Mon Puhl Ki is a set of exercises practiced in Kuk Sool Won™. At the beginning of every class, as soon as we have bowed in, we do Mon Puhl Ki as a group. The routine involves stretching all 164 joints, as well as a combination of dynamic and static stretches designed to increase and/or maintain flexibility. Mon Puhl Ki consists of the following exercises:
Feet shoulder width apart, place your hands on the floor once, then again further back. Straighten your body and place your hands on your hips. Lean back.
Head up and down.
Head left and right.
Head rolling in a circle.
Hips in a circle.
Bring in the left leg, bend the knees slightly, and rotate the knees.
Sit down facing the weapons, legs straight in front of you. Short stretches, bringing elbows to the knees.
Long stretches, touching your toes.
Center Splits: stretch side to side, then again reaching over your head, and then rowing motions.
Press down on the knees with the elbows
Hold the feet and attempt to bring the elbows to the floor
Back straddle stretch roll
Arches - low, middle, and full.
Lying face down, with palms flat on the mat, stretch the head and shoulders up
Now feet and knees
Both ends at once.
Grab the ankles and do a rocking horse stretch.
Place hands under chin and stretch up to look at the ceiling
Stretch back, low to the ground
Arch up like a cat
"Mon Puhl Ki finished, sir!"
Mon Puhl Ki does, indeed, affect nearly every joint in the body. It consists of Dynamic stretching and Static Active stretching (both Relaxed stretching and Ballistic stretching... more on this later). The major problem that most Kuk Sool students, particularly older students, discover is that Mon Puhl Ki alone is not enough to push the body into the splits. In order to execute high kicks, particularly round, side, hook, and spin kicks, additional stretching is required. The Kuk Sool student shouldn't expect to get all of the flexibility and conditioning they need in class - class time is valuable, and generally better spent teaching techniques and Hyung. Also, Mon Puhl Ki is not a warmup - students should warm up before class.
A great deal of the conditioning training we receive in Kuk Sool Won™ is simply a result of practicing our Hyung and Johk Sool . We are required to keep and hold very low stances, which develops significant muscle strength and flexibility. In order to develop this strength and flexibility, we are frequently asked to hold a long stance or horse stance much lower than we would normally be capable of, and to hold it for a set amount of time. Additionally, whenever practicing Soo Ki we do so while holding the deepest Ki Mah Jah Se we are capable of. Likewise, when practicing Johk Sool we do so from a deep Kong Kyuk Jah Se or Bahng Uh Jah Se, with our knees as bent as we can manage.
Additional elements of body conditioning to be found in Kuk Sool Won™ include Cardio-vascular conditioning, muscle, bone and joint conditioning, and ligament and tendon strengthening. Cardiovascular conditioning is a natural result of our workout. As soon Mon Puhl Ki is finished, we practice Soo Ki and Johk Sool. We usually move from this to practicing Hyung without allowing our heart rate to diminish. To this end, we frequently jog in place between sets to keep our heart and breath rates maintained. Additional Cadiovascular conditioning comes from sparring. There is no cardio workout better than 3 rounds back to back sparring a solid opponent. Further muscle conditioning stem from pushups, crunches, leg lifts, and of course, Hyung.
Dynamic stretches are those stretches that contribute to Dynamic Active Flexibility. They involve moving the muscle in question in a controlled manner from rest to full extension and back again, without relying on swinging momentum to get it there or back, and without pausing at full extension. As you progress, you increase both the range of motion and the speed of the stretch, though always keeping it controlled.
Static Stretching is stretching designed to improve Static Passive Flexibility. Static passive flexibility is the ability to assume and maintain extended positions using external means (such as your own body weight, holding a position with assisting limbs, or a partner), and includes the following:
Isometric stretching: Resistance stretching. This is more about strength training than about flexibility, despite the fact that it does more to contribute to flexibility than any other kind of stretching. Isometric stretches involve stretching to the comfortable threshold of pain, back off a bit from there, and then actively tensing the muscle group being stretched for a set amount of time. You then drop your stretch further, and find that your range of motion has increased slightly. Once reaching the pain threshold again, you tighten up the muscles for a significantly longer period. If you are doing the center splits, you ought to be squeezing your legs together, as if in an effort to crush the floor, when you tense up.
Relaxed stretching: This is the stretching we do in Mon Puhl Ki the most. It involves stretching to the comfortable limit of motion, and holding that position. It is easy, and can be performed by anyone (young, old, infirm, pregnant, etc..), it doesn't tire you out at all, and they can be done without first warming up. On the downside, it takes a long time to achieve maximum flexibility limit per stretch, and it takes much more frequent applications to make even slow progress in flexibility.
Ballistic stretching: The Suck. Bouncing motions. You can't adjust or correct the stretch once you've started. Frequently results in immediate and/or residual pain, and fails to provide sufficient time for the tissue to adapt to the stretch. I've also read that it encourages the bodies flex response, which can be very detrimental to your stretching goals. Many Kuk Sool students can be seen performing Ballistic stretches before class and during Mon Puhl Ki - a practice that should be discouraged.
The third type of stretching is designed to improve Static Active Flexibility. This is the ability to hold your body in a stretched position using only the muscle strength of the resisting muscle group. We get a fair amount of practice in this through Hyung and specialty conditioning. I think it is better to show you this kind of flexibility than to describe it, so check out this video of Nikki Berwick, a Tang Soo Do artist showing off her incredible Static Active Flexibility.