Over the many years that I have been studying & teaching taijiquan I have come across many individuals who suffer with arthritic knees. Also quite recently I have had a few individuals who have had knee & hip joint replacements, usually these are individuals who come into the practice of taijiquan who are over forty-five years of age, and have been told that the practice of taijiquan is good for them, as it helps to maintain flexibility within the joints of the lower extremities, plus it helps to maintain their leg strength and fitness.
Firstly it is important for everyone who wishes to participate in taijiquan practice, no matter if it is within their local taijiquan class or on their own. That they gently warm up their body with correct exercises, especially their knees if they have knee problems before they perform their taijiquan, so that the blood and Qi within the legs is stimulated to warm the bodies joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles allowing for them to become more relaxed. There are a few guidelines in the practice of taijiquan to help individuals to protect their knees while their are participating.
- Firstly the knee (Xi) should not extend further than the toes.
- The knee must point in the same direction as the toes.
- The both knee’s should open & close (Kai/He) in the practice of taiji.
- The both knee’s must be kept moving at all times.
So let’s us look at some of the above points. Firstly the knee (Xi) should not extend any further than the toes of the foot, as this can cause the knee to strain and become tight and tense, which will hinder the flow of the Qi and blood to circulate through the knees (Qi Xue Yun Xing).
Secondly the knees must point in the same direction as the toes, as a mis-aligned knee can cause tendon & ligament problems within the knee joints again causing pain and discomfort to the individual.
Thirdly, the both knee’s (Xi) should bend and straighten. Usually the leg that carry’s the bodyweight should be bent, while the non-weighted leg should straighten its knee, but not to the point were it is fully locked and stiff. As locking the knee’s can cause tension in the knee and plus raise the individuals centre of gravity weakening their ability to maintain their “root” (Gen).
The fourth reason for protecting the knee’s in the practice of taiji, is that the individual must keep both knees moving at all times while performing their taijiquan form. There should not be any posting (Zhan) were the individual pauses for a while with their bodyweight trapped on one leg, as again this can cause pain and discomfort for individuals with knee problems.
If practiced correctly and by using some of the guidelines mentioned above. Then there is no reason why individuals with knee problems cannot enjoy the practice of taijiquan in helping them to maintain leg strength, fitness, flexibility and Qi & blood circulation within the joints of the lower extremities to help maintain & improve their health & wellbeing. For those who do not suffer with any knee discomfort at all, then following the same guidelines as shown above in the practice of their taijiquan can also greatly benefit in protecting their knees and help develop their longevity in being able to maintain and practice taijiquan for many years to come.