Knee Movement Positions

by admin2 on 2008/04/14

This photo graph is designed to deal with knee problems in training.

In order to avoid injuries, the most important thing to avoid is the knee pushing outward away from the body, as illustrated in the picture above: the yellow dot cannot move towards the blue line. The blue line is an imagined wall that the knee cannot push against.

  • Question: What about the principle of the knee going up and down?
    The knee must act like a ball, it aims up and down but it does not physically move up and down at all. The aiming of the knee, one up and the other down, is called “intent” for the knee.
  • Question: What about the concept of the knee not exceeding the foot?
    In general, that principle is a correct one. But as a matter of principle, it is more important to ensure that the kua pushes down towards the knee and the knee pushes towards the foot (floor). This principle ensures that the knee does not have a horizontal orientation, thus does not move sideways outside of the foot.

The following youtube clip shows the actions of the rear knee.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

allanbelsheim April 20, 2008 at 9:43 am

This explanation is the most complete that I have heard to answer questions concerning knees. There was always a problem that the knees have to be bent and aim in opposite directions that causes everyone to “push energy out” horizontally at the knees during this aiming process.
Now I finally know better!


jpranger April 23, 2008 at 6:23 am

I have one more question (but I don’t know if I can express it clearly): as the legs rotate to rotate the body, does the blue line move?

In other words (if I understand correctly) the blue line represents a “framework” or a “box” within which the body can rotate. Now if I continue with the positive circle and “bring the arm in”, does the “framework” or “box” change?


Chen Zhonghua April 24, 2008 at 12:46 am

The “Blue line” is the framework and it does not change.


allanbelsheim April 23, 2008 at 7:46 am

Master Chen has stated that the knees don’t do much of anything. They are part of the structure, but don’t move. Therefore I would think the knees do not change their framework within a move such as a circle. The forward knee "locks" when the elbow moves in and the rear knee locks when the hand moves out during a circle, but neither knee is supposed to move if the kua is open. Master Chen has me devising a "machine" that will restrict movements of the body so only correct movements can be done. Part of this involves restricting left and right leg movement so the only permitted movement is a rotation. Work on this type of rotation or revolution for all the moves, allowing for kua and waist rotation but restricting knees as Master Chen shows us in the above diagram and other illustrations under "Blog".


jvanko April 23, 2008 at 2:55 pm

I was just wondering how this relates to chansigong exercises. In the knee exercises you are always rotating the knees. However, I imagine that the focus it to keep the power pointing towards the center/instep area of the foot even while the knee is rotating so as to prevent injury.


TheGreenKnight April 26, 2008 at 11:43 am

First one comment, then a question.

First – this seems to be an important element (of many things, including a torso stretch, qua rotation, etc) in making incoming force go vertically into the floor. If the knees are not doing their job and moving horizontally, this incoming force cannot go vertically downwards.

Secondly – Master Chen, does this mean, ideally, the knees are not to move up and down (vertically) either, but rather only rotate in a fixed spot?


allanbelsheim April 27, 2008 at 9:53 am

Check the video clip above to help see the answer. The knee does not physically move up and down, but as Master Chen stated the intent of the knees are up and down. When you perform a circle, the leading knee locks during the incoming elbow then the rear knee locks for the outgoing hand. The ingoing elbow movement actually starts from the foot to the knee so the intent is down on the forward knee and upward on the trailing knee which reverses when the hand goes out.


Richard Johnson April 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Be careful with your words. There is a lot of misleading verbiage about the knees flying around. If you are following Master Chen, I am sure everyone’s practices are OK, but there are a lot of things written and taught about the knees that can lead inadvertently to unsafe practices.

First, the primary component of the "knees not moving" is that the knee joints stay at a fixed angle when we are not stepping. They neither open further nor close further when doing stationary circles. This is what Shifu means when he says they are "like a block." Keeping the angle of the knees fixed will take care a major class of errors.

Second, the knees do not rotate. The hips are the principal joints of rotation in Taijiquan. The shank rocks forward and backward at the ankle, but the knees point forward aligned with the toes at all times. There is no rotation.

When seen straight on from the angle at which the toes are facing, the ankle, knee and hip form a straight line. This relationship is fixed also and never changes. When the hip position does change, the top of the line will move, but it is always a straight line.

Third, there is a feeling when one is rotating the torso correctly that the knees go up and down like pistons. However, this visualization creates the wrong intent and the neuromuscular network fires in the incorrect order if this is used to try to achieve the correct action in the legs. The intent must not be on the knee from which one is turning away, the knee that will feel like it is going down.

The intent for this leg may be through the knee, but it must be on the foot’s connection with the ground. Otherwise, the intent on the knee will cause problems just like putting the intent on the elbow while trying to lead out with the hand. the intent of the other leg is on the knee that the torso is rotating toward, the knee that feels like it is coming up.

A good training tool is a chair. Place the chair so that the seat or one of the legs touches the outside of your knee. This will be something like one of the blue lines in the photo. The foot may be under the chair. Do the torso rotations of the circles. The knee will rub along the chair, but the knee should always stay in contact and not move away from the chair. Once you can do one chair, try two chairs.


xsantiago May 26, 2008 at 7:02 am

In my case, I have old knee injuries from my previous martial arts background since I was 15 years old (36 now).

Something I have noticed when trying to over protect my knees, I actually do incorrect twisting movements with my knees. As I not worry about over protecting my knees and at the same time just practicing my movements without moving the knees, I am finding that I can focus more on the movement itself and the knees don’t wiggle around as they use to.

I guess when my kua is able to move more with time, the knee issue will not be a problem for me anymore.


xsantiago May 27, 2008 at 7:35 am

When Master Chen had me doing the circles with my back to the wall and without taking my back off the wall, I noticed that I had no choice but to rotate the kua and not move my knees if I wanted to move at all.


jvanko August 18, 2008 at 7:47 am

I injured my knee several years ago so when I didn’t align my knees correctly I felt it. After I started following the practical method guidelines I have not had knee pain again. Not only that, but it seems that my knee is actually getting stronger and is more protected against future injuries. I attribute this to using correct alignment and body mechanics while moving.


mralyu October 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Dear Admin,
Would you restore the photo/graph for this topic? Since all the discussions in this thread reference the graph, it would be great to see what were the blue line and yellow dot mentioned.
Thank you.


admin2 October 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Photo found from old website


studentofmethod October 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

thank you! very helpful.


Student February 3, 2013 at 3:42 am

Master Chen,
In the photograph, which direction are the thighs rotating. Also, are both kua opening (rotating outward)?

Thank you


Don Black February 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm

As an old longtime student of other arts, it is fascinating to see the pure logic to what Master Chen is teaching. I am beginning to try to teach my body to feel a completely different way of moving (rotating). Since I am working only from the videos that I have accumulated, I am missing key points. At what point does the thigh rotate inward? Is that the action of the rear leg only? Also, when does one kua fold? Much to learn. Thank you


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