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Apoy
08-22-2006, 11:26 PM
It could be suwariwaza it could be hamni handachi or just plain seiza. All I know and noticed is majority of the yudansha have a problem with their knees. A few knee surgical stories and knee reconstruction have been reported in our organisation.

Aikido is suppose to make our Joints stronger. So why is it destroying or negatively affecting one of the most important joints in the body?

I have resorted to knee pads of all sorts. They can be quite annoying on a sticky and sweaty summers day especially if you are on your knees doing techniques. However if they save my knees I'll wear them. I'm in my 30's and if God permits I would still need my knees for another 40+ years.

If you have any experience on knee care, how to mend knee injuries, or how to avoid them please kindly share your valuable two cents. It may save a young aikidoka's knees somewhere.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-23-2006, 01:36 AM
This will probably start a fight, but the best single thing you can do to strenghten the knees is the weighted Back Squat. Done properly, it is also the single best exercise to prevent osteoperosis and back injury. Done improperly, it can be the worst enemy of all the above, so you must do them properly. How to productively add them to your overall routine if you are unwilling to reduce Aikido training loads during strength building can also be an issue.

Suwariwaza and hamni handachi are by far the worst Aikido activities for the knees. It involves twisting and pressures on the knee that are much more likely to damage it than what is involved with falling or throwing. Anything you can do to spend less time knee-walking will probably help increase your knees' useful life.

Apoy
08-23-2006, 02:11 AM
I think that is the irony. Suwariwaza is necessary for a good hip. However a good hip without the aid of good knees equals less mobility to the person.

I also started taking these tabs that enhances the synovial fluid secretion, viscosity, and fluidity. I take it as a prophylactic. I am taking it but I am not really sure if it works, because I could not really measure it, see it, or touch it. My knees are still clicking. But I must admit it seems like it's clicking less.

Also I wonder what are the stats on the relation between athritis and aikido?

Abasan
08-23-2006, 02:17 AM
I've surmised based on experience, seiza when you're fat is a sure way to kill your knees. nah. Just being fat is enough.

dps
08-23-2006, 06:36 AM
. Just being fat is enough.HEY!!! I resemble that remark. :D

MikeLogan
08-23-2006, 07:08 AM
Ice, Ibuprofen, perhaps glucosamine/chondroiten supplements, and take a good look at the alignment in your legs, and whether you're over extending your stance, something I'm guilty of. Most definitely warm them up before the class warmup; some teachers don't warmup the knees as much as I need.

Before class I'll take a seat on the mat, legs out, and I raise each leg at the knee, leaving the foot down, and drop the knee, not slam it. For particulars unbeknownst to me, this seems to loosen them up pretty well. I then give a light to moderate clapping sort of massage to the region. I imagine it is the stirring/loosening up of fluids, plus increased circulation, but I'm no pro.

As for ice, consider durable reusable cold packs, something that you can put on your knees at bedtime, rollover in the middle of the night without popping, and put back in the freezer each morning. The more convenient and hassle free you can make this, the more easy a habit it will be to make.

Good luck!

DonMagee
08-23-2006, 07:28 AM
A proper warm up and cool down will also help in the long run. Sadly I do not see enough people warm up, and cool down properly when undertaking any atheltic function.

Mark Uttech
08-23-2006, 07:44 AM
Back in the day, there was an article in Aikido Today Journal that pointed out that ibuprofen actually damages joints in the long run. So sometimes the short run and the long run aren't really friends.

In gassho,
Mark

Mark Freeman
08-23-2006, 08:13 AM
So sometimes the short run and the long run aren't really friends.



this is true for many more things than just knees ;)

regards,

Mark

MikeLogan
08-23-2006, 08:28 AM
I will have to look into that. I was never a fan of tylenol, and a few years ago a study came out based on 10 years of data on its users of different levels. It didn't look good. I haven't seen much regarding ibuprofen, have looked, but will have to look harder. Thanks.

michael.

Brad Pruitt
08-23-2006, 11:37 AM
I take a straight glucosamine sulfate and it really does work. You need to give it a few weeks to start working but then after that it makes all the difference for me. I take the straight glucosamine because the condroitin makes me a little jittery. It's definitely worth trying.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-23-2006, 12:01 PM
Back in the day, there was an article in Aikido Today Journal that pointed out that ibuprofen actually damages joints in the long run. So sometimes the short run and the long run aren't really friends.

In gassho,
Mark

I would be interested in a citation on that. I have never heard of joint damage as a direct effect of NSAIDS. Net searches turn up nothing. Now, if you take ibuprofen for the purpose of continuing to train through pain that you otherwise wouldn't, that's a different story. There, it's not the drug that's damaging the joint, it's you. This would be considered a misuse or abuse of the drug by many doctors and therapists. Of course, it happens all the time in sports, because they care a lot more about winning than their geriatric futures.

The primary problematic side efffects of NSAIDS are stomach irritation and disruption of the clotting capabilities of blood platelets.

Mark Gibbons
08-23-2006, 12:13 PM
[QUOTE=Kevin Wilbanks]I...it happens all the time in sports, ...QUOTE] Happens a lot in Aikido also. Especially the month before a test. Now where did I put my vitamin I?

Regards,
Mark

Jeremy Hulley
08-23-2006, 12:49 PM
Don't ground int the back knee and turn your hips at the same time. It causes lots of torque in the knee.

