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Taijiquan and Chinese Swordsmanship are good for health. Follow these links for pages on:
(Pics 1-2) Standing on one leg with your toes off the ground, roll your foot around ten times in one direction and ten in the other. Rotating the joints in this manner helps their lubricating fluid to spread throughout the joint, making it less prone to injury. You can also do this exercise with the toes resting on the ground. If you choose this method, position the toe of the rotating ankle behind you.
Another good ankle exercise is stretching the ligament by pressing the ball of your foot against a wall while the heel rests on the ground.
(Pic 3) Standing on one leg with your thigh raised parallel to the ground, swing your lower leg in circles ten times one way and ten the other. This rotates the knee joint, lubricating it for safer exercise. We usually do the ankle, knee and hip rotations on one leg first and then switch to the other. Knee massage is explained here. Add it to your knee protection routine.
(Pics 4) Standing on one leg with the thigh approximately parallel to the ground, draw a sideways figure of eight with your knee. This will rotate the hip joint, loosening and lubricating it. This exercise is for the joint rather than the ligaments. I'll talk about them more in the groin stretching exercises section.
(Pics 5-6) Stretch your arm out at shoulder height and scoop the other one underneath it, connecting above the elbow of the stretched out arm. Your palms both face inwards. Pull the stretched out arm towards you for a count of ten. Leave your arms in this position but turn the palm of the stretched out arm outwards for a count of ten. Do this with both arms. The palm-in part stretches the shoulders. The palm-out part also exercises the upper arm and the forearm ligaments.
(Pic 7) This is a good stretching exercise for loosening the shoulders. Stretch out both arms, cross them at the wrists and join your hands. Pull your hands forward.
I do another one, especially for sword fighting, and to prevent "frozen shoulder". Swing your whole arm in a circle at your side for several rotations. Now swing it across your body at a 45 degree angle. Next swing it across your body, as close to the chest as you can. You can swing it backwards as well, or swing both arms together.
(Pic 8) We do a partner shoulder stretching exercise. Choose someone of similar height. Stand facing opposite directions. Put your hand on your partner's shoulder and turn away from it. Then change who has their hand under and over. As with all of these exercises, do it on both shoulders.
(Pic 9) Hold your sword in basic jian stance. Slowly raise it to a vertical position and (Pic 10) slowly lower it to a horizontal one. Do this a number of times. This is a swordsmanship specific stretching exercise. It warms up and strengthens the upper arm ligament. The trick is to do it slowly. If there is too much strain on your elbow joint, carry the weight with your other hand supporting from underneath your forearm.
(Pic 11) Now hold your arm out with your sword in it and rotate it from a vertical position to left horizontal. Then bring it up to vertical and down to right horizontal. Again, do this very slowly, several times, and support your arm if necessary.Wrist exercises
Leg exercises and groin stretches
(Pic 13-14) Stand on one leg and put the other up on something that will hold it horizontally at hip level. Lean over and hold the toes of the horizontal leg with both hands. Pull on the foot to stretch the calf muscles. Stand with your leg straight. If you are very flexible, as the student in the picture is, bend the knee of your standing leg to increase groin ligament stretch.
Now reach down to hold the foot of your standing leg. This is good for the back as well. Then stand up, and with your body upright hold both hands into your horizontal leg hip. Turn away from the hip to stretch the inner thigh.
(Pic 15) This is a partner stretch. It targets the hamstrings and vertical groin flexibility. Be careful with partner stretching exercises. If you are the one pushing on the leg, you will be taking it beyond your partner's natural ability to stretch. Take it very slowly and stop as soon as she tells you to. Don't take it too far or your partner will take weeks recovering from a strain. To do this stretching exercise, one person lies on the ground and lifts her leg. The other puts one foot on her thigh to hold the leg flat and pushes the other leg slowly upward - backward if she is flexible enough.(Pic 16) Sit on the ground with one leg stretched out and the other bent. Your knee should be flat on the ground and your foot tucked into your groin. Roll over with the bent leg still in place, stretch the straight leg out the back and lie down on your forearms, or lower if you can. Work up to this one if it is difficult. I can't do it as well as the student in the picture yet, but I'm working on that.
Groin stretches and a back stretch.
(Pic 17) With one leg curled behind and the other straight out in front of you, lie down on your front leg as flat as you can. Don't force your back. This is good for the forwards groin stretch and not as difficult as the splits. It also stretches all the muscles of the upper leg.
(Pic 18) There are many versions of the lateral groin stretch. This is one of them. Don't expect to get your legs out as wide as the student in the picture without a lot of training. Take it at your own pace. Another way to achieve this stretch is to lie on the ground with your legs up a wall. Let the legs open and drop apart down the wall to their natural stretch. The weight of your own legs will gradually increase your flexibility.
You could also sit on the ground with the soles of your feet touching and pull the feet in towards you as you press down on the thighs. Be careful of knee strain with this one and if you have any knee trouble at all, stick to the straight leg methods.
(Pic 19) This is one of our stretching exercises for the back - a partner exercise. Place your hands on your partner's shoulders and walk backwards, bending over from the hips. We have an even better exercise for the back in our taijiquan basic exercises, called Rolldown. That is the subject of another page.
A note about necks and other advice.
If you are doing a neck stretch, stretch your neck gently to your shoulder on each side. Don't do the one where you roll you neck around. It is bad for your spine and nerves. Don't do anything that jerks suddenly. Stop when you feel minor pain. Don't lock any joints when stretching. Have fun with your stretching exercises. Count them as an important part of your training in Chinese Swordsmanship or whatever else you might use them for. Who wants to grow old and stiff? .... not me. Keep up the stretching even if you don't do anything else. It will improve the quality of your life.
If you enjoy the exercises on this page, you might like to try some of these stretching exercises from How You Can Save
Perhaps you know a really good stretching exercise that would help with martial arts preparation. We'd love you to share it with us. Put the name of the exercise in the title box and the information about how to do it, the benefits and anything to be careful about, in the main text box. If you have more than one, use a different submission for each and describe each well on it's own page.
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Right angle shoulder stretch. Not rated yet
This is a stretch that I discovered a few years back. Its great for stretching the shoulder muscles. Let your arms fall naturally at your sides, interlacing ...