RIVERSIDE TAI CHI HOW TO PREVENT TAI CHI KNEE PAIN Protect Your Knees With Proper Alignment
Sifu Jesse Powell
As the founder of Riverside Tai Chi I feel it is my duty to offer my service, and humble knowledge to help you experience the wonderful benefits of tai chi, and the other internal styles of kung fu, which are, as you may know, hsing-I and bagua. These styles offer many health benefits, well being, and martial prowess for self defense. These benefits are possible only if the foundation of these arts is understood, and the basic principles are maintained. The purpose of this report is to ensure that practitioners perform the movements of the styles safely, and with correct alignment principles to enable them to practice for longevity without suffering unnecessary injuries. I recently did a video response to a question from a beginner tai chi practitioner, who while learning from books, and videos started to develop knee pains. He wanted to know if he was doing something wrong in his practicing because he heard that tai chi was supposed to fix joint problems. Practitioners of all levels in tai chi, hsing-I, and bagua experience knee pain when they commit two common mistakes. The first mistake is to put weight in the knee joint. The second mistake is poor alignment of the joints of the legs, and hips.
Weight in the Knees It is important for all practitioners of internal kung fu to know and understand that the knees are not weight bearing joints. The knees are weight transference joints. The knees are designed to smoothly transplant weight from one leg to the other during stepping, and shifting motions. When weight is concentrated in the knee joint it
causes damage to the ligaments, and tendons of the joint. This is one reason why practitioners will feel pain in their knees. When a practitioner holds weight in the knee joint it is usually due to a misunderstanding of the alignment of the legs, and possibly the upper body as well.
Alignment Principles As mentioned earlier in this report poor alignment is the second common reason why practitioners develop knee pain. Poor alignment can actually cause a person to place extra weight in the knees. Proper alignment principles require that the knees do not go past the toes. When practicing standing qi gong, or the forms within the style, the practitioner should be able to see their own feet if they look down. This is a general rule of alignment. There are more specific structural guidelines that will help to develop a strong foundation in the legs. This report is intended to give you these guidelines with as clear and concise explanation as I possibly can give. I want all who read this report to be able to benefit from these arts, and reach their full potential. These are the basic principles that I impart to my students at Riverside Tai Chi, and I am happy to give them to you in this report so that you too can be the best you can be, and preserve the styles for future generations.
Fold into the hip crease as if you were about to sit on the edge of a stool or ledge. Relax the muscles of the lower back to allow the vertebrae to open and the sacrum and coccyx drop.
The first step to proper alignment is to sit into the inguinal crease. The inguinal crease is the lines that are between the pelvis, and the thighs. This is the area that bends when we sit in a chair. Fold into this area, and let the sacrum drop by relaxing the back muscles. The coccyx points straight down between the legs. This is done in a relaxed manner. The position should not be forced. The lower back is rounded, and the crease softens inward. The muscles around the hips relax to let the hip bones fall outward in a rounded manner.
The Thighs, Knees, and Shins
The thigh bones will have a slight slant to them due to the fold into the hip crease as if you have a lap while standing. The thigh bones want to sit right on top of the shin bones with the knees aligned with the shins. The knees should not go past the feet. The knees fold and round more in the back than jutting outwards to the front.
The thigh bones (femur) are slightly bent because of the fold into the hip crease, and rest on the shin bones (tibia), and align straight down through the tibia. The patella of the knee and the fold in the back of the knee prevent the knee from jutting forward which would create a stress point that would damage ligaments. The fold in the back of the knee should be emphasized so that the knee rounds in the back but does not move forward past the toes.
The ankle creates the third fold, and the weight of the body rests on the heels, the edges of the feet, and the bubbling well. Each fold (hip crease, back of the knees, and ankles) should be coordinated so that the legs remain aligned and a feeling of springiness is felt in the legs.
The front of the ankle (Talus) folds to complete the alignment. These three folds have to coordinate, and adjust to each other so they are energetically connected. The weight of the body is on the heel of the foot, the edge, and the ball of the foot, which also helps keep the weight out of the knee joint. Each fold should feel like they are sitting one on top of the other. The fold in the hip is over the fold in the back of the knee, and the fold in the back of the knee is over the fold in the front of the ankle. This leg posture creates a strong spring like feeling in the lower extremities.
The shape of the legs should be like an arch; rounded and open at the hips, and perineum. Although the outer thighs are rounded there is a feeling of straightness which leads the energy straight into the ground.
The legs, though rounded to a form of horse stance, whether shallow, or deep are actually quite straight within the curves. The energy flows straight down through the legs into the ground. There should be no inward slant to the knees but the shape of an arch should be formed by the legs. The perineum is relaxed, and the spine is straight as it forms the central axis.
Conclusion It is my sincere wish that these principles will support your practice, and offer you the benefits of keeping your knees in good health. Too many practitioners lack the correct principles when they practice the internal arts. They enjoy practicing in the beginning but the pain they wind up experiencing ends the joy they once had. It is my goal to help others learn, and continue to learn, long into the future. Once a person has the principles under their belt they can practice various forms with the assurance they will be correct in their execution of the moves. I present this report to you in good faith, and hope that it benefits you as you grow into these arts. Practice well, and thank you for letting me share this report with you. I look forward to helping as many people as I can. Be the best martial artists within the styles of tai chi, hsing-I, and bagua. Use this information well, and if possible find a qualified teacher in your area to help you improve in your practice.
Contact Information: Riverside Tai Chi Sifu Jesse Powell E-mail [email protected]
Website: http://www.riversidetaichi.com Feel free to contact me for any question or training tips related to tai chi, hsing-I or ba gua zhang.
Sifu Jesse Powell is available for workshops, seminars, and private lessons.