The ability for a joint to move through it's full range of movement. In order to achieve this, the surrounding muscle groups are required to be able to elongate and also return to their original size.
During training, the muscle fibres are continually stressed and often produce micro tears. These 'tears' can lead to scar tissue, producing 'knots' and over a period of time, 'adaptive shortening' of the muscles may take place; restricting range of movement in the joint.
There has been no evidence to support stretching before a training session, but practitioners must stretch afterwards to realign the muscle fibres and allow for a faster recovery, with fewer injuries.
Martial Arts require the body to perform ballistic type movements, asking our muscles and joints to act with speed and power, at times using a reactive response.
Therefore, the risk of injury to the muscular skeletal system is fairly high, especially to those who are within the beginner phase.
The stretch reflex system is a safety device which 'tells' the muscle to contract when a change of muscular length is detected. The stronger the change, the stronger the contraction.
Plyometric type conditioning will improve this function and assist the body in becoming familiar with specific movements to that of our training.
Certain positions and techniques will require our bodies to adapt and 'fit' around our opponent. On the ground, I have experienced many positions whereby I would have found it a lot easier if I had been a little more flexible.
It is perfectly safe to stretch everyday, as long as the muscles are warm. There are various methods of stretching, such as maintenance, developmental and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (pnf). Stretching should form part of our conditioning, not just something we do at the end of a session to ease the aches!!
Probably the most important however, is for the mind to be flexible. People often speak of maintaining an open mind and being non-judgemental. This is quite a difficult behaviour pattern to adhere to but it affects all walks of life. Over the years, I have found that the arts have assisted me in trying to achieve this in my everyday life and find that I am able to comprehend matters when they may not make sense.
The phrase 'live and let live' springs to mind, allowing oneself to openly and honestly communicate with others without the fear of trying to be someone or something other than what we truly are.
Jeet Kune Do - Self Expression!!!!