A Korean martial art, taekwondo means "the art of kicking and punching." Other major self-defense movements that you’ll learn in taekwondo are jumping, blocking and parrying. Compared to other martial arts, such as kung fu and karate, taekwondo places extra emphasis on high kicks. Hamstring stretches are the most important drill, according to Charles Stepan’s book “Martial Arts: Taekwondo.” Similar to gymnastics, stretching techniques demand a high degree of flexibility. If you’re a beginner, perform stretches only to the point where you feel discomfort. Use slow controlled movement and avoid bouncing.
Before you begin stretching in taekwondo, warm up with light aerobic activity, such as jogging around the dojang, or training hall, and crunches. Transition into simple stretches, such as side bends for the torso or shoulder stretches where you extend your arms behind your back. A common stretch is the lotus knee press in which you sit on the floor, bend your legs and bring the soles of your feet together. Press your knees down to the floor to stretch your groin. This early stage of stretching typically includes rotations, such as neck, knee and shoulder rolls, arm and ankle circles, hip swivels and waist twists.
As your muscles become more pliable after simple stretches, start performing more stressful exercises for flexibility. For the torso, perform a back bend in which you arch your body up toward the ceiling to loosen the spine. A back bend will also stretch your abdominals and chest. Flip over and lie on your belly. Arch your back, reach behind you and grab your ankles. Rocking back and forth will strengthen your lower back and stretch your upper body.
The side split stretches not only your hamstrings but also your hips. In a side split, you sit on the floor and spread your legs apart as far as possible. Keep your knees locked and feet pointed up. Reach with your forehead to one knee to deepen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Then grab the toes of your feet with each hand, leaning forward until your chest touches the floor. Also perform a front split in which you spread your legs forward and back as far as you can. Another important stretch for high kicks is a leg stretch in which you lunge with one foot to your side. Lower your pelvis to the ground, shifting your weight over the lead foot. Keep the other leg straight to stretch your inner thigh.
Stretches that incorporate leg extensions can help your kicking technique. A stretch to do on your own is to grab the heel of one leg and lift that leg up to the side. Partner-assisted leg stretches are often used in taekwondo. For example, in the front kick stretch, extend your right leg forward and place the heel of your right foot on your partner’s left shoulder. Your partner should take hold of your working ankle with both hands and slowly lift your foot. If you’re not flexible enough, have your partner squat and slowly rise to a standing position. Lean forward until your forehead reaches your knee. For a side kick stretch, place your inside ankle on your partner’s shoulder. Lean your trunk down in the opposite direction. Depending on your level of flexibility, your partner can begin in either a standing or squatting position.
- Beginning Moo Duk, Kwan Tae Kwon Do: Korean Art of Self-defence, Volume 1; Richard Chun
- Martial Arts: Taekwondo; Charles Stepan
- Tae Kwon Do: The Ultimate Reference Guide to the World’s Most Popular…; Yeon Hee Park, et al.
- Master Connell's ATA Taekwondo Center: Daily Dozen Stretches
- Official Taekwondo Training Manual; Soon Man Lee, et al.
- Taekwondo Basics; Scott Shaw