This is not a pure karate article but I believe that is directly related, the more we understand human motion and the latest research of functional movement, the more we can enhance how we move in karate, and also we can condition the body to perform better in karate, and in addition prevent and rehabilitate injuries.
Functional science is based on how the body is designed to move, it is derived from principles of functional bio mechanics, its purpose is to balance the body musculature and posture, to teach the nervous system to recruit muscles in proper sequenced, to improve effective range of motion and strength through these ranges, in short, the purpose is to enhance one’s ability to perform in sports or to enjoy life, and to make the body more resilient to injuries.
Functional conditioning exercises are derived from principles of function:
Principle: Movement is 3 dimensional.
In textbooks Joints are described as uni-axial, bi-axial or tri-axial, this is based on independent motions during nonfunctional movement such as when lying on the therapist bed not considering the influence of gravity, ground reaction and momentum.
All joints move in 3 planes and are 3-D.
In textbooks the knee is described as bi-axial, with saggital (flexion, extension) and transverse (rotational) movement.
In reality as example, during weight bearing function the chain reaction created by gravity and ground reaction when landing creates frontal plane movement at the knee, adduction and abduction or side to side.
This motion of the knee activates the hip muscles, which protects the knee.
This concept is very important to how we create and tweak exercises for improve performance, injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Limitation in one plane of motion in one joint will create compensations usually elsewhere along the kinetic chain.
For example, if hip internal rotation is limited in a golf swing the lumbar spine will have to do more of the rotation and is likely to be strained.
Principle: Movement is driven.
Total body movement is created by forces = drivers.
Physical drivers – gravity, ground reaction force, momentum
Physiological drivers – muscles, ligaments, fascia
Behavioral drivers – pain, fear, guilt
Principle: Movement is chain reaction.
The body is made up of connected parts; a driver affects the entire body.
Example, when your hand moves the ankle will respond, when your eyes move the rest of the kinetic chain will be influenced and follow.
Principle: Movement is subconscious.
The chain reaction occurs in a subconscious level.
Conscious of the task, but not bones, joints, muscles.
The goal is to give a person a task based on the principles of functional science in order to create the desired chain reaction.
Strategies based upon the principles suggest the task to use.
Principle: LOAD and EXPLODE
In order to accomplish any task the body needs to load, movement is required to load the system; the body knows it needs to move opposite the desired movement, you create tasks to produce the desired load.
Failure to accomplish the goal (explode) often is caused by failure to load effectively.
Limitation of motion at one link of the kinematic chain will inhibit the loading chain reaction.
Example: motion blocked at one plane will inhibit motion in 3 planes at multiple joints. Loss of right ankle dorsiflexion will alter the way a squat is performed, knee can’t move forward due to ankle limitation, so the butt must move back to lower the body. Lack of motion to load creates great deficits in spite of good muscle strength.
Total body movement is made of multiple segments movement, not isolated movement. Out of optimal posture force can be transfer smoothly through the kinetic chain, muscles will function optimally and joints will have least stress.
For example in the common head forward posture the thoracic spine is hunched , the upper back muscles are over lengthened and the shoulders migrate forward and are out of optimal axis of rotation. Forces cannot transfer smoothly through the thoracic spine to scapula to the shoulder, the shoulder will have to compensate, and it is already out of its axis of rotation.
We must do extension exercises and corrective postural exercise to strengthen the posterior chain muscles, ideally not isolating but zooming on those muscles within total body movement.