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 knee joint in line with the hips, ankles and feet, the rest of the body can move freely without putting pressure on the knee. The knee can still move forwards and backwards from the toe to the heel and in small circles within the span of the foot.
As a beginner student most have very tight hips and lower backs, which means movement is restricted in these areas. In turn when the hips and lower back are tight, to get the movements to ‘look’ similar to the instructor the knees become compromised as they move much more easily. In this situation the knees typically flay around out of alignment and the student may notice discomfort. By learning very early on in your Tai Chi training how to align the knees accurately and the importance of loosening the hip joints and lower back, this gives the knees the best chance to stabilise whilst strengthening the muscles around 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
- Knee Alignment/Pain in Martial Arts By Brian Sensei
Live Online Tuition
Instructor Nicola is passionate about sharing the important of good posture in Tai Chi training with her students. She provides live online private tuition using Skype and/or Facebook video call. Your online class is one-to-one private tuition that is set to your pace, style of learning, needs and experience, all from the comfort of your home. New beginners are encouraged, this service is open to everyone. Visit the Tai Chi section in the webstore to book your lesson.