Your body doesn’t need 15 – 30 minutes to warm up.
So why is it so engrained into martial arts training that a “warm up” should take so long?
The quick answer is because many warm ups involve stretching.
Apparently someone once believed that stretching at the start of class warms up muscles. Yet for years now we’ve known for a fact that static stretching does nothing to help warm up the body, and there is little evidence to suggest that it prevents injury.
Think about it – how long does it actually take to warm up your body? 3 minutes of jump rope, a couple of rounds of light shadow boxing or some jogging followed by some light calisthenics does the job just fine. You’ll know when your core temperature is up, because you should have a light sweat beading up on your brow.
But when I think of the way many schools warm up (and 25 years ago at my first dojo we did this too), there would be a few minutes of jogging, followed by jumping jacks, pushups, situps and calisthenics. The body would be warm and then we’d do static stretching for 20 minutes as our bodies cooled down!
Finally when we got to the “technique” part of class, we were supposed to be fast and sharp using a body that had more or less returned to regular operating temperature. That’s kind of like expecting peak performance out of race car whose engine is cold.
Do you see the conflict?
Back then as a student I did it because I my sensei told me to. Now that I have my own dojo, I have abandoned the 25 minute warmups in favor of a 5 minute warm up, with static stretching done at the END of class when the body is truly hot and fatigued. That’s the best time for stretching for flexibility…
Remember, things don’t have to be done the same way as they always were – if that were true we’d still be living in caves, making fire and reinventing the wheel. Change is part of development. What could you change about your warm up and class structure to make a positive impact?