Taiji and Knees


Taiji doesn't hurt knees, it helps them. Incorrect practice, however, can hurt the knee. That is why you must study with a knowledgeable teacher, who can diagnose the fault in your practice if you should develop knee pain. The Classics remind us to "seek the defect in the legs and waist." Think of the waist in the Chinese way, the "waist" being the hips and sacrum. Knees tend to be pulled inward (medially) when we turn in one direction or outward (laterally) because of tightness and stuckness in the hip joint. If force is used (a very common and serious problem), this anatomic arrangement will put excessive stress on the supportive ligaments of the knee joint. The student must let go of an agenda about forcing the practice to get proficient quickly, and learn to relax body and mind completely.

A key point in keeping knees healthy is to appreciate that the knee is a hinge joint and must only function as such. Any lateral or medial strain, (especially, in the inexperienced practitioner not yet capable of truly emptying and relaxing) can conceivably be harmful. This is why the knee must be brought to exactly over the toe in 70/30 positions. And this must be done keeping "a body under the knee" at all times as the weight shifts. Even in the 100%positions, the knee must only bend...not torque, although it may move beyond the toe. But, no twisting, only bending.

What do I mean when I say to "keep a body under the knee?" Taiji is beautiful in its simplicity. The marvels are clearly related to correct body mechanics. If you look down and see space (the floor) under your knee, that means that the stress and weight is not supported by your lower leg and foot. This is a problem. Correct this! Although correct practice precludes looking down while you do the form, do check yourself periodically as you practice. Be sure that your lower leg and foot are aligned under your knee to transmit your weight through your leg, foot, and "Bubbling Spring," into the ground.

Another essential part of correct practice is to always "use mind, NOT FORCE". And, as always, relax and sink.

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