How can I improve my flexibility for kicking? I am a 42 year old red belt in taekwondo.
Dianne Carson, San Diego
Achieving good flexibility becomes more difficult as we grow older. There are a few techniques that may help: spend about ten minutes on relaxation and breathing exercises before class, put less power in your kicks - focus on smoothness, stretch at the end of your workout when your body is fully warmed up, try to stretch a little bit every day, concentrate on understanding the mechanics of each kick to maximize the range of motion in your hips.
While your age may make it more difficult to kick high, you can still achieve good flexibility in your kicks with regular effort. In addition to the tips here, I recommend you read Martial Arts After 40, which has many age specific training strategies, and Ultimate Flexibility which gives in-depth insight into flexibility and has a stretching routine specifically for high kicks.
Sang H. Kim