Janet Rosen
08-23-2006, 05:26 PM
couple of thoughts.
first of all, any regimen that requires ice and anti-inflammatories cannot be a long-term healthy one, can it?
second of all, activity for avoiding knee injury would focus on core strength and plyometric exercises (off the mat), applying the principles learned there on the mat as one moves.
"mending knee injuries"--depends on what has been injured. But soft tissue needs 6 to 8 wks minimum to heal, and reinjury in that time is easy and resets the clock to zero while adding new injury to surrounding tissue making i tmore likely to develop into a chronic injury.
On the basis of yrs of observation/anecdote, not on the basis of research, I do suspect it is widespread failures by practitioners to adequately rest/heal/rehab that has contributed more to chronic knee problems in aikido than any specific acute injury.

RoyK
08-23-2006, 05:56 PM
No comments on knee pads? I too would like to hear experienced people's perspective on that.

Thanks

NagaBaba
08-23-2006, 06:36 PM
No comments on knee pads? I too would like to hear experienced people's perspective on that.

Thanks
Not good at all. It makes you grounded even more deep into the mat and restrick mobility, so you can't easily shift you weight to avoid too much tension in the knee.

I think Janet is right; most of us are far too enthusiastic to adequately rest/heal/rehab small injuries.
Presently I do max one technique on the knees per class, and it gives good results. Even IF??? it slows down my progress, I have still good knees!

Mark Uttech
08-23-2006, 06:40 PM
I wore a knee brace for a few years until i figured it out that I was keeping my knee from getting stronger. I have not worn one since. I also wore an elbow/arm brace for awhile but needed to get rid of it so that my arm could get strong again. Now I seem to know better.

In gassho,
Mark

Yo-Jimbo
08-23-2006, 06:58 PM
I'm concerned about the causal vs correlative relationship between aikido practice and knee damage.
Both my brother and I have recent injuries to the medial/anterior of our right knee's meniscus.
Both of us practice aikido, but...
both of us have the same parents,
play softball and other sports,
are currently slightly heavy (~220# +/- 5# @6'1" +/- 1"),
are of similar age (~31yrs +/- 2.5yrs).
I'm older and my injury is was just barely bad enough to require surgery. I think that we were both fortunate that it wasn't worse.

My point is that I wonder:
If our knees are better or worse due to aikido practice?
If your typical aikido practitioner has better or worse knees then the general population?
If some aspect of typical aikido practice is good or bad for knees?

Two thirds of those polled in:
http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=93
believed that knee-walking and suwariwaza in aikido were not bad for you in the long run.
Just over half say:
http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=27
that they have had some form of knee problems due to aikido practice.
I admit that I'm to lazy to research a comparison to other activities right at this moment.
I'm wondering if constantly using the right leg to get up from seiza is a culprit (or for me, just high speed rounding the bases and sliding into third).

I'd like to see the following poll (what do you think, Jun?):
My:
a) knees are fine; I do aikido.
b) left knee is worse; I do aikido.
c) right knee is worse; I do aikido.
d) knees are equally bad; I do aikido.
e) knees are fine; I don't do aikido.
f) left knee is worse; I don't do aikido.
g) right knee is worse; I don't do aikido.
h) knees are equally bad; I don't do aikido.

With ~200 - 500 answering the polls that do aikido, I think there can be even some discrimination toward a preference in the knee that is most likely damaged.
The most important thing to watch in the lurkers that don't do aikido is whether there is a big difference in their knee health. I doubt that there will be enough respondents in this area for good results; but if the poll is done, I pledge to look up some statistics on the general population and knee health (unless someone beats me to it, MDs).

This would shed some light on whether there is at least a correlation between aikidojin and bad knees; or if to the contrary, aikidojin have better knees on average. Of course, aikiweb polls aren't conducted scientifically, but within whatever biases there are in the readership it would be nice to know. There would still be the question of causation, but that would require some controlled tests.

Meniscus typically gets less pliable with age. Note people's advise on knee care (supplements and proper exercises). Don't ignore clicking or swelling in the knee, by the time there is pain in an area with so few nerves, things are probably worse.

Apoy
08-23-2006, 07:48 PM
The Knee pads that I use has a gap on the back of the Knee. This is good because in suwari waza & seiza we sit down fully with our foot and toes flat on the mat. This type of knee pads actually give good room for the fold of the back knee. I've tried other knee pads eg Judo knee pads and they do not leave enough slack on the back for a folded knee, the crease can rub and sting after a long use specially if get's hot and sweaty.

I also found that mats can make a big difference. Mats that have a dove tail joint on its sides and have a same rubber texture as thongs/flip flops has a very good grip on it. I've noticed that I hop with my knees on these ones rather than slide and glide through them. They are really hard to do suwari waza, shiko, and hamni handachi on. There are a few times that I can really feel my knee caps twisting on these hard core mats. Mats that are made of shredded foam with a tarpauline cover on is friendlier to the knees due to less friction. This is the same with Vynil covered mats. I've noticed that Tatami mats are in between the rubber mats and the tarp/vynil mats on the account of friction and resistance.

Having said that I wonder how are the knees of aiki and ju practioners that do suwari waza on grass, sand, wooden floor, or... concrete. :uch: :crazy: :eek:

Carol Shifflett
08-23-2006, 10:16 PM
I was never a fan of tylenol, and a few years ago a study came out based on 10 years of data on its users of different levels. It didn't look good. I haven't seen much regarding ibuprofen, have looked, but will have to look harder.Look for kidney failure. And rather than joints + ibuprofen, might search on bone instead. I have an uncredited reference that states: There is no new bone growth in the presence of ibuprofen." An article on NSAIDs in the June 1999 New England Journal of Medicine states:

"It has been estimated conservatively that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur among patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis every year in the United States. This figure is similar to the number of deaths from . . . [AIDS]. . . If deaths from gastrointestinal toxic effects from NSAIDs were tabulated separately in the National Vital Statistics reports, these effects would constitute the 15th most common cause of death in the United States. Yet these toxic effects remain mainly a "silent epidemic," with many physicians and most patients unaware of the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore the mortality statistics do not include deaths ascribed to the use of over-the-counter NSAIDS."

