View Full Version : tai chi and the knees

Mr. Nemo
01-31-2001, 04:49 AM
Many tai chi (and some other internal arts) sources instruct the reader not to let the knees extend past the tips of the toes in low stances. What I want to know is, how important is this? Is it only for elderly practitioners (which anyone writing tai chi literature probably considers)? On the other hand, I've also heard that the knees aren't too critical a point as long as the body has good posture, and I've seen pictures of respectable tai chi stylists sinking past the "safe" point.

My problem is, I can't get too low, keep my back straight, and keep my knees from extending too far all at the same time. If I want to go low, I have to tilt my torso forward to keep my balance.

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated

Water Dragon
01-31-2001, 04:58 AM
In many schools of CMA, some taiji included, a forward tilt is recommended for both power and structure. There's more than one way to interpret "a straight line form the tip of the head to the anus"

As far as the knees go. PLEASE listen to me. Don't go too low and never exchange form for function. I'm just now starting to get back after about a 6 month hiatus due to knee problems. I'm only 26 Bro. PLEASE don't fukk up your knees. It's not worth it.

Although there are many styles, they all depend on the strong beating the weak and the slow falling to the quick. These are not related to the power that must be learned -- Taiji Classics

01-31-2001, 05:13 AM
Hi Mr Nemo,
I agree with water dragon, especially in yang style tai chi it's not that important to go that low in horse anyway. Try rolling your hips and tail in more. This will straighten your back and allow you to go lower without giving up your foundation.

01-31-2001, 05:32 AM
Also, when twisting the feet around, turn the hip rather than the knee, so that the knee and toes point the same way.

01-31-2001, 05:55 AM
From a structural standpoint, not letting the knee gobeyond the toe is extremely important. It applies even to external styles...you just don't notice it because the stance for them lowers into the hip and deepens...but the knee position is the same.

There are a couple of things about knees. First, you align the knee with the foot (little toe side to be specific). To turn the foot too far in or let it go outward puts a lateral strain on the knee. It limits mobility as well... But...the kicker is that it will cause a wearing down of the cartilage of the knee internals. Not a good thing for longevity or health unless you like arthritis.

The second is that extending too far forward places the body weight into the knee instead of letting it naturally flow through the hip -thigh-knee-calf-ankle-foot to the ground. It pushes it into a stress point in the knee cap. This too will cause the cartilage to wear down. It is sort of like having your wheels out of alignment and out of balance in a car. Uneven wear and eventual problems.

Also, too far forward destroys the natural strength and balance of the stance. This makes you subject to being controlled. It tends to cause the back to tilt and lose alignment with the pelvis and waist, this can lead to stressing the low back. Then, it can stress other muscle groups as well.

I must admit, it is nice having a student who is an Orthopedic surgeon and one who is a physical therapist. Makes for great fun analyzing structural limits of the movements. The more we do this, the more we find that the principles from one style to another are very close.

Mr. Nemo
01-31-2001, 07:06 AM
The consensus seems to be to be careful of the knees. All the stuff I've heard in here is the same stuff my instructors told me when I first started Yang style. What a coincidence, huh? My instructors actually knew what they were talking about.

The problem I had with leaning forward to keep my balance while going low was that it caused tension in my lower back - but today after doing standing post without going too low for a while, staying relaxed and using intention to move, I was able to go lower and stay rooted with no tension.

Kevin Wallbridge
01-31-2001, 10:04 PM
There should be no reason to lean forward to save the knees if you can fold the Kua. This is the inguinal crease between the front head of the ilium (the large plate-like bone of the hip) and the pubic bone, as defined by the inguinal ligament.

Rather than "tucking the tail," which compromises your structure, you should allow the hip to open between the iscium and the head of the greater trochanter of the femur. This is the area bewteen the "sitting" bones and the protruberance on the thigh bone where the muscles attach for rotation. By releasing the back of the hip you can fold into the front. This is a key to Yang style without which no serious progress can be made. The tail-bone drops only to allow the lumbar spine to gap comfortably, but it should never tuck, unless you want to give your opponent an obvious and clumsy energy.

GLW makes the good point that the knee is a weight transferance joint, not a weight bearing joint. Always strive to sit "through" your joints not "on" them.

"The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon" Wang Xiangzai

Cheng oi
10-07-2013, 02:51 PM
If I had known anything about tai chi - I wouldn't be crippled right now