If You Are Teaching This in Tai Chi, STOP!

By on 11/07/2014
tai chi knee pain

Tai Chi Knee Pain

If you play any sports, or if you are any kind of sports / martial arts instructor, then you know that knee pain can be sign of future bigger problems and this video post is a MUST WATCH today!  Do any of you, or any of your students ever complain of suffering tai chi knee pain from practice?  This focus lesson offers us a stern warning of what exercise / warm up NOT to do.  Even though some instructors may erroneously be teaching or promoting this movement as a “warm up”  but no matter what martial art you are in, this movement may actually be hurting the knees.

As you already know, the ancient practice of tai chi chuan is known for its flowing, elegant movements. Over the past few years, several studies have found that it’s a very effective alternative therapy for reducing knee pain, even when the pain is caused by osteoarthritis.  As a low-impact exercise, tai chi won’t stress any of your joints.  It can even be used to help speed your recovery after knee surgery or a knee replacement.

Like any exercise however, proper form is essential.  Improper form puts too much weight or stress on certain joints and can cause injury. The knee is one of the most common injury sites for students. Many beginning students develop knee or other joint pain because they aren’t always aware of their posture and alignment. When you use proper form in tai chi, your chances of injury are small.  If however you do experience pain, the first thing to check is your posture—your teacher can help you with this.  Usually, incorrect technique causes most of the pain that students experience.

Frequently, new  tai chi chuan students think that they need to learn to rotate their knees, so that they can be loose. This is actually an incorrect technique, and it’s one that causes a lot of pain.  Your knees are some of the most fragile joints in your body.  They’re designed to function mainly as hinges; they’re not meant for rotating!  For good tai chi technique, your hips and ankles should do the rotating and provide most of your support, not your knees!

To optimize your posture for tai chi and minimize the chance of injuring yourself, first take a look at your feet. Your feet should be parallel to each other, and make sure that you distribute your weight evenly. Use your feet as a reference point for placing your knees properly. As you bend your knees into a slightly arched, relaxed shape, keep them in line with your big toe.  Don’t let the knee move too far forward “over the toe”, as this is a common cause of knee stress and pain.  Aligning your feet correctly allows your thighs and hips to do the work for you, releasing any stress on your knees.

Your hips are designed for rotating, so when you “move from the waist,” make sure you’re doing it with your hips, not just your knees, to avoid problems.  As a rule, never move your knees without moving your hips.  Maintaining your feet, legs, hips, and thighs in line with each other will help you move more freely and with easier flow.  It will allow you to be upright, even, and balanced, just as classic tai chi chuan encourages.

Learn what to do and what NOT to do in terms of knee movement.

Thank you Shifu Loretta Wollering from the  Internal Gardens School of Classical Tai Chi Chuan.

Shifu Loretta came into tai chi from the position of one who had severe knee injury and used tai chi to help heal her body. She has a wealth of knowledge concerning structure and form; in fact, check out her newest book Anatomy of Fitness Tai Chi on Amazon!



One Comment

  1. Michael G. Davis

    12/26/2014 at 5:09 am

    Thank you. I have tried to do tai chi several times as of late but have had to stop because of pain in my knees. Now I will be able to go back and learn it again. I used to do tai chi 20 years ago. But have forgotten it after decades of not doing it. As I said I tried to start again, but it was causing knee pain.

I welcome your thoughts, insights or questions

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