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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Prolonged Dynamic Tension

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In Isshinryu they refer to this as "Chinkuchi or prolonged chinkuchi." In the more modern western world it is dynamic tension first introduced to the world of body building by Charles Atlas in the 1920's. The principles of its practice are pretty much the same, i.e. a person tenses the musculature of the body or body parts while moving that body or body part as if they were working or exercising with weights. The dynamic tension movement is actually called "isometrics." 

What comes up in martial arts is prolonged dynamic tension through the practice of the sanchin kata is the question as to its health benefits and its health effects. Does this type of training, prolonged, cause any health concerns for the practitioner?

There is no solid information on health benefits or concerns that this author can find. You would think there would be some information since this type of training has existed, in the west, since the 1920's and for the martial artists that may extend into the 1800's or before since it is documented in various ancient classics as a practice by Okinawan's and the Chinese, the ancestors of Okinawa Karate. 

Isometrics can cause elevation in blood pressure. It is believed, although not backed up by adequate research, that performing an isometric exercise, for most healthy persons, resulting is a rise in blood pressure are of little consequence, but if you have hypertension that dramatic rise in pressure  could be a hazard or fatal. 

The American College of Sports Medicine tells athletes they should avoid isometric programs since they may have a negative effect on their cardio health. I, the author, don't know what kind of research this organization used to determine this but to be prudent and err on the side of caution one should ALWAYS consult a physician before starting such a program. 

I wonder to myself how many martial artist, karate practitioners who practice prolonged dynamic tension like sanchin, have explained the process to their physicians and gained their approval before embarking on a life long practice of sanchin or chinkuchi. 

Personally, I don't advocate prolonged sanchin/chinkuchi practice. I believe, personally, that their is a balance where the performance of sanchin or any other isometric/dynamic tension system is about tension and positive relaxation. The degree to which a person tenses the musculature is also important. After all anything of this type can be practiced beyond safety, health and fitness with a result of health concerns. In my minds eye, the cardiovascular is one of those critical area's where death is prominent. If you make a mistake you could die. 

I have practiced prolonged dynamic tension/chinkuchi, etc. and feel it a bit excessive, for me. I don't mean to speak against it in general and for all but rather speak to the persons caution when taking up this type of practice and training. 

Now, Charles Atlas's system of dynamic tension/isometrics has been around since I was a youngster (I actually wanted to get the program as a kid but didn't for some reason while my older brother actually used the system for his training). I have never known of anyone or any publicity that said his system resulted in health concerns or deaths so feel, if properly done along with a physicians approval, that it is beneficial to health and fitness. 

Think of it this way, we all tend to do a form of dynamic tension in our every day activities including sports. The body through sport for instance naturally goes through a process of dynamic tension and positive relaxation. It can be said to attribute to the athletes health, fitness and ability to perform the sport in question, i.e. basketball, football, etc. If this is true and the untested word in martial arts is true then there is a benefit with minimal health concerns provided you enter into this model of training with a bit of care and physical approval from a physician. 

Moderation is a key issue in sanchin for me and those who train or practice with me. I don't believe in prolonged dynamic tension and feel it is a detriment to health and fitness but to practice it in a balanced way would be acceptable to me, for me. 

Last word, if you are vulnerable to things like hypertension, aneurisms, etc. then see your doctor to find what you can and should do for health. Several postings from Doctors still say, "Isometric exercise, like weight lifting, etc. can definitely build muscles, which helps capabilities/fitness, but is limited because it does not help cardiovascular health, and during the exercise, blood pressure can be greatly increased. This can be very disastrous in people who are vulnerable, like those with aneurisms." 

Another source states, "Isometric exercises are often not recommended for individuals with high blood pressure or heart disease, because the constant muscle tension places pressure on the arteries, causing a dramatic increase in blood pressure. However, a 2010 review of studies published in the "Journal of Clinical Hypertension" noted that isometric exercise can be beneficial for building strength in hypertensive individuals who are unable to perform dynamic exercises requiring full joint range of motion. While isometric exercise elicits a temporary hypertensive response, blood pressure quickly returns to resting values after the completion of exercise. The authors concluded that isometric exercise can be effective in lowering resting blood pressure, and that isometric exercise should be recommended as a training mode for hypertensive patients."

Also: " 'Journal of Sports Science,' strength training with isometric contractions produces large gains in strength but adaptations are highly angle-specific. Training muscles isometrically over a range of joint angles may produce significant increases in strength compared to dynamic training. Edward R. Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic notes that while isometric training may increase strength, the mode is not effective for increasing speed or improving athletic performance."

And finally: "When performing isometric contractions, it is important to align your body to minimize stress on the joints. For example, in a yoga plank or side plank, your wrists and elbows should be aligned directly beneath your shoulders, with your arms perpendicular to the floor. In a static wall squat, your knees should be aligned directly over your ankles, with your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. To minimize stress to the rotator cuff, avoid prolonged isometric contractions of the arms at or above shoulder height. Isometric contractions of the muscles of the neck should be limited to eight to 10 seconds."

Matte, Michelle and Demand Media. "What are the Dangers of Isometric Exercises?", Health Living, 

1 comment:

Bart Bronson said...

No question that dynamic tension can produce very hard bodies that can withstand very hard punches and kicks. However, from the standpoint of the Internal Martial Arts of Tai Chi, Hsing-I and Ba Gua whenever there is a perceived threat the body i.e. nervous system, goes into a "flight/fight" response also known as the adrenaline dump. The reason these internal arts are practiced in a slow, relaxed, meditative manner is to overcome this natural response. Its the training of the nervous system to be calm and relaxed in the midst of martial movement. If you train too much on the dynamic tension side of things, there is a real possibility of becoming "tense and frozen" in a real encounter. Also many body builders like "pump-a-tude". They feel strong when their muscles are tense. This emotional/physical enjoyment of tense muscles is fine until you run up against a relaxed fighter, relaxed in body mind and spirit.