I have sat at table with muscle-weary fellow martial artists who passed around a bottle of "Vitamin I" or Tylenol with the beer and whisky. There even seemed to be a faint implication that the greater the number of tablets you washed down with your beer the greater the pain you were suffering, ergo the greater your dedication as a Martial Artist soldiering bravely on despite Pain and Adversity. We might want to compare the level of pain and adversity involved in needing to rest and repair sore knees vs. needing dialysis or a liver transplant.

Alcohol w/ acetaminophen (Tylenol and others even at recommended dosages) activates enzymes that transform acetaminophen into liver-damaging chemicals. Nor is the danger limited to regular drinkers; an isolated binge will do the job if mixed with acetaminophen for the resulting hangover. The precise dose that upgrades the situation from "merely dangerous" to "deadly" varies from person to person. Severe liver damage may occur after taking as few as 8 extra-strength caplets (4 g) over a period of 24 hours — and combining this with alcohol. It is best to simply avoid the combination entirely.

Personally, I suspect that any training that requires regular applications of NSAIDS and continuous daily icing falls further into the category of "abuse" than it does "training." It is hurting more than it's helping.

Carol Shifflett

Apoy
08-23-2006, 10:36 PM
That is impressive Carol.

Do we have any information/study on aikido practitioners and the ailments they suffer from the practice of the art?

Princess Rose
08-23-2006, 11:21 PM
take a good look at the alignment in your legs
Couldn’t put it better myself!
That is possibly the best thing you can do for yourself regarding any part of your body. When I was 14 I dislocated my kneecap while taking a particularly tricky pirouette in ballet class (that was the longest month of my life. I remember coming to Aikido to watch with a very sad look on my face). That is what led me to start taking Pilates lesions. The major concept is to work on aligning your body so that it works the way it was intended. You have to constantly watch your knees to make sure you are not bending past a 90-degree angle or beyond your toes. This is also applied all over the body alleviating sore lower backs, necks, bad posture, tense shoulders… you name it. It has been 4 years since I hurt my knee and started taking Pilates. This system of taking care of your body has since become second nature to me. Four years ago I was having trouble with seza and knee walking but now I have no problem.

Another idea to help your knees is to adapt a new style of ukemi. Many dojos practice this already, but in mine we are just beginning to learn what we call Donovan Weight ukemi. According to my teachers, it saves your knees a lot more than our traditional style.

And yes I did wear a knee brace for almost two years (I was so embarrassed by it). It was just a soft brace with a foam circle around it. It helped me keep my kneecaps from moving during Aikido class. I only stopped wearing one after I became good enough at the Pilates method to allow my own muscles to hold my knees in place. I would recommend wearing a brace for a quick relief of knee problems, but Pilates is a long-term training that will yield great results.

Good luck to everyone with those nasty knee problems :)

Apoy
08-24-2006, 01:25 AM
Also I do not have hairs on my knees anymore...

I am not sure if that is good thing

:p :D :p :D :p :D :confused:

Kevin Wilbanks
08-24-2006, 03:44 AM
Rosemary,

It's 'Donovan Waite'. My understanding is that he is the inventor of the Ukemi style. Volume 1 of his DVD/video on Ukemi is a good thing to have if you are learning it.

Carol Shifflett
08-24-2006, 09:57 AM
Do we have any information/study on aikido practitioners and the ailments they suffer from the practice of the art?Besides sore knees, broken toes, head injuries, neck and back injuries, strained finger extensors, and separated shoulders? ;) My all-time favorite is neck-a-nage and strain to the scalene muscles of the neck. See the #3 pain pattern at: http://round-earth.com/HeadPainIntro.html. But we're talking knees here. Back to Janet who did an excellent survey on knee injuries. Yo! Janet!

Suwari-waza is terrific training but terrible for knees. Knees are not feet. Bad things happen when we confuse the two. In the 90's an archaeologist studied the bones of monks who, according to their journals, had spent hours knee-walking across stone floors and up and down stairs to the chapel. In general, their bones were remarkably robust and healthy. Knee cartilage, however, was completely gone and kneecaps were worn smooth -- on the INSIDE. That is something that no amount of outside padding or knee bracing is going to fix, and the heftier you are, the greater and faster the potential damage. The best defense I can see (besides not doing it at all!) is to do everything possible to reduce drag. No you don't want to feel the kneecap twisting on the turn. Teflon knee-guards anyone?

Elastic knee braces are great for keeping the knee warm, and possibly for maintaining knee cap tracking. They give a nice (albeit deceiving) feeling of security. They can't "stabilize" the knee joint itself. Don't trust them to do so in place of putting in the required 6-8 weeks of soft-tissue healing time, or try to bypass that time by buying a tighter firmer "more supportive" brace -- especially the kind without a hole in the back. If you really need a brace, see an orthopedist for appropriate hardware. If your kneecap isn't tracking properly, find out why. It's usually tightness (NOT weakness) in one or the other quad muscles pulling the cap to that side.

