Dynamic Tension - Martial Arts Strength Training

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Dynamic Tension - Martial Arts Strength Training

Dynamic tension is a strength training exercise used in martial arts such as Karate. It involves using the muscles of the body against themselves to produce resistance that is equivalent to weight lifting exercises. This exercise is similar to isometric training but dynamic tension involves movement. For example, a martial artist will tense his arm muscles and then moves the arm while it is under this tension.

The benefits of dynamic training include greatly increased strength, stamina and endurance, better control over the body's muscles, increased internal strength (Ki) and better control over unwanted or unintentional tension and stress. Dynamic tension training has been used by many of the world's best martial artists (including the late great Bruce Lee). It has been also incorporated into the training of many of the world's leading athletes (including baseball player Joe Di Maggio and Olympic sprinter Allan Wells).

It is often said that dynamic tension was developed by the famous body builder Charles Atlas. However, it is in fact much older and has been a traditional part of Eastern martial arts such as Karate and Kung Fu for many years. Dynamic tension is a key component in the practice of traditional Okinawan Karate and is widely practiced by most Karate schools worldwide. In Karate, dynamic tension is mostly associated with the Kata - Sanchin (although all kata and kihon should and usually are practiced using the technique).

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:

  • First enter into a basic stance and ready yourself to throw a straight punch.
  • Now take a deep breath (you will need it).
  • Tense the whole body but putting extreme tension on the muscles of the striking arm
  • Slowly begin to execute a straight punch. You should be exerting 100% force in trying to drive the punch forward (while keeping the muscles involved as tense as possible) yet also trying to restrain the technique by around 80-90%.
  • Extreme mental focus should also be applied to the extending arm during the technique especially to the knuckles (or the part of the body that will make contact when performing other technique under dynamic tension).
  • 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.
  • 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.

Demonstration Video of Dynamic Tension


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