There has been some debate over the years about stretching before training in martial arts and also for exercise in general.
I’ve heard some martial artists say that they don’t stretch before training as they’d rather train with the body that they have than the body they’d like to have! Meaning, if you were to get involved in a physical altercation, you won’t have chance to warm up and stretch; so your body will not be in the same state for that altercation as it is when you’re training and you’ve had chance to conveniently warm up and stretch out! They continue that if you want to stretch to improve your flexibility, do it when you get up in the morning, so that your body gets used to being like it all day.
To quote the UK National Health Service website:
“From weekend warriors to elite athletes, stretching before exercise is a common practice, but new research has cast doubt on its effectiveness.
Research suggests that stretching before exercise is unlikely to reduce your risk of injury, improve your performance or prevent sore muscles.
However, there’s no evidence that stretching before or after exercise will do you any harm, either.
The upshot is if you enjoy stretching, or it is a staple in your exercise routine, there’s no reason to stop”.
So according to the research, the jury is still out and do what you like! Other websites argue about the type of exercise, whether it’s based on strength, endurance, speed etc.
Personally, I like the stretching. As for stretching making your body different in training to how it would be in a real situation, you would also be more adrenalised in a real situation, so your body will be different anyway. I’m not speaking from experience, but I would imagine that the adrenaline would compensate for the lack of stretching. I wouldn’t disagree with stretching in the morning though (if you have the time).
However, I believe that in traditional martial arts there is another reason which is often overlooked in the debate, which makes stretching a very useful part of the training. That is the way it actually effects our technique. Whether we are doing our basics, or our kata/patterns/forms, we should do so with a high degree of relaxation. Stretching before training helps to remove the knots and tightness from the muscles allowing them to move with more fluidity.
I have discussed before about whip like technique where the power is transferred like a wave through the body. It might be good to check that out first before continuing reading this post!
A good martial arts technique is like snapping/whipping a towel. The power is transferred like a wave through the body in the same way as a wave is transferred through the towel when you snap it like a whip. If you starch the towel, it does not whip so well. So it is with tension in the body. The more tension removed, the better the whip/snap of the technique. So regular stretching is important, be it in the morning or just before training, not just for flexibility; but for a relaxed body that transfer that wave of energy to create a whip like technique!