Warrior Practice: Joint Longevity Prt 1

Joint mobility and active range control allows movements that were once difficult, to become easy

Those of us that are familiar with practicing certain arts such as Systema Martial arts, Chinese Internal Martial arts, Qigong and Yoga will have come across joint mobility and longevity practices or at least be familiar with the term. So it’s nothing new. However, swinging and flailing your limbs and body parts around, and stretching, is useful for loosening the joints but is not guaranteed to improve long-term health of the joints, let alone bring about strength to the joint range, or what we term, ‘flexible strength’. In health arts such as Qigong there is talk of posture, bones, alignment, relaxed power etc. but one thing that is of vital importance in this practice is ‘space’, and it is the space within the joint that needs to be opened up that leads to joint health – not the endless intake of turmeric or glucosamine supplements.

The scientific literature on joint health is now pointing to the importance of increasing the space within the joint by controlling the articular movement of the joint and then beginning to progressively strengthen the joint through greater ranges of motion via specific methods of training (joint mobility). This is why leading sports teams and rehabilitation trainers are paying particular attention to such methods.

So what is joint mobility? Mobility is the usable range of motion that a joint possesses. This means the ability to control that range of motion by yourself (internal control) and not by an external force, which leads to total body control and the potential to build very resilient tissue with high levels of flexible strength. It is not to be confused with the flexibility acquired through stretching as some teachers teach in Yoga Asana or stretch classes. This is termed as passive flexibility. Joint mobility is associated with active flexibility – internal body control, and these active range principles can be transferred into Yoga asana or any training practice.

This does not mean that passive ranges are not useful. But when there is inadequate joint articulation and flexible strength, we will find in the evidence that certain rehabilitation and passive stretching programmes will come up short, because when people do not have the joint range to perform a particular function over time there is the potential for injury, or perhaps very little physical improvement. When it comes to rehabilitation, it should ideally perform the function of restoring the body to the state it was prior to the injury. And, if the method is specific enough there should be adaptations to build even more strength and resilience into the injured tissue. Joint mobility can be used as an initial stage of this process.

Active ranges of motion must be attained through internal body control and aided by activity of the nervous system – our information network. Active range work provides strong communication and trust between movement and the nervous system. So once joint articulation and active range control improves, then so does the ability of the nervous system to help us learn new movements that we thought were previously difficult.

Joint mobility will improve the longevity of your joints. It will help you build articular health, co-ordination, strength and neurological control. These exercises will assist you in whatever sport or movement you do. One way of looking at our joint health is to ask yourself how big is the gap between the way you are meant to be living (lots of moving and very much less sitting) and the way you are actually living?

Hopefully we come to see that hitting the gym for 40minutes is not going to counteract the next 8hours of sitting. It’s a completely imbalanced equation. And most of us are not even mobilising ourselves every day. Joint mobility (moving) starts in the morning and ends just before sleep.

The next course we are running is Bulletproof Your Joints, which will teach you how to maintain the health of your joints every day, all day.

See you in class.

Move Beyond Your Limitation