Speed and strength are vitally important in karate to generate the force needed to perform a technique as strongly as possible. However, flexibility is just as important to maintain to proper range of movement needed to out maneuver your opponent. Follow these simple exercises to ensure that you stay flexible and reduce the risk of any unnecessary injuries that require orthopedic intervention.
Many people forget the importance of mobilising the spine before training. Karate is an intense fighting sport that combines different planes of movement when performing kicks, punches and throws. Gently rotating the spine left and right eight to ten times, as well as side-to-side helps to warm up the muscles holding the vertebrae in place, increasing the range of motion they will allow your spine to move. This will help to reduce the risk of any back pain from straining the muscles of the erector spinae if you suddenly find yourself in an awkward position.
Pre-Training Warm Up
Warming up in karate is different than in a gym. You probably wont' have any cardio machines to jump on so you'll need to use your own body. Start small to warm up the joints starting with your upper body, and then moving to your legs. Begin by releasing any tension in the head, and start to roll the shoulders forwards and backwards. This will loosen the neck and shoulder girdle and begin to warm up the chest and back. Next do some shadow boxing on the spot, start slow and gradually increase the speed of your punches. Warming up with movements you will use when training is a good way to warm up the right muscles.
At this point it's good to start moving around as you shadow box, incorporating the large muscles of the legs will increase your heart rate and start pumping warm blood to your muscles; a few kicks here and there will further help this. Once you feel nice and warm do some hall sprints to really stretch the hamstrings. These will work hard when sparing and kicking high, so you need to develop the elasticity.
The warm up should last a good five to ten minutes and be gradual, so don't rush as you will be at risk of pulling a muscle. Drink plenty of water beforehand to limit the risk of cramp and spend a minute or so warming up again after any prolonged period standing around watching demonstrations from your instructor.