Also, a band tight enough to compress the knee joint is compressing a lot more. One possibility is the peroneal nerve just below the knee. If you suddenly notice problems lifting your toes (flexing your ankle) it's probably not a sudden on-mat attack of MS but a numbed out peroneal nerve. You may start getting scuff marks on the fronts of your shoes and worrying about neurological disease. You probably just need to back off on the knee brace.

So what's the big deal with "hole in the back"? The popliteal artery is in the back of the knee. You really do NOT want to cut that off. Doing so will make your lower legs and feet all numb and tingly and cause crampy calf muscles (see #22 pain pattern at the above URL). Obviously seiza will do this all alone. Adding still more constriction is a really bad idea. It can blow out venous return valves and cause varicose veins but there's worse. When blood starts pooling, when circulation slows enough that blood actually starts to clot, you are now set up for deep vein thrombosis, also known as "Airline Thrombosis." That name comes from its observed occurrence in persons suffering long periods of forced inactivity, squeezed into tiny cramped seats, possibly under stress. The condition seems to have appeared in the medical literature in 1940 as a result of the Nazi Blitzkreig on London. People sat for hours in air-raid shelters, survived the bombing and strolled home, only to expire from a pulmonary embolism. Blood pooled, a clot formed. With activity the clot broke loose. Victims tended to be older, heavier people whose cardiovascular systems were no longer entirely squeaky clean.

I've heard stories of older men who have died suddenly after sitting zazen for a weekend. The devastated survivors take comfort in knowing that "he went prepared." Unfortunately, it's also possible that the long sitting punched his ticket.

Hope I'm not too far off topic here . . . this isn't quite what we usually think of when talking knee problems, but it can all tie in together. Or, hopefully, not.

Stay healthy!
Carol

Apoy
08-24-2006, 06:12 PM
What I did is put a pad on the knee side of my gi pants. I think I will find a stronger and a smoother material (Does anyone have teflon fabric :p ) to reduce the friction and the mat. I just have to find a strong fabric. I guess the only problem now is the hakama that will go in between my pants and the very sticky rubber mats. Specially on Hamni handachi omote shiho nage, gosh that technique is a knee killer. :crazy:

Brad Pruitt
08-25-2006, 12:36 AM
I'm concerned about the causal vs correlative relationship between aikido practice and knee damage.
Both my brother and I have recent injuries to the medial/anterior of our right knee's meniscus.
Both of us practice aikido, but...
both of us have the same parents,
play softball and other sports,
are currently slightly heavy (~220# +/- 5# @6'1" +/- 1"),
are of similar age (~31yrs +/- 2.5yrs).
I'm older and my injury is was just barely bad enough to require surgery. I think that we were both fortunate that it wasn't worse.

My point is that I wonder:
If our knees are better or worse due to aikido practice?
If your typical aikido practitioner has better or worse knees then the general population?
If some aspect of typical aikido practice is good or bad for knees?

Two thirds of those polled in:
http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=93
believed that knee-walking and suwariwaza in aikido were not bad for you in the long run.
Just over half say:
http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=27
that they have had some form of knee problems due to aikido practice.
I admit that I'm to lazy to research a comparison to other activities right at this moment.
I'm wondering if constantly using the right leg to get up from seiza is a culprit (or for me, just high speed rounding the bases and sliding into third).

I'd like to see the following poll (what do you think, Jun?):
My:
a) knees are fine; I do aikido.
b) left knee is worse; I do aikido.
c) right knee is worse; I do aikido.
d) knees are equally bad; I do aikido.
e) knees are fine; I don't do aikido.
f) left knee is worse; I don't do aikido.
g) right knee is worse; I don't do aikido.
h) knees are equally bad; I don't do aikido.

With ~200 - 500 answering the polls that do aikido, I think there can be even some discrimination toward a preference in the knee that is most likely damaged.
The most important thing to watch in the lurkers that don't do aikido is whether there is a big difference in their knee health. I doubt that there will be enough respondents in this area for good results; but if the poll is done, I pledge to look up some statistics on the general population and knee health (unless someone beats me to it, MDs).

This would shed some light on whether there is at least a correlation between aikidojin and bad knees; or if to the contrary, aikidojin have better knees on average. Of course, aikiweb polls aren't conducted scientifically, but within whatever biases there are in the readership it would be nice to know. There would still be the question of causation, but that would require some controlled tests.

Meniscus typically gets less pliable with age. Note people's advise on knee care (supplements and proper exercises). Don't ignore clicking or swelling in the knee, by the time there is pain in an area with so few nerves, things are probably worse.
I would like to add i ) Knees are no better or worse since aikido. I had not so good knees before aikido and so far in a year and a half they have gotten worse, or better.

Janet Rosen
08-25-2006, 01:04 AM
hi carol-- i'm here--ok
my knee survey is at http://www.zanshinart.com/Aikido/AikiKnee.html
and my follow up article is at http://www.zanshinart.com/Janet/KneeRisk.html
and my "recipe" for really cool kneepads to sew into your gi pants is part of an old The Mirror aikiweb column http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/themirror/2005_11.html

guest89893
08-26-2006, 07:33 AM
This has been an interesting thread.

FTW: I have been practicing Aikido somewhere around 22years or so. Just before I started Aikido, I had a car accident that shattered my kneecap - patella (sp). No damage to ligaments or tendons. They took the two biggest pieces of my kneecap and fused them together. That was my starting point in doing/training/learning Aikido. I am still doing Aikido.

I carefully chose how I did the warm-ups through my training. Although, now if you know me - you know I hate them and rarely do them (the standard warm-ups). Do I still have knee problems -aches, pains now and then you bet. I try to avoid knee braces because they give a false sense of security & stability. I try to not take any medication (the pain is a better indicator of how much range of motion and stability you have that day or if at all). Ice , massage is good because the muscles around the knee and the other leg muscles are all trying to find a way to over compensate.

