hard style techniques in both of these martial arts. Karate usually teaches hard style techniques in the beginning, meaning almost all closed fist techniques. The soft techniques are incorporated in the advanced ranks. Kung fu does the opposite, teaching soft skills first like parrying a punch rather than trying to stop it with your fist. As Kung Fu advances, it adds in more hard style techniques. There are many styles of martial arts within both of these general styles however, meaning there are many exceptions to the rule.

Self of the Defense: Striking Asp C

There is one more variation to the series of striking asp attacks. This time, the attacker has not quite gotten a hold of you yet. This attack takes place as the attacker is reaching for you.

Before your opponent can get a hold of you, step in with your foot. At the same time, use your left hand to parry their right arm outward, creating an opening in the center. As all this is happening, you should also be performing a ridge hand strike to the groin area with your right hand.

 

Go ahead and grab their wrist with your left hand to help hold them in place, You will then want to shuffle in and perform an elbow strike underneath the chin.

 

 

You will then want to turn your body away from the opponent as you drop your hammer fist down, at this point you should be facing away from them.

 

At this point, open the hand and bring the heel of the right foot up. This should crush the groin between your palm and the heel of the foot. This completes the technique Striking Asp C.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks self defense technique!

Self Defense Technique of the week: Striking Asp B

Last week we covered “Striking Asp A”. This week, we will cover another variation of that technique. There is no difference in the attack. Your opponent is still grabbing you and pulling you towards them in this scenario.

As before you will still trap the opponents and wrist and let them pull you towards them. The harder they pull, the better it is for you as this will put more force into your strike. At the same time, you want to perform a middle knuckle punch to their solar plexus. Keeping this middle knuckle out a little bit will help you concentrate the force into a small area, hopefully knocking the wind out of your attacker on impact.

 

You hand comes back to your ear just like in “Striking Asp A”, however this time your hand will remain a fist.  With the bottom of your fist, also known as a “hammer fist”, you want to strike your opponents jaw. I recommend hitting right at the hinge of the jaw for maximum damage, with enough force there is a chance of breaking the jaw at that point. Make sure to follow all the way through with your strike as it will help set up your next attack.

Once the hand is across your opponents jaw and you have reached the point that your hand is now in front of your left shoulder, open your hand and get ready to perform a knife hand strike. This strike will go straight to the esophagus.

This is where the technique ends. If everything was done correctly, your opponent should no longer be able to fight. I hope you enjoyed this weeks self defense technique. Thank you for reading!

 

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Self defense of the week: Striking Asp A

This week I will be covering a self defense technique referred to as “Striking Asp A”. Striking Asp A is a defense off of a grab from the front where the attacker is pulling you towards them.

 

 

The first thing you will want to do is bring your left hand over both of their hands and trap the wrist while they are pulling you in. At the same time, you will step in with the right foot and apply a ridge hand strike to the groin region with your right hand.

 

 

Immediately after the ridge hand, you will want to pull your right hand back towards your ear. You will then make a motion similar to a inward block with the hand open and the palm facing the sky, resulting in a chop to the carotid artery. If done properly this should leave your opponent unconscious.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this weeks self defense!

 

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Self Defense of the Week: Sumo

The next technique I would like to go over is called Sumo. Sumo is a technique off of a grab from the front where you are arms are completely free.

 

To start this technique, you will want to make an X block and strike the throat of your opponent. This should loosen their grip a little bit, and buy you a second of time if done correctly.

 

Next you will want to bring the elbows in tightly and drop them down between your opponents arms. Spread your arms outward and then upward and that should clear your opponents arms from your body.

 

You will then immediately put your right hand on top your left, keeping both hands open. With the tips of the fingers from both hands, strike hard into the center of the throat. This should back the opponent up just enough for you to get your next attack off.

 

Next you will want to step in with your right foot and drive your elbow upward under the attacker’s chin. If you can, try to trap his arm with your left hand at the same time, this will give you more control and options if needed.

 

Next you will want to pivot your hips away from your opponent and drop a hammer first to the groin. Open the hand above that area and bring your foot up backwards, smashing the groin area between your open palm and your foot.

 

At this point if everything is done correctly, your opponent should be damaged enough for you to get away. If you feel confident you may go ahead and apply a submission.

Thank you for reading!

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Self defense of the Week: Kimono Grab

 

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Today we are going to be discussing a technique called Kimono Grab. Kimono grab is an effective self defense technique against a push from the front while your attacker is grasping onto your clothing.

The technique can work very well as long as you know how to use it properly. Let’s look at some common mistakes, minor adjustments, and various applications.

Common Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes is not stepping into a proper stance. When your stance is to narrow it is easy to get knocked off balance. Making your stance wider can keep your attacker from pushing you over.  If your stance is to deep, you will have trouble moving quickly when needed.

For this technique, you will want to step backwards into a bow stance with the left foot back and the right leg forward. At the same time you will want to trap the hands.

Failing to trap the hands is one of the second most common mistakes. Many people simply want to rest their hand on their opponents and fail to grab the wrist. You will want to use your left hand to reach all the way over both of your opponents hands and grasp onto his left wrist. This will give you control over the opponents weaker limb in preparation to break or dislocate the arm at the elbow joint.

If the arm does not break, the most likely mistake being made in this instance is failing to straighten the opponents arm. If you have trapped the arm and stepped back into the stance correctly, your opponents arm should be almost completely straight. This way when you strike up on it with your forearm it breaks easily. If the attackers arms are bent, the strike will not break the arms.

Minor adjustments

There are a few tips that can help make this technique even more effective. One of those would be to lower your center of gravity. Since a push usually comes fairly straight on, lowering your stance can change the angle redirecting the force.

You may also choose to grab the thumb instead of the wrist. This will make it easier to turn the arm if you need too plus adding small joint manipulation will increase your control of the opponent.

After the break, you do a circling inward block to knock the arms off of you. That is followed by a knife hand strike to the throat, and a kick to the groin area. These last two strikes can be adjusted a lot to fit your need. The knife hand can easily become an eye strike and the kick can be replaced by any low kick.

The following video shows about how the technique should look.

Various Applications

Although the technique is meant to be off of a specific attack, there are multiple situations where the technique can be used.  The attack is meant to be off a two handed attack from the front with no adjustments necessary.

If the attacker decided to use only one hand then you may need to adjust a little bit.  If they grab with the right hand you may want to use a different technique, however a grab with the left hand will barely change anything with the exception of maybe the kick at the end.

While it is not ideal, this technique can also be used against someone charging at you with their head down. The trap simply becomes a choke instead. The circling strike can easily be used as a forearm strike to the artery located on the side of the neck. You may also opt to change the knife hand strike into an eye strike pulling the head back in order to land a more effective kick.

Self Defense of the week!

I decided to start a self defense of the week series. There are many great self defense techniques out there, and equally as many terrible ones.

Over the years I have had many self defense techniques presented to me with the question “Would this actually work?” The answer is almost always, maybe depending on the situation. As a result I decided it would be a good idea to do a full review of many of the techniques taught within the systems I have learned.

No self defense technique is ever full proof. Things can change depending on your surroundings, size differences, athletic ability, and just plain luck. My personal definition of a good self defense technique is one that does not need much change to apply to a variety of situations. The more you have to change the technique to fit the situation, the weaker it is as it simply will not work in multiple instances.

This upcoming series will pick a technique and explain how it is supposed to be applied, common mistakes, what could go wrong, and some simple modifications that can make the technique more effective.