When it comes to the high, flashy kicks, nobody, it seems, does it better than the Koreans and Korean arts such as Taekwondo are renowned for their superior kicking ability, their techniques often featured in martial arts movies. It goes without saying that to most great kickers demonstrate great flexibility and that for anyone taking part in the kicking arts, flexibility and stretching are essential components of any lesson. As a result, there are numerous books and videos related to the subject. All with the aim of making us more flexible and better kickers. But what if a guy came along and basically rubbished everything we have promoted as correct and safe when it came to stretching, for example the warm-up a staple of any instructors class? ‘Save your pet story about getting injured when you did not warm up. Too bad for you. If you always warm up and stretch before exercise, your body starts expecting it and will not perform well without it. Hence the injury. It is also in your head. Research suggests that warmup benefits only those who believe they need it. And even then that is not always the case.’ This is exactly what Pavel does in this stretching book, take everything you have ever been taught about stretching and flexibility, what he calls the commandments’. And rubbish them, in the very dryly humorous way that has become his trademark. He has no lime for Western concepts and principles, with regard stretching, stating bluntly that ‘most Western flexibility ‘experts’ do not know enough physiology to have sex. You are far better off not stretching at all than following their advice. In fact, in keeping with the irreverent tone of the author, part 1 is entitled ‘nerd stuff and spends much of its time dispelling what Pavel considers stretching myths with regard to stretching slowly and steady without bouncing and debunking the idea that stretching is the kev to long- term flexibility. The idea behind Pavel’s book is that flexibility, in lighting terms, should be available immediately, maximum range of fighting motion instant, as a real fight gives no time for preparation or warm-up. He points out that ‘Soviet Spetsnaz. The Special Operations
Forces. Were combat ready 24 hours a day and did not have the luxury of a warm up and stretch before going into action.’
Pavel was the conditioning coach for the Russian Special Forces and his ideas, theories and principles will be of great interest to any instructor who has regularly coached within the kicking arts, as he challenges everything we have been taught and then uses specific examples to back up his own claims. Exactly what these principles are, he explains in part 2. cheekily titled ‘Do it my way. Here he looks at mobility drills, flexibility exercises and ‘complex training, which consists of plyometric/weight lifting. Still, his new commandments’ will raise eyebrows when they contain such statements as-’ihere isn’t such a thing as injury prevention-only damage control’ and ‘extreme flexibility can be obtained at any age without changing the mechanical properties of your tissues. The key is resetting the nervous control of muscular length and tension.’
Part 3 is the technical section and focuses on mobility drills and dynamic stretches and occupies the second half of the book. Here the book becomes more of a conventional manual, with the exercises briefly explained and illustrated with photos. If the book does have a drawback it is that sometimes there is only one or two photographs per technique in the mobility drill section and the result is vague to say the least.
That aside, there are enough drills and exercises here to really reinvent your stretching and ‘warm-up’ sessions. Whilst the text will be both entertaining and informative in a controversial and challenging fashion.
Overall this is a mixture of technical manual and challenging theoretical discourse that more studious instructors will enjoy dissecting and questioning. Pavel is certainly a character and obviously some of his comments are genuinely tongue in cheek but the theories and principles will certainly be worth investigation. My only concern is that the price is quite high, £30 is not to be sniffed at but your purchase will depend on just how much you want to put Pavel’s theories to the test.