I´m sure that the one who practices Karate or any other martial art knows the importance of the use of the joints. Yes, the body as one is the main idea, I could enumerate many factors/principles that contribute to the body´s movement/condition, but for now, let´s focus on the importance of the joints. According to my experience on KDS practice, I can tell that, besides the bones, the muscles and the breathing work, they have a very important role on making the techniques result. Like the shoulders, for example, if they are not relaxed, it is difficult to create a fluidity of the movement and even the necessary effectiveness. So, I´m going to present some information about the definition of “joint”, what is it´s function and some tips to preserve them, because they have to hold all your life! 🙂
What is a “joint”?
A joint is defined as the juncture where two or more bones come together for the purpose of movement. Contraction of muscles crossing the joint cause it to move. So, normal joint function is defined as a joint’s ability to move throughout its range of motion, bear weight and perform work.
- Bones come together to form joints. The configuration of a joint determines the degree and direction of possible motion. Some joints, such as those between the plates of the skull, called sutures, don’t move in adults. Others allow a range of motion. For example, the shoulder joint, which has a ball-and-socket design, allows inward and outward rotation as well as forward, backward, and sideways motion of the arm.
- Hinge joints in the elbows, fingers, and toes allow only bending (flexion) and straightening (extension).
- Other components of joints provide stability and reduce the risk of damage from constant use. In a joint, the ends of bones are covered with cartilage – a smooth, tough, protective tissue that acts as a shock absorber and reduces friction.
- Joints also have a lining (called synovial tissue) enclosing them to form the joint capsule. Cells in the synovial tissue produce a clear fluid (synovial fluid) that fills the capsule, which further reduces friction and aids movement.
- Muscles are bundles of fibers that can contract, or tighten. Skeletal muscles, which are responsible for posture and movement, are attached to bones and arranged in opposing groups around joints. For example, muscles that straighten the elbows (triceps muscles) counter muscles that bend them (the biceps muscles).
Some tips to maintain joints healthy:
- Adjust your activity level according to your pain level.
- Make an effort to maintain your ideal weight
- Pace yourself by balancing rest and activity.
- Use assistive devices to preserve your joints.
- Use the largest or strongest joint possible when doing a specific task.
- Avoid excessive pressure or stress on the small joints of the hand.
- Change positions as often as possible.
- Extend your joints as opposed to contracting them.
- Avoid heavy lifting if possible.
- Whenever possible, sit instead of standing.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- If an activity feels like too much, it is too much.
- Know and respect your limitations.
- Good nutrition and exercise help to keep your weight in check.
Yes, general tips! For a Karateca and his training characteristics, it is difficult to take in account all the tips. Sometimes, we need hard practice and the training work that should be done don´t facilitate a 100% healthy joints! Anyway, if everything in your body is well placed when doing a technique, there should be no effort or pain.
We also need to understand what are your body´s limits and the type of practice we do. If you feel that, somehow, your body is not responding well to the practice you chosed to do, try to understand what is wrong with your body, ask for help to your instructor or, if you don´t feel good with the body´s condition that is required, maybe you should reconsider if it is the practice you really want.
Sometimes, pain is no gain…