In Tai Chi and Qigong practice, correct knee alignment is often neglected which can lead to pain, injury and long-term damage. As the largest and most complex joint in the body the knee is more likely to get damaged than other joints. The knee is a hinge joint with a slight rotating motion, this complex motion is where the problems arise. The knee is an active weight-bearing joint, however when weight is put on the knee when it is positioned outside of good alignment e.g. twisted, injury or damage can be caused to the ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. Read about the structure and function of the knee-joint here.
In accurate Tai Chi and Qigong practice the knee when weight-bearing is used only as a hinge. The majority of movement comes from the hips instead of the knees. By ‘fixing’ the knees in line with the hips, ankles and feet, the rest of the body can move freely without putting pressure on the knee.
In Chen Tai Chi silk reeling exercises, the knees go through a small rotation throughout the movements as demonstrated by Alfie here:
Movements must be done properly with the joints correctly aligned to ensure the knee-joint remains protected. That is easier said than done as a beginner, whose knees tend to roll in, out and forwards. Becoming aware of your posture takes time. With practice, correction and patience knee and leg muscles become much stronger and hips gain more flexibility, leading to safer knee alignment as you move.
- Resolving Knee Strain in Tai Chi Practice By Hal Mosher
- Alignment of Knees, Ankles, and Feet and How to Overcome Fallen Arches by Robert Chuckro
- Knee Pain and the Internal Arts by The Scholar Sage
- Knee Position in Cheng’s Tai Chi by William C. Phillips
- Knee Health in your Tai Chi Training by Violet Li