The author in the splits.

Flexibility is a Skill

In the RKC we teach that Strength is a skill… so is flexibility.

For nearly 30 years I had practiced Taekwondo, a martial that relies heavily on flexibility to deliver a wide range of kicking techniques.  While I did improve my flexibility through the practice of kicking I never achieved the flexibility one would expect of someone with that much time under the belt.   I did train with many instructors and attended workshops and clinics with world class martial artists but when it came to flexibility no instructor was able to teach flexibility as a skill. The best they could do was demonstrate a position or technique and tell us to practice. Frustrated, I had decided you either have flexibility our you don’t.

It wasn’t until I learned of Pavel Tsatsouline’s flexibility methods and read his books that I began to realize there was much more to flexibility than simply holding a pose and trying to force a stretch.  Reading the material helped, I made great progress faster than ever but it wasn’t until I FELT the methods during workshops taught Pavel Tsatsouline and Master RKC Jon Engum that I understood them and could consistently repeat the results.

Finally, for the first time in my life I understood how to correctly combine tension, relaxation, breathing, strength, posture to achieve flexibility goals.  These master minds of flexibility showed me how to combine these ingredients like a master chef to achieve seemingly unbelievable results in minutes and sometimes seconds.

Using the methods I’ve learned as an RKC Kettlebell Instructor and CKFMS Functional Movement Specialist I’ve been able to get clients to improve their toe touch from mid-shin to a full toe touch or from shallow ugly heels up squat to rock-bottom butt-to-heels squat in as little as 5-minutes.

Although these methods are simple they are still not well known.

If you would like to learn more about improving your flexibility I invite you to attend a private lesson, group class or flexibility workshop.

Until then I hope you’ll consider the following resources and enjoy the article I wrote about one of my favorite stretches for reducing stress.


John Scott Stevens, RKC II, CKFMS



Relax Into Stretch DVD: Instant Flexibility through Mastering Muscle Tension
Relax into Stretch DVD

Beyond Stretching the Seminar DVD set –
4 hours and 48 minutes of a flexibility workshop taught by Pavel Tsatsouline
This is  gold mine and virtual encyclopedia of stretching techniques that literally covers everything from head to toe.  



A Passive hamstring stretch is one of my favorite stretches for stress relief. It works for me well as I tend to carry a lot of stress in my hamstrings and neck.  Doing the stretch from the supine position allows me to relax both my neck and my hamstrings and experience a dramatic sense of relaxation and improved mood in as little as 5 minutes.

  • Lie down on the floor and loop a strap, belt or towel around one foot. I prefer a quiet room with dim lighting or something covering my eyes to help me relax.
  • Rest your head on the floor or on something like a pillow so that your neck is completely relaxed.
  • Using the towel for assistance extend your straight leg into the air until you feel a mild stretch and hold your leg in position with the towel. Imagine your leg growing longer as your heel and hip extend away from one another.
  • Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. This is to prevent shrugging, relax your neck and prevent injuring or tightening the muscles around the neck.
  • Keep the toes of the stretched leg pulled back toward your shin.
  • Keep your hips parallel to the ceiling.
  • Hold the outstretched leg in the air for 30 seconds to minute or so
    and….. here’s the big tip…
    during the last 5-to-10 seconds of the stretch push your leg slow but hard against the strap as if trying to resist the stretch. You must hold the leg in position by resisting this push with the strap. The idea is to sufficiently fatigue the hamstrings so that are “relaxed” or unable to resist the next repetition.
  • Lower your leg to the floor, then raise it up again with a second or so and repeat the process.
  • With each repetition you should be able to go a little higher than before without pain.
  • Switch legs when you can no longer make progress and repeat the process.
  • Focus on your Breathing while you stretch.
    • Breathe in slowly through the mouth for 3 to 4 seconds, pause for one second, exhale through the nose for 3 to 4 seconds, pause for one second and repeat.
    • While inhaling your stomach should rise as you imagine forcing the air down deep into your belly. While exhaling your stomach will fall.
    • This diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to reduce your stress level at anytime and can be performed while sitting in traffic, trying to fall asleep or before speaking in front of a group.
  • When neither leg seems to be making any more progress  I will begin to shift tactics and employ a series of various methods learned from Pavel and Jon Engum to trick my muscles into an increasingly deeper stretch.
  • Finally, I’ll finish up with a few easy sets of 10 legs swings per side.
    • Hanging on to a wall or chair for balance swing a straight leg in front of you with your foot rising to stomach, chest, face level or higher.
    • Keep your spine straight and look up.
    • Swing your leg only as high as you can while being relaxed. You should not feel any fear or pain as long as you stay well within your limits.
    • Exhale on the upswing.
    • Perform the leg swings at a casual pace with an emphasis on using strength to achieve height rather than speed.

After all this I stand taller and typically experience a sense of improved mood and freedom of movement.

Give it try and when your’e ready for more, give me a call.