Front Knee/Rear Kua Relationship

by Todd Elihu on 2011/10/14

In 2004, Master Chen told me I held too much power in my knees. Through instruction and practice, I have gradually learned how to transfer more and more power directly to the ground. This has mainly been accomplished by keeping the joints fixed in their spatial coordinates and only allowing them to rotate. However, I have sometimes felt as if some power is being absorbed by the front knee during my movements. While I have had no pain associated with this, I have felt that something is not right and could result in a chronic injury if not remedied. Recently, however, I came upon a subtle, but significant breakthrough which has totally alleviated the problem. Whenever my front knee feels as if it is absorbing too much power, I focus on the vertical downward rotation of the rear kua. This vertical rotation of the rear kua takes all the pressure off the front knee and creates more overall stability. I can’t wait to test this subtle adjustment in a push hands context tomorrow with my student. This new sense of connection between the front knee and the rear kua has inspired me to return to the “active zhan zhuang” exercise that Master Chen shared with me several years ago, focusing on connection and stretching between various points on the body.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho October 14, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I have some recent experience related to the rear kua, and I will share it here as well.
I notice that my left side forward and right side forward stances are not symmetric. To different degrees on each side, I have these problems:
– My chest is not facing the front but at same direction as the hand.
– The front knee often doesn’t close enough, and the rear knee doesn’t open enough (the rear knee points to the ground).
– The rear kua is higher than the front kua.
I have tried various ways to remind myself of these problems during yilu. The third problem bothers me the most. Recently, I have found that if I stretch the part behind the rear knee, it fixes all 3 problems. The action is kind of like pushing the middle joint of the bi-folding door. The connection between the front hand and rear foot is much stronger. It seems like they are connected through the rear kua.


Jay Smith October 15, 2011 at 10:50 am

Thanks for sharing Todd, looking forward to hearing how it turns out in push hands.


Todd Elihu October 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Kelvin, from your description it sounds as if the front kua is folding/closing. Both kua must always be open. Keeping the front kua open should keep the front knee from opening too much. It should also help you rotate the rear kua lower than the front kua when your front hand goes out. Also, when your front hand goes out, the front shoulder must not toss and must have a downward energy about it as the rear shoulder stretches away from the front hand. When the elbow comes in, aim your front shoulder toward the front back up diagonal. These things should help you keep your chest facing forward.

Push hands felt good today, Jay. I felt like I had more verticality within my movements. As my student still uses a lot of horizontal force, his power was relatively easy to neutralize.


Kelvin Ho October 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Todd, thanks. I think I understand except this: What is “the front back up diagonal”?


Carlos Hanson October 16, 2011 at 8:57 am

I recently noticed a change with my front knee and front kua. I’ve been working on keeping my front kua open as I move onto the front foot. I noticed my knee move toward and over the top of my foot. It was very interesting to feel that change. It was like a someone grabbed my knee and moved it. Up to that point I was not even aware of what my knee was doing.

I have always enjoyed the increased awareness of what is going on with my body as a result of practicing Chen Taiji. Since starting the Practical Method, I am feeling and becoming aware of a whole new set of actions in my body. I can’t stop commenting on how correct I think the Practical Method is for me.

For more discussion and training exercises related to walking, watch the “New Hampshire Workshop 2011-2”.


Todd Elihu October 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Kelvin, I am sorry for the confusing language. I should have been clearer in my description. In Hong’s book he often tells what directions the palm center and fingers should be pointing, such as “right front up diagonal.” By “front” I meant the direction your stance is facing, i.e. left or right. I can see how “front back” would be befuddling, however. Perhaps an example would be more illustrative: Let’s say you are doing a right positive circle. The right elbow comes in towards the ribs. Many people then rotate the torso to the left with their right shoulder following this rotation to the left. Their chest started out facing the front, but after this rotation it now faces the left front diagonal. If you wish to keep the chest facing forward during this rotation, however, do not allow the right shoulder to follow the rotation. Instead, aim the right shoulder to the right back up diagonal as the rest of the torso rotates to the left. This will create more separation and more torque in the body. I received this correction from Master Chen on Daqingshan in 2008 and once I integrated it into my movements it totally transformed my body method for the better.


Andre July 5, 2013 at 11:11 am

This is great Todd, many thanks for sharing.


Jay Smith October 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Todd, so you are rotating your waist to the left but not the chest? Does your front shoulder actually move to the right or is it just locked in place and not moving?




Todd Elihu October 17, 2011 at 5:56 am

Yes, the waist rotates to the left. This is checked by the counter-rotation of the front shoulder/front kua, making everything “lock in place” so that there is less outwardly visible movement of the body and more internal rotation.


Kelvin Ho October 20, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Thanks. I think I understand. What you describe should be the same as the 3-way split when the elbow hits the ribs. When the right shoulder follows the direction of the waist turning left, the split will not happen.


Student August 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Todd, thank you. Your explanation has helped me greatly.


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