I do not do alot of suwari-waza, unless I know my knee is feeling good for an extended period of time. It is a choice that has allowed me to continue to do Aikido (how well is another matter).

Gene

Mark Uttech
08-26-2006, 10:39 AM
Good post Gene. I wonder what standard warm ups you are referring to? I have tried to focus on warm ups that are kind to knees, and I am inspired by Hikitsutchi Shihan doing suwari waza well into his 80's. Inspiration is actually what is called for in aikido.

In gassho,
Mark

ChrisMoses
08-26-2006, 02:37 PM
Suwariwaza isn't what's destroying the knees of Aikidoka. Knee pads won't help unless your problem is bruising. Bruising doesn't put you under the knife, tears in the meniscus and ligaments will. The internal structure of the knee is actually MOST supported and stable when fully flexed (seiza/knee walking). There are lots and lots of iaidoka out there who continue to train until very late in life and just don't have the kinds of knee problems you see in aikido.

At the risk of giving away the good stuff, it's what you do when you're standing that destroys your knees. Aikidoka twist all the time to generate enough torque to throw instead of getting good kuzushi at the beginning of a technique (through good internal structure and correct irimi), then capitalizing on that with a throw that actually relieves the tension in uke and nage's bodies. People could also stretch more to make sure that the supporting muscles of the legs aren't putting too much strain on the knee joint while sitting in seiza, but I really don't believe that's what causes it the majority of the time. Generally it's some extremely unhealthy movements that have become standardized in the the tachi-waza portion of the art. Look at old pictures and films of OSensei, he is not torqueing his hips to throw. Don't get me wrong, you will see him turn, but generally only to follow a flying uke, not to effect the throw while fully weighted. Get rid of loose canvas mats while you're at it, those things are horrible for your knees. Zebra mats on sprung floor, do your squats, realize that your knees can only provide force in the plane that they flex through, and train till you're 80.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-26-2006, 06:55 PM
The internal structure of the knee is actually MOST supported and stable when fully flexed (seiza/knee walking). There are lots and lots of iaidoka out there who continue to train until very late in life and just don't have the kinds of knee problems you see in aikido.

I think your overall warnings about improper knee twisting while standing are good. However, I don't think iaido is a valid comparison when it comes to bent-knee stresses. Although they do a lot of things on their knees, what Iaido people are doing are set patterns to which they pay painstaking attention to detail. In suwariwaza, a technique is never done the same way twice, and all kind of on-the-fly adjustments have to be made to respond to uke. This results in the exact same kinds of unconscious torquings and misalignments you describe when standing, except the tendency to twist in awkward ways is greater because it is much less easy to move or turn the knee/foot base than it is to simply move or turn a foot while standing.

Also, I'm not sure about the claim about the meniscus and cruciate ligaments being safer in the bent position. Even if it is true, the collateral ligaments certainly aren't. If the collateral ligaments get stretched, the whole knee joint loosens. Loose knee ligaments are a major cause of mensicus damage.

ChrisMoses
08-26-2006, 07:16 PM
I think your overall warnings about improper knee twisting while standing are good. However, I don't think iaido is a valid comparison when it comes to bent-knee stresses. Although they do a lot of things on their knees, what Iaido people are doing are set patterns to which they pay painstaking attention to detail. In suwariwaza, a technique is never done the same way twice, and all kind of on-the-fly adjustments have to be made to respond to uke. This results in the exact same kinds of unconscious torquings and misalignments you describe when standing, except the tendency to twist in awkward ways is greater because it is much less easy to move or turn the knee/foot base than it is to simply move or turn a foot while standing.

Also, I'm not sure about the claim about the meniscus and cruciate ligaments being safer in the bent position. Even if it is true, the collateral ligaments certainly aren't. If the collateral ligaments get stretched, the whole knee joint loosens. Loose knee ligaments are a major cause of mensicus damage.

I agree most people don't know how to move on their knees well and wind up twisting while bearing weight. You should not be twisting on your weighted knees, knee walking is an exercise in pulling along the plane of your bent knee. You twist, and you're doing it wrong (in my opinion, but in the opinion of thousands of aikidoka, you're spot on, but my knees feel great...) The knee joint does not loosen when fully bent, and if your legs are strengthened and flexible enough, the muscles are able to allow flex and tone to keep a solid joint. Try this: extend your leg, activate your quads and try to wiggle your patella, it will move. Now flex your leg and try to get the patella to move. The knee is MUCH more stable when fully flexed.

At the risk of thread-drift, if you are accomodating uke's movements, they are in control of the technique and you've already blown it, so you have more to worry about than your knees. Aikido is about controlling the encounter before there is even contact, it is not solid enough jujutsu to do otherwise. But that's really kind of it's own discussion.

I think Iai is a fair comparison, in my line, we jump, turn, twist, leap all sorts of weird things from seiza and my knees are better than when I started (and I have residual damage from dislocating my patella while trying to do a kokyunage my first year of aikido). You can apply the same precision to your aikido suwari waza as you can in iai. If you get a chance watch how Takeda Yoshinobu moves on the ground, it's basically iai-goshi. And he's probably done 3+ hours of suwariwaza daily for the last 30-40 years (however many decades he's been training).

