Chen Yu on Knee Pain (translated by John Warriner on FaceBook)
Chen Yu Laoshi speaking about how to prevent knee pain during the practice of taijiquan.
Many taijiquan friends have said to me, when I start to practice taijiquan, sometimes I become faintly aware of knee pain. And, indeed, it increases the longer I practice. This type of pain is likely to continually get more serious. So, what is the reason for the emergence of knee pain? How does one prevent it? Taking Chen-style taijiquan as an example, I’ll speak a bit on my own views, and hope that it might be of some help to everyone.
First, the reasons for the emergence of knee pain are mainly in the following few points:
Reason 1: Of all the various movements, none can be separated from the activity of the muscles, the bones, and the joints. Moreover, the coordination of all the parts of the whole body is even more intricate. Like: being erect without leaning, han xiong ba bei, sink the shoulders drop the elbows, tailbone erect, etc. At the same time, as to the crotch, the kua, and the knees, this brings up clear-cut requirements: bend the knees, relax the kua. That is, it must be emphasized that when practicing any of the postures, one must bend the knees, round the crotch, open the kua. The amount of movement in Chen-style taijiquan is relatively large. Add to that bending the knees, rounding the crotch, and opening the kua. So, the legs must support the weight of the activity of the whole body. Moreover, the weight borne by the knee joints is even more obvious. Because of this, the knee must be strong and flexible. When the legs step out, from beginning to end, each in turn, one leg in turn supports the center of gravity, and one leg is raised and steps out. Taijiquan movements are also executed slowly. Therefore, what the knee joints bear is greater than other forms of boxing. If one fails to grasp the main points, the emergence of knee pain is inevitable.
Reason 2: Some boxing friends mistakenly consider fang song to invariably be sitting down. At this time,jin is changed to chou jin. The weight then drops to the knee joints. In order to stand steady, the posture must be the body leaning forward, the knees kneeling forward, resulting in the knees extending past the toes. This way easily increases the weight on the knee joints. In the long term then, knee pain is likely to appear.
Reason 3: In Chen-style taijiquan there are many movements involving turning the feet and turning the body. I often discovered that some boxing friends only turn the feet, and the knees do not follow the movement, so then the force is likely to put pressure on the knees. This is also a reason leading to knee pain.
Reason 4: Many boxing friends mistakenly think that the toes grasping the ground and the arch (掌心) empty means that they dig into the ground with their toes. This causes the weight to fall to the front of the sole and thus invisibly facilitating an increase of pressure on the knee joint. This causes the body to lose its agility. This is another way that it’s easy to create knee pain.
Practicing taijiquan should have the effect of nourishing the body, but failing to grasp the main points has the opposite effect.
If you want to prevent knee pain, I think you should pay attention to the following points:
1. As for beginning students, the form must be done a bit higher, thus lightening the pressure on the knee joint.
2. When stepping you must first lift the thigh, such that the force gathers in the knees joints to provide impetus to the raising of the heel. When kicking with the leg or standing on one leg, the height of the lifted knee should be level with the kua.
3. During fang song, the qi sinks, the hands are placed at a distance, the kua gen sinks simultaneously.When in a stable stance (ding shi), the knees must have the intent of closing inward slightly. At the same time, coordinate the kua gen supporting its openness and roundness. Close the crotch energy. The crotch must be round.
4. When in stepping out to the front in a bow step, the knees must not extend beyond the toes, in order to avoid losing balance, thereby increasing the tolerance of the knees; it is also not advisable for the point of the knee and the lower leg to form a vertical line, in order to avoid affecting the flexibility of the next move. It only needs a little stretching and that’s acceptable.
5. When turning the feet, the knees must also follow in the turning movement, this way the knee is not likely to feel too great a pressure. Because of this, it is not likely that pain would appear in the knees.
6. When practicing, the center of gravity must be positioned in the middle between the arch and the heel of the foot, and use the toes to lightly grip the ground.
The ancients said: “Skill will naturally lead to success”. Don’t take this to mean blind practice, seeking quantity. Rather it should be seen as depending on strict requirements, proceeding gradually step by step, discovering and correcting one’s mistakes. Only in this way can can one’s practice truly rise to the purpose of strengthening and invigorating the body.
These are my personal views regarding knee pain developed over the years in the process of practicing and teaching Chen-style taijiquan. I present them as reference for everyone to discuss.