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Understanding Kinesiological Stretching Techniques: Application of the Butterfly Stretch

We improve progress and evolve when we step out of our comfort zone. This applies to everything in life. Stretching techniques are no exception. If the old one is not getting you any further, it makes sense to try something new. Sometimes new is different, often too different for a comfortable transition.
For this reason when we bring new ideas to the table, we can also keep parts of the old ones, too.
Today we will do the same for people who spend years doing relaxed stretches. We will take a common stretching position called The Butterfly and apply a Kinesiological Stretching principle to it, called Target and Leverage.

We all know what butterfly stretch looks like, right?

Now we will use our Target and Leverage on it, to quickly get more flexible.
Are you ready?
This next part will explain how and why this technique works. If you want the insight, please read the next paragraph. If you just want to test the move, jump down and watch the video.
The Butterfly Stretch is aimed primarily at 4 muscles:
• Adductor Magnus
• Adductor Longus
• Adductor Brevis
• Pectineus
All 4 muscles below adduct (and butterfly calls for abducted position). They also rotate medially and the stretch in question rotates laterally.


Remember Kinesiological Stretching Techniques can only be applied if more than one action of the muscle is targeted, which is the case here.
Many other muscles are not fully participating. For example the Gluteus Medius and Minimus stretch at lateral rotation, but abducted hips shorten them. The Gracilis is also an adductor playing the same role as the 4 muscles targeted, but a flexed knee shortens this muscle.
So pushing the knees out is pitted against leaning forward. Either action can be chosen as the target. In this case bringing the knees as far apart from each other and into the floor is chosen at the Target. Rotating the hips is chosen as the Leverage.
In case you are new to this, what is the difference between Target and Leverage? Target progresses you into deeper into the stretch and leverage moves back and forth.

One of our KST teacher who likes paintball explained it through this story:
You and another guy want to close in on the target. One draws the fire, while the other runs back and forth between two areas of cover. He does not get closer to the target, he just forms a distraction. While the other guy runs closer, and hides behind a cover in a closer position to the target, each time his “diversion” partner runs back and forth.
The guy constantly running forward is the “Target” and the guy running between two points is the “Leverage”. The guy performing the Leverage is not progressing forward, but he is allowing the other one to progress.
So Target is the part of movement that keeps getting closer to the goal, while Leverage just moves back and forth.
Now with this example we can go on.

Let’s do the exercise
Sit with your back against the wall.
Place your hands on the knees.
Press the knees out to find your starting range.
Keep the knees apart. Your target is ready.
Now let’s move into the leverage. Inhale deeply. Hyperextend the spine. This hyper extension creates internal rotation in the hips. This is your leverage.
Exhale and return your back to the original position. As the back is returning, press further on the knees. The target must progress, at the same time leverage is returning.

Don’t wait for the leverage to return and press the knee then.

Think about it. When do you want to run toward the target. When the other guy is moving or when he is already back? When does the diversion work the best?

Another important point often misunderstood by people who been doing relaxed stretches forever: don’t hold the stretch!

Movement is Key!
Move each action (Target and Leverage). Do that several times and stop. Take a quick break and repeat again. Give the muscle a chance to adapt to what you are asking of it. Several attempts with fewer reps are better than one long attempt or set. And don’t hold the target after you got deep into it. Yes, it feels good to be deeper than ever before. But it’s not the best practice. Do it a few times and you will be able to hold that same position, but not without tension and without effort.

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Interview with Paul Zaichik the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning

While searching for Martial Arts training methods I came across some very interesting videos about flexibility, methods of stretching and the scientific explanation and reasoning behind them. Being impressed by these videos and the knowledge they presented I contacted the author Paul Zaichik and invited him to write for our moosin online magazine. Paul accepted my invitation and since then his articles have become one of the most popular, reaching up to 45K readers per article. Based on this popularity I invited Paul to do an interview where he could explain his work and the methods he has developed.
Paul’s interest in Martial Arts dates back to his early childhood. During his Martial Art training Paul realized that many advanced students could barely kick at head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of modern martial artists. More and more students were utilising Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop many effective techniques over the years that has become known as ElasticSteel. I believe that this interview will clarify some matters related to stretching and will benefit our readers who have a particular interest in this area.
Dr Zibby Kruk
Editor-in-chief Moosin online magazine

Zibby Kruk: So Paul tell us a little bit about Kinesiological Stretching Techniques.

Paul Zaichik: KST (Kinesiological Stretching Techniques) is a method of stretching the muscles. There are many differences from standard stretching techniques. KST is different from Dynamic, Static, PNF, etc is that one muscle is targeted at a time. This is opposed to many muscles targeted together.

Zibby Kruk: What are the advantages of targeting one muscle at a time?

Paul Zaichik: Well for example let’s say we are working on a “hip flexors” stretch. Most people assume that a deep lunge targets the “hip flexor(s)”. Some people use other positions that extend the hip joint (bring the leg behind the line of the body), such as Pigeon or Modified Dancer’s pose. In reality there are 10 muscles that flex the hip (prevent the hip extension). The 6 hip flexors and 4 adductors. Anyone of them can prevent the extension of the hip. Targeting them separately allows to focus on the problematic one(s). At the same time, not all skills require the muscles to be equality stretched. What we do in EasyFlexibility and ElasticSteel is break the skills down into muscles and target those that need stretching for fastest results.

Zibby Kruk: How do you isolate the muscles?