Janet Rosen
08-26-2006, 09:06 PM
Also, I'm not sure about the claim about the meniscus and cruciate ligaments being safer in the bent position.
The cruciate ligaments, yes in the sense that they are "on" when the quads are engaged for extension of lower leg.
However, orthopedists and athletic trainers are unanomous about the danger to the menisci when the knee is compressed by being bent, especially if it is hyperflexed (as in the kneel then lie back stretch) or if it is flexed and turned (as in sitting "yogi" style) and yes I have heard of at least 2 people acutely blowing meniscus doing suwariwaza.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-27-2006, 12:34 AM
The knee joint does not loosen when fully bent, and if your legs are strengthened and flexible enough, the muscles are able to allow flex and tone to keep a solid joint. Try this: extend your leg, activate your quads and try to wiggle your patella, it will move. Now flex your leg and try to get the patella to move. The knee is MUCH more stable when fully flexed.

I don't know how you think this demonstrates knee stability. Whether the patella wiggles has nothing to do with the ligaments or cartilage. The patella is a built in pulley in the tendon that connects the quads to the tibia. When the knee is fully straightened, the femur rotates 'inward' a few degrees and creates an incredibly stable bone-on-bone configuration. At this point, the patella isn't doing much, so it gets looser.

At the risk of thread-drift, if you are accomodating uke's movements, they are in control of the technique and you've already blown it, so you have more to worry about than your knees. Aikido is about controlling the encounter before there is even contact, it is not solid enough jujutsu to do otherwise. But that's really kind of it's own discussion.

This is ridiculous. If you don't adjust to what your partner is doing, you aren't throwing them. Look up musubi, and the concepts of leading, following, and joining. Attempting to enact the idea of absolute 'control' that you are putting forth here would lead to some very clunky, mechanical, and disconnected Aikido. Ultimately, it wouldn't work anyway, everyone has physical differences such that using a set iaido-like pattern to throw would result in huge failures like ripping someone's arm halfway off or missing it altogether. It wouldn't even work in a pure striking art, as one has to aim and time strikes.

wayneth
08-27-2006, 06:38 AM
I have pretty bad knees, and I am only 17 years old. There was a brief period where I believe it to have started, which was at the BAF Summer School last year. I believe it was the Ushiro Ukemi that Sugawara Sensei had us doing (the Dojo was pretty full, 60 plus people on the mat). During the course i couldn't sit in Seiza for longer than maybe 5 minutes, and at one of Kanetsuka Sensei classes; he shouted at the class for not being able to sit properly.
The pain in my knees stopped for a while after Summer School and sat pretty comfortably in Seiza for a while after wards. But a while after wards I couldn't sit in Seiza at all, the pain in my knee was extraordinary. But strangely I am not putting it down to the length of Seiza that I have done at courses and at my home Dojo. I am putting it down to the Ukemi for which we were doing at Sugawara Sensei class.
Maybe some people can share some light into this, maybe knee damage is contributed to the number of Ukemi that we do in everyday practice. Since I believe we do much more Ukemi than that compared to the length of time we spend in Seiza.
Wayne

Carol Shifflett
08-27-2006, 09:11 AM
The internal structure of the knee is actually MOST supported and stable when fully flexed (seiza/knee walking).Unfortunately, no. For vivid illustration of why and how not, see the knee joint X-rays in "How to Dance Forever: Surviving Against the Odds" by Daniel Nagrin with comments on dangers of choreography with weight or drag.

Jun (hello Jun!) recommended this book years ago on Aikido-L. Highly applicable to us mat dancers.

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett

ChrisMoses
08-27-2006, 09:20 AM
Well that's what I get for overly simplifying...

The point I was trying to make is that for people who *can* sit in seiza. It is relatively easy to move without putting roational forces through the knee joint. Blaming suwariwaza for the woes of aikidoka's knees is a red herring. For those of you recommending kneepads, what do you think these actually do to protect the inner workings of the knee? Anyone care to comment there?

Kevin Wilbanks
08-27-2006, 12:57 PM
Red herring? Pejorative terms and repeated assertions do not constitute an argument. Every assertion and attempted argument you've put forth so far in favor of the benign nature of suwariwaza had disintegrated rapidly upon further inspection. You don't even have a vague idea of whether there are any rotational forces on the knee joint during suwariwaza. I don't either, really, I just think that the practice has the knee in a compromising position where it is highly likely to be twisted and torqued in ways that could stretch the ligaments and either injure the knee or predispose it to further injury.

Another way to look at this is to ask the people who already have injured knees what activity in Aikido gives them the most pain. By my recollection, seiza and suwariwaza garner almost all of the complaints, whereas I've never heard the knee-impaired complain about pain during standing throws. I'd say throwing is not only lower than knee weight-bearing on the list of Aikido knee dangers, it is also substantially below taking ukemi. I know several people who have hurt their knees during falls.

You are right about the kneepads though - they aren't going to prevent anything but surface bruising/callousing. In fact, they could be harmful. If they are thick and squishy enough, they could increase instability. Worse, if a kneepad that wraps around the knee and has any sort of thickness on the back side, that thickness may end up serving as a new leverage point around which the upper and lower leg pivot. When the weight of the body pushes the butt towards the foot, the bones could pivot on that wad of stuff in such a way that the force works to pry the knee apart.

ChrisMoses
08-27-2006, 04:26 PM
Red herring? Pejorative terms and repeated assertions do not constitute an argument.

Another way to look at this is to ask the people who already have injured knees what activity in Aikido gives them the most pain. By my recollection, seiza and suwariwaza garner almost all of the complaints, whereas I've never heard the knee-impaired complain about pain during standing throws.

You are right about the kneepads though - they aren't going to prevent anything but surface bruising/callousing. In fact, they could be harmful.

