Can anyone do the splits, and how did you manage to become that flexible, i want to be able to do it one day... will normal static stretching get me there eventually?
There are two kinds of splits; front and side. Van Damme pictured by John is known for the side kind.
For the side splits you might want to do some distinct groin stretching as in sitting down, bringing your heels together and reaching your knees to the floor but simply doing the split itself is pretty good in itself.
Static stretching is the only way that works at all and it works very well. Theoretically you want to hold a stretch for as long as possible or more realistically for at least a minute or two and do repetitions once you're warmed up to your current max.
Anyway I think reaching for and maintaining the side split is simpler because you can get away with doing the one and the same stretch all the time. For front splits you need to stretch hip flexors and hamstrings separately.
Try to do it every day if you can. It's not like lifting where you can get away with 1-2 sessions a week. You have to be maintaining aggressively (though a day off in a week is not bad) and the upside is that the more time and effort you put in, the closer you progressively race towards your genetic limit; you can hardly overtrain as with weights.
Front splits? Not nearly.
Side split? Yesh.
Two issues are
mobility = how well the joints move
flexibility = how well the muscles allow movement
These two properties work in tandem. If you are not mobile (happens automatically with age) you will lose flexibility, for instance. To see if you are mobile enough to get into the side splits, do a half split: Prop up a foot on a bar. If you can get each leg individually higher than hip level, you have the mobility to do the splits. If not, your hip joints might not allow it.
Assuming you can get you legs up there, what stops you from doing the splits is your muscles. They refuse to let you go past a certain point because of the danger of tearing them. To get the splits, you therefore need to rewire them and the best way is PNF stretching, where you get into a static stretch, tense up then get further into the stretch. There is a fine book called "Scientific Stretching" by Thomas Kurz that talks about this. Get it. Oh, a lot of static stretching advice is really lousy, so do get a book. For instance, trying to hang out in the side splits will probably give you knee pain if you do it wrong.
General flexibility is good and I always start a workout with mobility (I'm a geezer). Very few sports need high flexibility (gymnastics does) and there have been studies that show that people who stretch the most tend to have the most injuries. One bit of folklore is that stretching prevents injuries, but that is not true (again, unless you have some pathology). Most injuries (strains and tears) happen in a normal range of motion due to sudden loading. You should ask yourself why you want to stretch so much.
I was a gymnast as a child, and have always been able to do front and right leg splits. I have never been able to do a left leg split, but I am working on it now using static stretching and PNF. A little trick I learned form yoga: breathe deeply while stretching. When you exhale relax your body as much as possible. Try to relax into the position rather than stretching or forcing it. I know it sounds cheesy and sort new age hippie-dippy, but it really works.