Paul Zaichik: The muscles can be isolated because each one does something else. Each muscle is unique. For example if we can come back to the hip flexors for a second to demonstrate the point. All hip flexors flex the hip. However some favor medial rotation and some favor lateral rotation. Some prefer flexion with abduction and some with adduction. Some cross the knee and some don’t. Those who cross the knee may flex it or extend it. So for example Sartorius. It flexes the hip, laterally rotates and assist in hip abduction. The only muscle that does the same is Rectus Femoris. Also a hip flexor, assists in hip lateral rotation and abduction. However former flexes and medially rotates the knee and later extends the knee. The position of the knee would different between which of the two muscles we are targeting. Providing that we extend, adduct and medially rotate the hip.

Zibby Kruk: How would you stretch the hamstrings for example with your technique?

Paul Zaichik: Hamstrings is 4 heads. We isolate the lateral and medial heads, since they do different things. Do you mean how we target the muscle specifically or how do we get a person to bend forward at the hip, like in sitting sit and reach?

Zibby Kruk: What about both?

Paul Zaichik: The two are actually different things, because a person who wants to touch his chest to his knee(s) with a straight leg, is stretching more than hamstrings. Other muscles must be stretched first. So gluteus maximus, piriformis, ischial head of adductor magnus, and in some cases adductor longus (it becomes an extensor past 70 degrees), posterior fibers of gluteus medius, and calve. Of course ankle position and hip position will dictate if some of the names muscles need stretching.
If we are targeting hamstrings muscle specifically, we can work it as an extensor of the hip vs the flexor of the knee. If it’s lateral hamstrings for example (which is very tight in most people), we can use horizontal adduction and medial rotation as one of the action, usually as leverage.

Zibby Kruk: The concept of Target and Leverage is unique to Kinesiological Stretching techniques. Can you talk about that?

Paul Zaichik: Yes, in basic terms a target is the direction where we want to stretch the muscle. For example in a sitting straddle (Side Split), we want the legs to come apart to 180 degrees. That is our target. So by moving the legs away from each other we are moving them into the direction of the target.
However the legs may and usually refuse to move past certain point. To keep them moving, we use leverage. The leverage are short movement, that target the same muscle groups. However unlike our targeted direction, which is usually a specific skill (Side Split), the leverage moves the joint to target the same muscle in it’s other actions. For example, adductors are medial rotators. Doing the opposite (Laterally Rotating the hip, stretches the muscles further)
The main point to understand is that if we perform outward rotation we get the flexibility in the muscles that we don’t need, at least not in the way we have it. So we stretch the inner thighs through rotation, but we don’t care about the hip rotation at the moment, we want the legs to go further apart. Well, when that rotational stretch is let go, there is “space”. This means few more degrees to space the legs out, with decreased resistance. 14459685_1120768561348349_1968650002_n

Zibby Kruk: So what is the advantage of using target and leverage over regular stretches like done in yoga?

Paul Zaichik: The advantage is speed of flexibility progress. If we stay with the Side Split, let’s say. One would either sit with legs apart and nothing happens. Just sitting there and no progress. Either that or one would somehow force the legs out, like with a “torture stretching device”, against pain and resistance. With KST you move into leverage, come back out of it and all of the suddenly, you are more flexible.

Zibby Kruk: Can someone just keep doing KST until a full split is mastered, if there is a small gain with each Target/Leverage movement?

Paul Zaichik: In one workout, you mean?

Zibby Kruk: Yes

Paul Zaichik: Significant flexibility can be gained in one workout, but we don’t recommend getting greedy. However we know of the possible progress one can quickly make, because people did get gluttonous in the past. In EasyFlexibility we prefer to make progress, secure it and move on.

Zibby Kruk: I want to ask you about EasyFlexibility in a second. Can you expand on “make progress, secure it and move on” bit?

Paul Zaichik: So one EasyFlexibility/ElasticSteel developments was an ability to keep the progress received from Kinesiological Stretching Techniques. People got pretty flexible in their training session, using KST. Let’s say they could barely touch toes at the start of the session and would be palming the toes at end of the session. Then the next workout comes and they are at square one again. Barely touching toes. So exercises were developed to keep what was gained. So that at the next session, they would start more flexible.

Zibby Kruk: So next time they would be contacting their palms to their toes?

Paul Zaichik: No, they would not be as flexible as they ended up last time, but more flexible than they started. So they would not palm the toes, but they would be touching with finger tips, while before they could not. So the point is to start a little deeper and end a little deeper each time. After some training, what was the deepest flexibility, becomes the starting flexibility.

Zibby Kruk: I see and what kind of exercises allow one to keep flexibility?

Paul Zaichik: Various strength and movement exercises. Their aim is to make the newly developed flexibility range accepted by the body as normal and comfortable.

Zibby Kruk: How did you come up with KST?

Paul Zaichik: One of my friends was stretching his shoulders for swimming. He wanted to develop good medial rotation. He was on the floor on the side, trying to push his hand closer to the floor. It was not really going. Then he turned in such a way that he created a horizontal flexion in the shoulder. So basically he did the leverage. As he came back, his arm went deeper. So he did the target. I noticed that. When I saw it, I realized based on my experience in Kinesiology that both of those actions, targeted the same muscle group. (Posterior Deltoid, Teres Minor and Infraspinatus) Long story short, I did the stretch myself and it worked. Next I did the same for all the muscles and it worked as well. And Kinesiological Stretching was born.

Zibby Kruk: Named after Kinesiology?

Paul Zaichik: Yes, exactly.

Zibby Kruk: People often confuse EasyFlexibility, ElasticSteel and Kinesiological Stretching techniques are they often used interchangeably. What is the difference between them?

Paul Zaichik: ElasticSteel Method of Athletic Conditioning is a company I founded to share my knowledge, experience and research in various fields. Flexibility Training, Strength Training, BodyWeight Training, Martial Arts.
EasyFlexibility is a brand under ElasticSteel umbrella. Martial Artists who practice the method often call it ElasticSteel, while dancers, yogis, cheerleaders, gymnasts and other athletes call it EasyFlexibility.
EasyFlexibility is also a brand signifying the “Elastic” part of ElasticSteel focusing on Stretching. Several brands signified the strength component of EasyFlexibility, with ZejaX being the leading one right now.
Kinesiological Stretching Techniques is the way of muscle elongation in ES and EF programs. However, as I said before, it’s only a part of the EF and ES. It’s completed by other techniques.14445463_1120768194681719_1158648316_n

Zibby Kruk: So in short, ElasticSteel is for martial artists EasyFlexibility is for different athletes and Kinesiological Stretching are stretching techniques for everyone?

Paul Zaichik: Yes.

Zibby Kruk: So what is next for Elasticsteel?

Paul Zaichik: Still looking for ways to improve the system. Trying to find ways to develop flexibility faster, but still keep it safe and sustainable. As soon as we discover and test something, we make it available for everyone.

Zibby Kruk: Thank you Paul, it was great chatting with you.

Paul Zaichik: Thank you as well

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Bulking To Build Muscles: Know The Dos And Don’ts

In order to turn knowledge into wisdom, we need to apply the knowledge first. Without the application of your knowledge, you can never gain wisdom. This holds true even in the world of muscle-building. You may read beauty magazines, fitness books, and blogs; however, the acquired information from these resources is nothing, if not applied. Therefore, be wise and apply well resourced knowledge while building muscles.

And in this article, I will be revealing all the information that I have pertaining to bulking up to build muscles, and you need to promise yourself that you will apply this knowledge in your day to day life. Let’s begin with what you for sure need to know about bulking to building muscles.

Bulking To Build Muscles: Here Is What You Need To Know!
a) If you think eating more will help you to increase your ability to gain muscles, think again! It won’t. After you reach the final benchmark, your muscles are not going to speed up even when you consume more food. In reality, your body can’t build more muscles in a limited time frame.

b) If you are pondering over the idea of Bulking – is it good or bad? Don’t worry; you are not the only one. And, unfortunately, the answer isn’t so black and white. The truth is, if you are planning to gain muscles, you have to be ready for bulking too.

c) It is not necessary to appreciate bulking in order to grow muscles. In other words, don’t use bulking as a cover up for eating unhealthy junk food. To grow big, you have to eat. But you won’t be growing enough if you rely on harmful junk food. Instead, consume enough calories and nutrients to help your muscles grow in a substantial proportion.
Know The Bulking Dos and Don’ts To Build Muscles Without Piling On Body Fat!

1. Know how much calories your body needs
Firstly, know how many calories you need by doing the math using a BMR calculator, then make a conscious decision of exceeding your calorie intake by consuming the right foods such as eggs and milk. The key objective here is to consume more than you can burn, and convert those excess calories to muscles with the help of right training.
Regardless of how rapid or slow your metabolic rate is, you need to consume more calories than you can burn.
2. Follow strategic cheat meals
If you fancy growing big then follow the rule: eat nutritious foods 80% of the time and eat anything else for the remaining 20%. Ideally this will work, if you take a disciplined protein-rich breakfast, which includes omelet cooked in virgin-oil along with fresh vegetables and turkey on the side. However, once a week, you can go easy with your breakfast by having pancakes or bacon for your morning breakfast.
3. Know your muscle building supplements well
The fitness industry is inundated with plenty of muscle-building supplements and all claiming to be the best supplement for bodybuilding. It is, however, in your best interest to know and identify the most effective and reliable bodybuilding supplement. Ideally, your health supplement should cover up for nutrients that your body lacks despite eating nutrition-rich meals. With each dose, the supplement should provide you with nutrients that your body lacks. For instance, an HGH Energizer supplement provides you all those nutrients you are deficient in.
Secondly, the health supplement should be safe to consume. The company should be reputed and reliable, and should be well known for its supplements.
4. Eat Your Vegetables
Meat is ridiculously expensive these days and is also not eco-friendly. So, why bother with meat when we have such great vegetarian options available in front of us. Green leafy vegetables provide all the nutrients that your body needs for muscle-building. Many successful trainers are vegetarians and they consume pulses and legumes on a daily basis. Look for tropical fruits and berries too!

1. Eat More Junk Food
Of course, if you aren’t consuming enough food, the muscle growth will freeze, but in no way does it mean that you start consuming more of food for the muscles to grow. This, perhaps, is one of the commonest mistakes made by trainers who are trying to build a muscular physique. Eating too much food, especially, junk in the hope of stimulating more muscle growth is a ridiculous idea as it won’t produce positive results.
Our bodies have limited capacities, and the muscles you can build also depends on your body’s capacity to synthesize new muscle tissues from ingested proteins. Therefore, stop thinking and avoid eating too much of junk food.
2. Eat Less Food
Once you are done reading the above tip, don’t conclude that you should start eating like a bird. In order to build muscles, you must eat more calories than you burn every day. The point here is to consume the right amount of food. Talk to a qualified muscle-building expert and know the estimates of what your calorie intake should be depending on your body weight. Know how much calories will support the optimal growth of your muscles.
Remember the calorie intake should allow you to gain at least two to four pounds per month. If you aren’t already gaining that much weight then increase your calorie intake, until you reach that rate of growth.
3. Ignore High-Intensity Training
Remember we will be consuming more calories, which means our training intensities should be higher too in order to convert those excess calories into stronger and leaner muscles. Lifting heavy weights and performing compound moves will help you to create a seamless stimulus needed for muscle synthesis. But, of course, don’t forget to bike occasionally as that will help your body to keep the fat low.
It is advisable to make use of the technology and wear an activity tracker that will monitor your heart rate to keep a track of your calories while you peform your workouts.
4. Forget To Take It Easy!
To have a goal of becoming a vehement muscle-builder is credible, but learn to take it easy. Having a plan of performing strenuous supersets will take longer to build muscles. Instead, it is advisable to follow a balanced and more controlled plan that involves rest and slow sets.
You can try this rest set with bicep curls: lift your five or ten-rep at a tempo two seconds up and four seconds down. Remember to rest in between for 15 to 20 seconds. Now lift again for two seconds up and four seconds down. Repeat the set once more with the same counts. Make sure you take rest.
Final Words!
Having the right expectations will take you a long way ahead in muscle-building. Don’t expect quick results as building muscles take longer than you think. Every time you carry an unrealistic goal, you are heading for disappointments and failures.
Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks used to sell shakes and supplements. You cannot transform your physique without putting efforts and time. In muscle-building, there is science that you need to fully understand before you actually start seeing results.
Muscle-building is a lifestyle, and not a temporary way of living!

Nick Wilson is a fitness coach and health writer. Her passion is to encourage others to rediscover their lifestyle and get inspired for organic living. He occasionally blogs about how to use supplements and shares info about how to use supplements properly.

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Taking The Beginners MMA Workouts To Whole New Level

MMA is not just only about speed & flexibility, but also strength, endurance and mental toughness. If you lack the strength and power in your upper and lower body, then you’ll be missing a very important piece of the puzzle. Therefore, being a beginner you need to concentrate on improving your strength. If you’ve been doing the same exercise over and over again, step up from them and try the routine given below.
Core Strength
Cross-Body Crunch

Do: 3 sets x 10 repetitions each side
Lie down with your back on the floor and knees bent at 60 degrees. Place your hands behind your head loosely. Now, simultaneously bring your right shoulder and elbow across the body as you bring your left knee towards the left shoulder. Try to reach for the knee with your right elbow, exhale and contract the abs as you perform this movement. Now, go back to the starting position as you inhale and repeat the same movement with your left elbow and the right knee. Continue performing this exercise in an alternating manner.
Do: 3 sets x 10 repetitions
Do you know that plank is also known as the Prone Iso Abs. No? Well, now you do. So, to reap the benefits of this exercise get into a recumbent position on the floor. Support your complete body weight on your forearms and toes alone. Make sure to place those forearms directly below the shoulders. And, keep your body in a straight line from top to bottom. Hold this position for as long as possible. Once you master it, increase the level of difficulty by raising an arm or a leg simultaneously.

Upper Body Strength
Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Do: 3 sets x 6 repetitions
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit down on a utility bench that can support your back. On top of your thighs, place the dumbbells upright. Use your thighs to propel the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time. Make sure to rotate the wrists so the palms face forward. Let this be your starting position. Now, exhale and push the dumbbells until they reach the top. Hold this position for a brief time. To return to the starting position slowly lower the weights down to the floor. And, repeat it again.

Dumbbell Bench Press
Do: 3 sets x 10 repetitions
Begin by lying down on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand placed on top of the thighs and palms facing each other. Now raise the dumbbells with the help of your thighs one at a time to hold them in front of you at the shoulder width. Rotate your wrist forward, so the palms face away from you. Make sure that the upper arm and the forearm create a 90 degree angle while holding the dumbbells and consider this as your starting position. Then use your chest to push the dumbbells up. Hold this position for a second and return to the starting position.

T-Bar Row with Handle
Do: 3 sets x 5 repetitions
Position the bar in a place to keep it from moving. Load it with an appropriate weight onto your end. Now, stand over the bar and position the Double D row handles around the bar next to the collar. Rise to a standing position using your hips and legs. Take a wide stance with your hip, back & the chest up and the arm extended. Let this be your starting position. So, now pull the weight towards your upper abdomen, retracting the shoulder blades and flexing the elbows. Hold this position for a brief time and then return to the starting position.

Lower Body Strength
Barbell Deadlift

Do: 3 sets x 5 repetitions
Begin by placing your feet shoulder width apart, standing at the center of the bar. Bend down at the hip to grip the bar at shoulder width apart. Use your feet to set a grip as you take a big breath in. Lower your hip and flex the knees. Look forward, keep your chest up, back arched and begin to move the weight up pressing the heels into the floor. After the bar crosses the knees, pull your shoulder blades together and aggressively pull the bar back. Now, lower the bar as you bend at the hips, guiding the bar to the floor.

Split Squat with Dumbbells
Do: 3 sets x 12 repetitions each leg
Place yourself in a position with your rear foot elevated and front foot forward. Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your side. By flexing your knees and hip, begin lowering your body down. Make sure to keep the front knee in line with the foot. Maintain a good posture as you perform the exercise. To return to the starting position, at the bottom of the previous movement, drive through the heel to extend the knees and the hip.
Maintaining a good hygiene in MMA workout training is equally important as the strength training itself. Since you’ll be getting in touch with the equipments used by other people as well. Make sure to wash your hands with the best antibacterial bar soap afterwards Or, even better, take a shower with an antibacterial soap to keep away from the skin infections. So, don’t let anything stop you from working harder! Good luck folks!

evieAmanda Dawson is a fitness coach and health writer based in Boston, MA. Her passion is to encourage others to rediscover their lifestyle and get inspired for organic living.

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Causes of Outer Hip Pain During Kicks?

Outside of the hip pain is rather common in kickers. While any kick can contribute to this pain, the mechanism of injury form front line kicks are most common. (Front Line Kicks are Front Kick, Axe Kick, Crescent Kicks, etc)

This is most applicable to kickers who throw the front line kicks “one the side of the body” or with a turn out of the supporting leg. Regular treatment, such as massage, pressure release, heat/cold and rest, provide only temporary relive.

The reason for this is because the cause of the pain in the opposite muscles and in the opposite leg. When a Front Line Kick is thrown and the muscles are not flexible enough, the hip will rise and pelvic will tilt to shorten the muscles from their origin and allow the insertion of the muscles to travel further. This pelvic hike or tilt causes two things to happen.

1. Contraction of the abductors. 2. Jamming of the greater Trochanter into the pelvic. Just one of those can cause pain and injury.

The way to solve this issue is to develop greater range of motion in the muscles that pull the kicking leg down. In case of the front line kicks, it’s the Lower Adductors, Hamstrings, and Lower Glutes. It also helps to strengthen the hip flexors to allow the kick to rise higher without laterally tilting the pelvic also helps.

Side Note: Throwing front kicks in front of the body without the supporting leg turnout, can eliminate the pain. However, part of the reach will be lost. At the same time, a lot more flexibility from the lateral hamstrings (biceps femoris) will be required. This outside part of the hamstrings is usually tighter than it’s inner part in most people.

Paul Zaichok IDAUTHOR: Paul Zaichik is the founder of the Elastic Steel method of Athletic conditioning. With an interest in Martial Arts from early childhood Paul during his Martial Art training realized that many advanced students could barely kick to the head level. He had begun to experiment in this area. As a result Paul transformed many Eastern European Stretching and Gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artists. More and more students were practicing Paul’s techniques, acquiring great strength and flexibility in return. As a certified Exercise and Nutrition instructor Paul has been able to develop over the years many effective techniques that became to be known as ElasticSteel.

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The Best Sport for Autism and Other Mental Disabilities

Diagnosed with shingles days after I had won first place at the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Competition (1), I, at the peak of my athleticism, was forced to let go of everything I had trained for since the age of five. For three months, I could not train at the dojo or at home because I was bed-ridden and contagious. After a long summer of recovery, I was able to train again, but I quickly realized that I would never be able to fully regain cardiovascular and respiratory capabilities with time.
This illness helped me appreciate taekwondo beyond the glamorous gold medals. Shingles led me to a route that has fulfilled me in a way I had not anticipated – sharing my skills to help the mentally disabled in my community.

A few days after being informed that students at an institution for the mentally disabled suffered with obesity and other health issues, my sister and I started a taekwondo program. Our class was the first organized athletic program at the institution, American Wheat Mission, but I initially did not care much for it. I was focused on training to return to competing at the highest level as soon as I could, and I agreed to teach the students at the institution once a week only because I wanted to be a good citizen. I thought leading a class couldn’t be too hard, given the experience under my belt, my taekwondo belt, that is. However, I quickly realized that teaching 20 students with mental disabilities and their assigned aides would be no small feat. The students ranged from age 7 to 30, some even over twice my age at the time, and when I first stepped into the room to greet my new class, even introducing myself was a challenge. One student was jumping, another was yelling, another running, the list goes on.

After my sister left for college, I singlehandedly directed the class that had grown to 30 students. In the beginning, I was convinced that the students would not be able to master basic motions. Most of the students were inattentive to basic instructions because of their extreme placement on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the students refused to engage as a result of their Down syndrome. The few individuals who did try could not manage even lifting one leg without falling. Their strongest attempt to break a board was knocking it as if it were a door. However, I refused to give up. I started an additional intensive class, and I spent time outside of class planning long-term goals tailored to each student, choreographing creative taekwondances, and preparing class curricula. And the students did, in fact, improve. Now, in my intensive class, every student completes each stretch, drill, and activity. They maintain silence during meditation and can perform 50 consecutive kicks at waist height. They have perfected both the hammerpunch and the elbow strike to the extent that they can break boards without my assistance. I was not the only one pleasantly surprised by the students’ progress; the students themselves and their parents were astounded by the improvement.

While I was overjoyed to see my students reap benefits from practicing taekwondo, I did not realize until this year that taekwondo specifically is one of the best sports for those with mental disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, only 58 of every 1000 taekwondo students suffer a serious injury, and there is no statistical correlation between martial arts and violence. Surprisingly enough, I found that taekwondo is not only one of the best sports, but one of the best activities for comprehensive improvement in individuals with cognitive impairments.

Neurologists, psychologists and other medical professionals highly recommend taekwondo for autistic children’s healthy lifestyle choices that lead to psychological and physical development. Sports such as taekwondo, as Dr. Fred Volkmar, head of the Yale Child Study Center, puts it, “are very ritualized and predictable, so those sports are good for kids with autism.” Autistic children exhibit behaviors where the same word, phrase or movement is repeated in an almost obsessive pattern, so one might initially think that a child on the autism spectrum should avoid doing repetitive physical skill training, such as taekwondo, and yet scientific studies increasingly prove otherwise, as repetitive practice is the foundation of skilled learning, especially for taekwondo.

The focus demanded from taekwondo can be especially helpful as a supplemental activity for children with autism. According to Erin Carson, a writer for the Livestrong Foundation, martial arts “can turn on a child’s attention system – consisting of the cerebellum, frontal cortex and limbic system – which can affect the parts of the brain responsible for sequencing, prioritizing, working memory and sustaining attention.” Furthermore, exercise increases the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. “These chemicals in the brain positively affect the attention system’s ability to stay regular and consistent, which can increase alertness.”

Through taekwondo, the mind develops fundamental habits such as self-discipline. By controlling the autonomic nervous system (fight or rest) while staying in tune with emotions, one also develops willpower. This discipline enables the athlete to not only persist through strenuous training, but also train him/herself in character and performance on and off the training mat. Not to mention, it builds a habit in setting and meeting goals; taekwondo requires memorization of specific forms, and belt promotion is earned by correctly executing the form. In addition, the intense dedication one must exhibit for proficient results in taekwondo builds concentration. In practicing taekwondo, students train their brain to focus, a skill that benefits in learning in other disciplines. Other mental benefits include improved memory capacity, enhanced cognitive functions such as determining right from left, and a heightened self-esteem. Since the structure of taekwondo is based on measurable goals such as breaking boards, winning matches, and being promoted in belt, students have specific figures to point to when taking pride in their feats.JO_16_0129-149-2587

The brain is not the only muscle exercised, as taekwondo also offers various physical benefits. Young people with autism have been statistically prone to obesity. As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that autistic children are two times more likely to be obese than children without autism, and approximately 32% of autistic children are “severely overweight.” Taekwondo is one of the most efficient sports to tackle weight problems, labeled the “best martial arts for weight loss.” The Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion listed the sport as a rigorous activity, and it is one of the top calorie burning cardiovascular workouts. A person of 160 pounds typically burns 752 calories in 60 minutes of training in taekwondo. For a comparative analysis, a person of 160 pounds typically burns 292 calories in 60 minutes of playing volleyball. Taekwondo is especially fitting for autistic children; the CDC reported differences in weight in those with autism than in those without as early as in ages two to five years, and taekwondo is a sport than can and usually is practiced from a young age. Before taught and pressured about health and exercise, children become familiar with an enjoyable schedule that includes beneficial.

A second physical benefit of taekwondo is its ability to alleviate sleep problems, which are reportedly as high as 80% in autistic children. Recent research demonstrates that poor autistic sleepers exhibit more problematic behavior than good sleepers, as sleep problems and insufficient sleep can result in daytime sleepiness, learning problems and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. The most common sleep problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings during the night. Professionals such as Dr. Paul Loprinzi and Dr. Bradley J. Cardinal in addition to other sources of mounting scientific evidence conclude that the more people exercise, the more people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day. Not to mention, according to Dr. Michael J. Breus, a Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, exercise also helps keep body clocks in line with sleep and wake times.

A third physical benefit of taekwondo is the development of important physical habits. Taekwondo nurtures good posture. Today, 3 in every 100 people have scoliosis, including those already diagnosed with mental disabilities. Taekwondo nurtures good posture since every stance and motion requires a straight back. Taekwondo also fosters full and healthy use of the lungs. During a period of meditation, students teach themselves to breathe deeply, allowing oxygen to fill the lower and middle parts of the lungs. During fast-paced drills, students learn to breathe quickly, allowing oxygen to fill the upper portion of the lungs. In taekwondo, breathing engages all parts of the lungs. Though unnoticed, “the way one breathes,” reports Jamie Licauco, writer for Inquirer Lifestyle, “can have either a salutary or deleterious effect on one’s health and well-being.”

A fourth benefit of taekwondo is the development of numerous skills. There are three main events in taekwondo: sparring, form, and breaking. Since most dojangs, institutions where taekwondo is practiced, have inclusive curriculums including all three events, taekwondo enhances a variety of physical skills in trainees, stretching the body’s capabilities in speed, accuracy, strength, flexibility and coordination. Sparring students develop agility and sharp reflexes, quickly evading and countering a kick. Form students develop accuracy and balance, refining their technique by performing choreographed routines. Breaking students develop strength and timing, breaking wooden boards of varying thickness and in different ways. All taekwondo students develop flexibility and coordination.

Autism is becoming increasingly prevalent. According to estimates from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network of Centers of Disease Control (CDC) 2014 report, the number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey. Nevertheless, in the same report, 1 in 68 children in America was identified with ASD. This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and 120% higher than the estimates for 2000 and 2002 (1 in 150). Taekwondo dojangs have also become more ubiquitous and hence more accessible to this increasing population. For those interested in competing, taekwondo is also emerging like no other sport, as one of the two martial arts hosted in the Olympics and in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Whether students train for fun or train to compete, taekwondo’s nature of mutual teamwork and individuality is perfect for autistic students, for students train together and build each other yet perform independently.
My four students who have recently passed their first promotion test to white-yellow belt are working everyday to tie the belt, which represents taekwondo’s central motive. The inner layer of the belt around the waist is representative of the human inner mind, the outer layer is representative of the human physical body, and the tying the two forms a diamond-shaped knot; the balanced collaboration of the mind and body creates a strong and indestructible human like the diamond, an unbreakable crystal. By unifying the mind and body, taekwondo offers both psychological and physical benefits.

(1) Taekwondo is professionally spelt as one word, but the term is also informally spelt as tae kwon do.
(2) Pieter, W. “Injury Rates in Children Participating in Taekwondo Competition.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. July 1, 1997.
(3) Goehner, Amy Lennard. “What to Ask About Autism.” New York Times. April 13, 2011.
(4) Carson, Erin. “How Does Karate Help Kids With ADHD?” LIVESTRONG.COM. August 16, 2013.
(5) Harle, Wade. “Taekwondo Speed Training.” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013.
(6) Lakes, Kimberley D., and William T. Hoyt. “Promoting Self-regulation Through School-based Martial Arts Training.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 25, no. 3, 283-302.
(7) “Key Findings: Prevalence and Impact of Unhealthy Weight in a National Sample of US Adolescents with Autism and Other Learning and Behavioral Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 18, 2014.
(8) Wayne, Jake. “The Best Martial Arts for Weight Loss.” LIVESTRONG.COM. January 30, 2014.
(9) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults.” Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults. November 6, 2014.
(10) Dunham, Deborah. “What Cardio Workout Burns the Most Calories?” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013.
(11) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Weight Loss.” Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour. December 1, 2011.
(12) Lamm, Carin. “Sleep and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” Autism Speaks. N.d.
(13) Loprinzi, Paul D., and Bradley J. Cardinal. “Association between Objectively-measured Physical Activity and Sleep, NHANES 2005-2006.” Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2011.
(14) Breus, Michael J. “Does Your Teen Sleep Like a Zombie? There’s a Reason for That.” Huffington Post. December 1, 2012.
(15) Shah, Suken. “Scoliosis.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. January 1, 2013.
(16) Licauco, Jamie. “Is There a Healthy Way of Breathing?” Inquirer Lifestyle. October 14, 2014.
(17) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 2014.

Christina Cho Profile1 pic Christina H. Cho is a certified fourth degree black belt master by Kukkiwon with twelve years of experience. Since 2006, she has been top-ranked at the USA Taekwondo New York State Championship and the USA Taekwondo New Jersey State Championship in events including individual poomsae, partner poomsae, team poomsae, breaking, and sparring. At the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Championship, she won first place in female partner poomsae and fourth place in individual breaking. She has been an authorized referee for the Pan American Taekwondo Association since 2010, the youngest member of the Tri-State Officials Certified Taekwondo Referees Corp since 2013, and the master of the taekwondo program for students with mental disabilities at The American Wheat Mission since 2013.

Christina thanks her family for their unconditional love and support in her taekwondo journey as well as her adviser Ms. Stanford for her help in writing this article.

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Life Patterns and Flexibility

Life Patterns and FlexibilityEvery day we are faced with challenges of routine, whether it is creating a routine, maintaining a routine, or changing a routine. More often than not, these happen without intervention, and the results present themselves whether you designed them or not.

The Morning Routine

The day breaks either at whatever time your body clock is set, or the time of your alarm clock. The latter is not ideal because it is an unnatural rising and you’re off into a forced routine. The trouble with this is that you will undoubtedly feel stiff, and your day starts with a ‘forced’ movement, and muscles can stiffen accordingly.

I was on this path for a long, long time, and never considered myself a ‘morning person’ – and always battled with normal, every-day flexibility when starting my day.

The solution: I decided to buy a “Lumie” alarm clock. This was designed to wake you up without noise, without sudden rising, and mimics ‘real light’ to gradually wake you up. The result? By naturally waking up, your body automatically adjusts over 20-30 minutes without you having to do anything at all; the result being you reduce and even remove the standard stiffness you can feel in the morning. Check the light out here:
Lumie Bodyclock ACTIVE 250 Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Extra Audio Options

Once you’re up, you must, must, have a quick morning stretching routine, to get the muscles moving, blood flowing, and generally loosen up. If you don’t do this on a daily basis, or even miss a few days, you perpetuate a stiffness that will lock up your joints, muscles, and hamper any of your sporting and martial arts. My morning routine consists of me pressing myself against the skirting board (!) to push my legs wider and gain myself that bit of leverage. It doesn’t take long before I’m pressed fully against the wall and have full flexibility once more.

All Sit Down?

We’ve all seen the evolutionary picture of ending up crouched over a computer desk, typing away with a hunched back. This is, unfortunately, extremely common and very true. The truth of the matter is, we are more certainly not designed to sit in a chair. Chairs are destructive to our mobility, flexibility, and our overall posture. If you are sitting in a chair, set yourself a simple timer for 15 minutes every day to ensure you get up out of your chair, move about, loosen up, and stop those joints from stiffening up. If you ca, get a standing desk – they will increase your productivity, improve your muscle tone, even burn more calories, but most important they will stop your spine from becoming compressed and causing disc and sciatic injuries.

If you are already in the unfortunate position of having back pain, please check out these videos for relieving sciatic nerve pain.

Beware the Slow Tense

Regardless whether you are in a chair, standing, leaning, kneeling etc. Be very conscious of your body and its positions. Again perhaps use a timer such as a “ring timer” (see below) to force you to check every 5-10 minutes until you make it a habit. What you’re checking for is any constant tension in the shoulders, arms, elbows, buttocks and particularly lower back. Modern day work demands hours and hours of constant work and tension, which too often results in over-tightness of particular areas, which in turn leads to over-compromised positions, disrupting your natural posture. These are very difficult to break unless you pay particular attention to it.

Check out a round-timer to force yourself to check every few minutes for it:
Boxing training round interval timer. Perfect for Boxing MMA Interval Tabata Training Kettlebells by Athlete Technologies

Stretching Before Sleep

Just as you should stretch when you wake up, it is equally important that you stretch yourself out before going to sleep. This will ensure that any tensions you have picked up throughout the day will not stiffen further overnight, and cause the typical and all-too-familiar trapped nerve sensations and full-body stiffness syndrome of the morning.


These routines are not exercise, they are not training, they should be part of every day of your life, and are indeed mandatory in many Japanese companies, where they have the best employee health and fitness ratios in the world.

You need to concentrate on them and do them mindfully, otherwise naturally bad patterns will creep into your life and compromise your body, flexibility and fitness.

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Fight Fatigue

When you are preparing for a competition, whether it’s as a coach or an athlete, optimum health is, well, optimal.

Sometimes the stress of preparation, and let’s face it, overtraining, can weaken the body and compromise the immune system making you vulnerable to all sorts of bugs.  When you are in the middle of comp. prep. and this happens it is very stressful and a day or two off training can feel like a week and will make you feel weak both physically and mentally.  We feel we are letting our club, our coach, ourselves and the people we are training down and these thoughts are very dangerous to our mental preparation and physical conditioning.

So how do we stay naturally healthy and in peak condition or at least minimise the impact of a nasty bug in our system?

*Disclaimer – go to the doctor, I am not a doctor.  I always try and use food as medicine.

  • Water water water, drink it, loads of it. You can put fruit and herbs in it to get a bit of extra nutritional benefit if you want but just make sure you are up to your eyeballs in H2O as it will flush out any baddies.  Don’t forget baths and showers, the meditative benefits of both are very therapeutic.
  • Catch some zzzzzzzzs.  Often.  Adequate rest is a crucial part of any good training program in general but is even more vital when you are trying to heal.  Plus it really is a fantastic form of meditation too.
  • I also try and get a teaspoon or two of good quality, unprocessed organic Apple Cider Vinegar to help detox the body.  Put a teaspoon in a glass of water a couple of times a day, simple as that.
  • Swallow garlic. Get a small garlic clove and down it like a pill.  A tip given to me by a naturopath.  The therapeutic benefits of garlic are well documented.
  • Red meat.   This helps to create a strong immune system, I go straight for mince and make a Bolognese and stack it with garlic.  Salmon and Turkey will increase your white bloods cells too which is key to strong immunity.  There are vego and vegan options around too.
  • Vitamin C. An antioxidant that fights free radicals and acts like a scavenger in your body getting rid of any nasties.  I casually throw back a 2 litre bottle of OJ in about 5 hours to saturate my system when I’m not well.  Vit C is also in capsicum, leafy greens and
  • Invest in a juicer and go crazy.  It’s one of very best way to get all the micro nutrients your body needs straight into your blood stream.  There are a million great websites with a million more recipes, one of my staples is celery, cucumber, spinach, beetroot, carrot, green apples, lime and ginger.  Liquid Sunshine.
  • Speaking of sunshine. Get outside and soak in some vitamin D, great for the body, great for the mind.

Obviously as we all know there is no actual cure for the common cold or the influenza virus so prevention is your first line of attack.  Eat healthy, keep your stress levels under control and balance quality training with adequate rest for recovery.

If, however, you do still succumb to a bug, try the above, it can certainly lessen the severity of the symptoms.  I’m also an advocate of herb tea made with hot water, lemon, honey, ginger and a splash of whiskey…and a sneaky bit of chocolate too, because as I said, it’s not just about physical health, but mental and emotional health too and chocolate is good for the soul.

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Cardio Kickboxing Routines For Fitness Enthusiast

Kickboxing is described as a ‘fine blend of martial arts, boxing and traditional aerobics’. So, just how do you observe these routines? Read on to find out.

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How Exercise Changes Our DNA

By Gretchen Reynolds

We all know that exercise can make us fitter and reduce our risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But just how, from start to finish, a run or a bike ride might translate into a healthier life has remained baffling.

Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness.

The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. When genes are turned on, they express proteins that prompt physiological responses elsewhere in the body.

Scientists know that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise. But they hadn’t understood how those genes know how to respond to exercise.

Enter epigenetics, a process by which the operation of genes is changed, but not the DNA itself. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of the gene, mainly through a process called methylation. In methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body.

Scientists know that methylation patterns change in response to lifestyle. Eating certain diets or being exposed to pollutants, for instance, can change methylation patterns on some of the genes in our DNA and affect what proteins those genes express. Depending on which genes are involved, it may also affect our health and risk for disease.

Far less has been known about exercise and methylation. A few small studies have found that a single bout of exercise leads to immediate changes in the methylation patterns of certain genes in muscle cells. But whether longer-term, regular physical training affects methylation, or how it does, has been unclear.

So for a study published this month in Epigenetics, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months.

One of the obstacles in the past to precisely studying epigenetic changes has been that so many aspects of our lives affect our methylation patterns, making it difficult to isolate the effects of exercise from those of diet or other behaviors.

The Karolinska scientists overturned that obstacle by the simple expedient of having their volunteers bicycle using only one leg, leaving the other unexercised. In effect, each person became his or her own control group. Both legs would undergo methylation patterns influenced by his or her entire life; but only the pedaling leg would show changes related to exercise.

The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer.

Not surprisingly, the volunteers’ exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements.

But the changes within the muscle cells’ DNA were more intriguing. Using sophisticated genomic analysis, the researchers determined that more than 5,000 sites on the genome of muscle cells from the exercised leg now featured new methylation patterns. Some showed more methyl groups; some fewer. But the changes were significant and not found in the unexercised leg.

Interestingly, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied.

Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become.

They were not changed in the unexercised leg.

The upshot is that scientists now better understand one more step in the complicated, multifaceted processes that make exercise so good for us.

Many mysteries still remain, though, said Malene Lindholm, a graduate student at the Karolinska Institute, who led the study. It’s unknown, for example, whether the genetic changes she and her colleagues observed would linger if someone quits exercising and how different amounts or different types of exercise might affect methylation patterns and gene expression. She and her colleagues hope to examine those questions in future studies.

But the message of this study is unambiguous. “Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn’t cost much money,” Ms. Lindholm said, “we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life.”

A version of this article appears in print on 12/23/2014, on page of the NewYork edition with the headline: Only-One-Pedal Pushers.

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