Just pointing out that you're specifically agreeing with my red herring arguement. Look, I really don't care if you believe me, they're your knees. Mine feel great. Knees are very odd structures, and often the same activites that cause damage are not the same that cause the most pain. When I dislocated my patella years ago, doing a nearly identical movement to what caused the dislocation caused no pain whatsoever, but I couldn't sit in seiza for 9 months, it was too painful. You're confusing causation with correlation. If you have inflamation from small tears due to sheering forces, when you flex the knee completely, you will feel pain. Silly me for trying to offer something, I can't tell you how many of my former training partners have had knee surgery. Almost all of them blamed zagi for much of their problems, and none of them spent much time doing suwari waza (maybe a total of 20-30 minutes a week). My stability issue is centered around my patella and the shape of my knees (the valley that my patellas sit in is shaped incorrectly), so for me, a fully flexed knee is much more stable than a straight knee, I *oversimplified* what I was talking about. I totally agree with your recommendations for doing weight bearing squats, that's excellent advice, more people should do conditioning exercises for aikido. Knees are a sensitive issue for me, because I see destroyed knees as nearly epidemic in US aikido, and no one wants to take a serious look at what everyone's doing that actually causes it, as evidenced by this thread.

ChrisMoses
08-27-2006, 06:21 PM
Just pointing out that you're specifically agreeing with my red herring arguement.

Just noting that I misread your post, and replied too quickly. Appologies for saying that you were agreeing with my earlier point. That was an incorrect statement.

Peter Goldsbury
08-27-2006, 07:20 PM
Knees are a sensitive issue for me, because I see destroyed knees as nearly epidemic in US aikido, and no one wants to take a serious look at what everyone's doing that actually causes it, as evidenced by this thread.

Yes, I am sure you are right about destroyed knees being epidemic in US aikido, and not just in US aikido. In my experience European aikido is pretty similar and one reason is that the mats used are far too soft. I can tell the difference after a training seminar in the Netherlands: it takes several days to recover the flexibility I still have, even though I use tabi when training: the extra layer gives an extra cushion. Incidentally, none of my aikido colleagues who practise iaido (in Holland and Japan) has any major knee problems

I have nearly 30 years experience of living on tatami, traditional Japanese tatami. So, when guests visit me at home they sit in seiza. My Japanese neighbors are members of the local sado club and think nothing of sitting in seiza for hours, as do the ladies who go and watch Noh plays at the Itsukushima Shrine. These neighbors sometimes complain that the practice of sitting in seiza is less common because Japanese houses are becoming too westernized: there is usually just one 'Japanese' room, rarely used. My house is old and traditional and the only rooms without tatami are the dining kitchen and the office where I have this computer.

Japanese aikido students also practise regular zagi and seiza, so Japanese knees seem to be doing just fine. I state 'seem to be' because I have no evidence to compare Japan and the US/Europe other than my own experience.

Another factor might be weight: again, a personal view based on 'people-watching' in airport lounges around the world. Although obesity is becoming a problem in Japan, especially among young people, it is nowhere near as serious an issue as in the US and Europe. In Japan the only people with serious knee problems appear to be sumo wrestlers, with knees that are simply not built to support such weight. I am not stating that US and European aikidoists are overweight: I am suggesting a factor that might be relevant in the absence of any comparative research that takes in the US, Europe and Japan.

Regards to all,

Jess McDonald
08-27-2006, 10:52 PM
I don't know, my kness have been killing me for a couple of weeks now. The only things that are different is that I've finally learned kata 4 on the jo side of kumi-jo and that puts some strain on the knees. I also just turned 25. I think I'm just becoming an old lady and now am feeling the first indications of wear and tear. Nah...I just need to do kata 4 over and over again. Pain is weakness leaving the body people pain is weakness leaving the body. Seriously though glucosamine, chrondritin, and MSM are good supplements but you MUST get the expensive kind. That's the one the body thinks is ummmy Farewell and good luck!!

Kevin Wilbanks
08-27-2006, 11:46 PM
The comparative culture issue is interesting, but I think it would be hard to decipher that into reliable information.

Not only are Japanese people less obese, they are also smaller and lighter overall, on average. When it comes to weight-bearing wear and tear on body structures, total weight may be just as important as overweight. There is a reason the largest land animal with an exoskeleton is about the size of a baseball and mammals aren't nearly as large as trees. If a human were magically made 30 feet tall, it's knees wouldn't last a day. I'm guessing that the last generation to grow up before they started drinking milk and increasing protein intake due to societal wealth in Japan was 2/3 the mass or less on average of the average westerner.

Growing conditions may be another factor in whether seiza and knee-walking are more injurious to one group than another as well. If Japanese grow up sitting in seiza a lot, it could precondition them to be better able to tolerate it later in life.

Overall, knees are probably just the major limiting physical factor in Aikido due to all sorts of things about it that probably can't be avoided. It could be worse. In Boxing, for instance, cumulative brain trauma is your biggest worry. Some activites are even worse for the knees, like soccer or skiing. The best things one can do to extend Aikido knee life seem to have been covered here, avoid twisting them, in whatever position, and preventative strengthening are the main ones, I would also add that dealing with pains and knee injuries sensibly when they do happen is perhaps most important of all.

The supplements mentioned are mostly about preventing deterioration of cartilage, and mostly apply to cases of arthritis. I'm not sure they are indicated as a preventative for younger people with no personal or family history of arthritis. They're pretty expensive and it might be a waste of money.

