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Flexibility -- A Two Edged Sword?

I must preface this by stating that I am not a physician or physical therapist -- I am actually an attorney aside from teaching Shorin-Ryu.

A friend of mine tore his Achilles Tendon some time ago (I think he said that he felt it "pop"). He used to practice in my dojo, so I was very aware of the fact that he was extremely flexible. Although he was in his early 50s, he could do center splits and place his chest on the ground very easily. I, in contrast, am pretty stiff.

In any event, I remember discussing my friend's tear with a physician and he mentioned that sometimes extremely flexible people are more likely to suffer injuries. I was suprised because I thought that just the opposite would be true. The physician explained that a joint or tendon can only flex so far. Sometimes flexible people feel no pain at all until they get to this maximum point. By then it is too late -- the damage is done. Stiff people, in contrast, will experience pain much earlier and will be able to stop in time to avoid injury.

So sometimes being extremely flexible might not be quite such a good thing and being stiff might not be all that bad. It all depends.

I do think that it is useful to work on flexibility as part of training. We tend to lose flexibility with age unless we practice stretch. However, I do not think that it is necessary to be able to perform splits. In our style of Shorin-Ryu, our kicks tend to be low and to the front.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin