Martial Arts and Massage

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By Marianne Macdonald Msc

There is a long tradition of the use of massage by martial artists. Some incorporate learning massage skills as part of training, such as with Danzan Ryu Jujitsu. At the Jen Jhi Dao Taiji Quan school that I am part of, medicine is one of the seven aspects, with massage being an integral part of that aspect. Others use sports massage to enable them to recover from training more quickly, as well as to specifically aid in increasing flexibility and allow their muscles to work at their peak. While the use of sports massage is increasing worldwide, some athletes have not yet experienced the benefits to be gained, perhaps partly because they lack knowledge about it. This article aims to remedy that.

k_massage_3Types of Massage
Deep tissue; sports; remedial; therapeutic, relaxation, neuromuscular therapy, trigger point therapy…It is easy to be confused by the variety of terms used. Although therapists may have specific techniques that they use or types of client that they treat (e.g. athletes or pregnant women), to simplify things, massage therapists are either qualified to provide relaxation sessions for clients or they have the expertise to provide treatment for specific medical problems and injuries, such as postural misalignment, back and neck pain, and shoulder injuries. This training means that they are not only able to provide an effective treatment, but have the knowledge to act in a professional manner, for example making sure that appropriate massage techniques are chosen to facilitate the results you want with your body. For example you wouldn’t want focused deep tissue techniques in the hours leading up to an important event.

These depend on the country you are in. Some countries have no legal requirement for someone advertising as a massage therapist to have any training at all. Therefore, it is in your interests to check the qualifications of any prospective (or current) therapist. A good recommendation is that they are a member of a professional massage association. In New Zealand, Massage New Zealand (MNZ), is the association for massage therapists. Certified Massage Therapists (CMTs) provide relaxation massage, while Remedial Massage Therapists (RMTs) provide treatment. MNZ has a register of CMTs and RMTs on their website which gives information of what therapists provide specific sports massage.

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The Benefits of Sports Massage

Sports massage has many benefits. The healthy athlete, as well as the injured athlete, may benefit from quality massage therapy. Listed are some of the many benefits of sports massage for athletes.

Increased suppleness and resiliency in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. This decreases the chances of injuries and improves the recovery from injuries.

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Neuromuscular Therapy

What is Neuromuscular Therapy?
NMT is a complete bodywork package to reduce pain and ease dysfunction. NMT is based on balancing the nervous system with the muscular system and searches for the underlying causes of long standing pain.

The overall aim is to achieve balance and full function of the soft tissues in a pain-free body.

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Fitness-related Benefits of Massage

If you ask someone their reason for getting a massage, you’re very likely going to hear “because it feels good”. We all know a good massage can relieve stress, helps with relaxation, and can make sore muscles feel better and even reduce anxiety, but can it help us achieve our fitness goals?

Research shows that the massage you get to relieve stress can also have a positive effect on your muscle-building capabilities and fitness level.

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Martial Arts Flexibility

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Most martial arts styles require some level of flexibility and therefore improving flexibility for martial arts will help you grow to new heights in your practice while still remaining safe from injury. While some people seem to have a natural ability to be flexible most of us need to work at improving our level of flexibility for martial arts. This article gives you a basic introduction of the types of information and training which professional martial artists carry out.

Doing stretches correctly will increase your flexibility but if they are done incorrectly you can actually cause more harm than good. It is important to remember that a large portion of injuries experienced in martial arts are caused by flexibility issues, mostly because the person does not have flexible muscles or fails to stretch the muscles properly before carrying out techniques. 

So to get more flexible we need to learn how to do stretches correctly. The fundamental point regarding stretching techniques is that they can be either dynamic (involving motion) or static (those that involve no motion). The six main types of stretching which incorporate these are listed and discussed below.

Improving Flexibility for Martial Arts

First lets start by examining the different methods of stretching. 

  • Ballistic Stretching
  • Dynamic Stretching
  • Active Stretching
  • Passive (or relaxed) Stretching
  • Isometric Stretching
  • PNF Stretching

Ballistic Stretching

Here you attempt to use the momentum of your weight to stretch beyond your normal comfort zone. Ballistic stretching involves bouncing to the end of your natural stretch and using the momentum of your weight to force you beyond your normal range of motion. An example of ballistic stretching is when you bounce up and down on your toes by bending your knees and stretching your hamstrings, then using the stretch to bounce back upright. In general Ballistic stretching is not considered helpful and may actually decrease your flexibility by not allowing your muscles to stretch into or relax in the stretched position.

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