Improved Posture through Kata

Martial Arts Kata with Dynamic Tension can be combined to facilitate postural improvement. Physical activity requires stability and movement. These aspects are effectively expressed when bodily alignment supports the intended action. Martial arts practice can enhance strength, balance and coordination; all of which are key components of good posture.  Moreover, using Dynamic Tension and combining it with Martial Arts Kata improves neuromuscular connectivity and overall strength. This strongly and positively impacts the components of good posture. The aligned movements of Martial Arts Kata can maximize the expression of strength and power. Proper alignment is synonymous with and supporting of good posture.

Good posture
The core is engaged. The shoulders are strongly pulled back.

Movement is the body’s expression of mobility or ambulation. Movement is the ability to spatially maneuver the body to a desired location. Movement can be robotic when the proper neural connections have not been developed to a point of fluidity. The body is then overly stabilized. Stability is the resistance to perturbations (I. e. fluctuations in bodily position). The body stabilizes itself or auto-corrects for changes in position due to ambulation, bending over, reaching up, twisting, etc. Stabilization is critical for meeting the demands of various movements. When stability is sub-maximal, compensatory movement patterns will be the result. Sub-maximal stability can also be linked to poor posture.

Proper body alignment supports intended physical actions. The quality of work (I. e. the intended actions), is effectively influenced by the alignment of solid bony structures (I. e. the skeleton). The balance between muscular strength and flexibility, with precise neuromuscular stimulation, gives rise to continuity of action coupled with the appropriate posture. Imbalance between muscular strength and flexibility causes the nervous system to stimulate patterns of muscular compensation. Hence, compensations reveal themselves in actions that the body performs, whether standing or moving.

Practicing Martial Arts Kata is beneficial to good posture. Studies have shown that in older non-trained adults, neural processing capacity is enhanced by kata practice (Psychology Today / Karate Kata and Cognition). Combining stance transitions (changes in body location / position) with the various martial techniques develops balance and coordination (journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy – Traditional Martial Arts Training enhances balance and Neuromuscular Control). Various martial arts styles use implements to strengthen the back, shoulders and arms. Of concern in this regard is the strengthening of the back muscles. Modern lifestyle habits have given rise to a surge in the loss of muscle tone in the back, major contributors to postural integrity. In performing hand / upper body techniques in kata, sufficient engagement of the muscles on both sides of the joint develops a strong and more balanced body.

Cat Stance
Weight distribution requires core to be engaged and the spine to be stable. Shoulders pulled back. Posture is good.

How can Dynamic Tension add to benefits derived from kata practice?? Dynamic Tension is a training modality that uses concurrent agonist / antagonist muscular actions to develop strength, speed, and  power. The voluntary nervous system must be consciously engaged for effective utilization of this modality. Randall Cooper, Sports Physiotherapist shares the following thought: ‘I think it’s a terrific technique to optimize motor unit recruitment that may recruit both fast and slow twitch fibers’. The prescribed movement sets in kata are designed to train the neuromuscular system to work more efficiently.

Postural muscles can benefit greatly by combining kata and dynamic tension. Learning the movements will assist in bodily alignment when combining the two modalities. Keeping the muscles under tension while performing kata will focus on and strengthen the postural muscles, along with those the entire body. The nervous system / muscular system connection will also be fortified.

The following is a basic exercise used in Karate that will give non-practitioners or anyone not familiar with the exercise a basic idea of how to do it:

  • Take a basic stance and prepare to throw a straight punch.
  • Now take a ‘full’ inhalation (very important).
  • Place the whole body under extreme tension; giving specific focus to the muscles of the striking tool
  • Slowly execute a straight punch. 100% force is exerted in trying to drive the punch forward while simultaneously resisting the technique by around 80-90%: i.e. for a punch, triceps and anterior deltoids fire to execute the action while, at the same time, biceps, posterior deltoids and fire to resist the motion. The reverse actions apply for withdrawing the punch.
  • Apply concentrated mental focus when performing the technique (a punch in this example), especially to the knuckles.
  • Slowly exhale during the extension of the arm. If done correctly, you will feel a tingling sensation in the associated muscles (as well as a sense of exhaustion) upon completing just one repetition of the exercise.
  • The technique can should be extended and retracted during the exhalation. This will require awareness of the amount of breath that is available
  • Keep the muscles under tension at the finish of the technique and during inhalation.
  • Take a full breath between techniques. 
  • This concentration can be applied to other techniques when using dynamic tension.

To perform a full kata under dynamic tension is initially very taxing. It is said that just one kata performed correctly under dynamic tension should leave the practitioner feeling exhausted.

Good posture.
There are various applications for this form. Core is engaged and posture is good from the feet up to the head.

Proper bodily alignment supports a myriad of physical activities. can enhance; all of Strength, balance and coordination are key components of good posture.  All of these can be enhanced through Martial arts practice. Dynamic Tension, when combining it with Martial Arts Kata, improves neuromuscular connectivity and overall strength. This has beneficial carryover to the components of good posture.  Martial Arts Kata maximizes the expression of strength and power. Dynamic Tension increases that effect through the use conscious, focused effort.  The body will align for expression of biomechanical efficiency.

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