Brad Pruitt
08-28-2006, 01:09 AM
The MSM is a great pain reliever and sure beats popping ibuprofen all the time. I buy the premium versions and it's really not that expensive. Around $20 a month maybe $30. That's not very much at all when the benefits are priceless.

Peter Goldsbury
08-28-2006, 05:40 AM
The comparative culture issue is interesting, but I think it would be hard to decipher that into reliable information.

I think this entire thread is based on assumptions relevant to comparative culture.

ChrisMoses
08-28-2006, 10:35 AM
Yes, I am sure you are right about destroyed knees being epidemic in US aikido, and not just in US aikido. In my experience European aikido is pretty similar and one reason is that the mats used are far too soft. I can tell the difference after a training seminar in the Netherlands: it takes several days to recover the flexibility I still have, even though I use tabi when training: the extra layer gives an extra cushion. Incidentally, none of my aikido colleagues who practise iaido (in Holland and Japan) has any major knee problems

[snip]

Another factor might be weight: again, a personal view based on 'people-watching' in airport lounges around the world.

Regards to all,

Thanks Peter, those are both excellent points. I realize there is a danger using anecdotal evidence, but until someone decides to fund a study on knee injuries in aikido, I suppose it's all we have to work with. I had a friend who spent several years in Japan and studied aikido while she was over there. The two dojos that she trained at there spent a LOT of time doing suwariwaza practice (both used vinyl covered real tatami). When she returned she started training at the dojo that a few of us were practicing at. That dojo has the granulated rubber under canvas mat. Within a month of returning to practice here, her knees were hurting so bad that she had to ice them every night after practice and eventually take some time off from training. When she brought this up to one of the yudansha, she was met with the usual, "Yeah, all the suwariwaza/seiza is really bad on your knees." In the two months that she had been training stateside, she had done suwariwaza twice, for a total of maybe 30 minutes. I should point out that she is very thin, so we can rule that out (although I think it's an excellent point to bring up). Personally I like the Zebra mats, I feel that they offer a stable enough platform while providing a bit more cushioning than the traditional tatami.

Mark Gibbons
08-28-2006, 10:51 AM
HI Chris,

The dojo you mention is switching to zebra mats at its new location. The feeling I get from most of the folks, especially Sensei, backs up up your position. We still do too much grounding into the mat and twisting but options are presented for those of us with crapped out knees.


Only one knee surgery so far,

Mark

ChrisMoses
08-28-2006, 11:31 AM
HI Chris,

The dojo you mention is switching to zebra mats at its new location. The feeling I get from most of the folks, especially Sensei, backs up up your position. We still do too much grounding into the mat and twisting but options are presented for those of us with crapped out knees.


Only one knee surgery so far,

Mark

And the new space looks like it's going to be beautiful when it's completed! I'm looking forward to the grand opening.

Janet Rosen
08-28-2006, 12:21 PM
Peter G, you may well be right re the mat surface being a factor.
I would also add that there is a big difference between sitting zazen (static and relaxed, albeit w/ knees flexed) and doing dynamic suwariwaza aikido.
Add in the Western factor: those doing suwariwaza have not spent a lifetime kneeling--so we westerners go in one easy lesson from "here's how to sit in seiza" to trying to do martial arts techniques on our knees-- techniques and moves that we have poor body mechanics at when we do them STANDING for crying out loud, much less grinding and torquing hyperflexed knees into the ground. Tis no wonder we suffer.

Upyu
08-28-2006, 06:44 PM
Just curious, how many people in Aikido keep an arch of tension running along the inside of their legs?
The chinese call it the "dang" which props up the spine, but it also keeps the knees in alignment.
The chinese do NOT have a copyright on it btw, since it's pretty inherent in japanese arts as well.
Most kids used to practice Shiko stamping and other traditional japanese methods of strengthening/bulding balance awareness.

If you don't have this skill, you're more liable to use other means to try and generate power, especially to the detriment of your joints.
Just my two cents.

Oh, anyone here ever try using a suburito that weighs more than say, 3kg? You can't swing that "#$"er torquing your body, otherwise you'd probably pull something.

ChrisMoses
08-28-2006, 06:58 PM
Just curious, how many people in Aikido keep an arch of tension running along the inside of their legs?
[snip]

Oh, anyone here ever try using a suburito that weighs more than say, 3kg? You can't swing that "#$"er torquing your body, otherwise you'd probably pull something.

Yes and yes. My usual suburito weighs about 4 lbs, but we also use solid stainless steel 'jo' for suburi/ kata exercises. Those weigh just over 12 lbs and are an amazing source of feedback for your movents.

Definitely hoping we can trade some notes in October when I'm in Tokyo... :D

shadowedge
08-29-2006, 09:08 PM
:) topic insert:

A good friend of mine is a medical representative for a company that sells a product specifically aimed at joint, bone and muscle problems.

We talked about this thread since the knee problem worries me as well. She took the opinion of the various orthopedic doctors she works with and this is what they had to say:

it is inevitable in ANY martial art or sport to injure certain parts of the body. whether lost tooth, muscle spasm or muscle aches or bone & joint damage- they are all inevitable and it could happen to anyone..

all our joints are prone to wear & tear just like car parts as we grow older, so its best to take care of them. proper exercise & a good martial art could actually strengthen our bones & prolong our lives.

curatives:should any minor injury happen, it is best to rest the affected area by taking a break from aikido for weeks, put ice on the inflamed area, compress it with a bandage & elevate it..& take pain killers. but for major accidents, see your orthopedic surgeon right away.

for prevention, really stretch before & after aikido.

Essentially thats their standpiont on this.

:)

Janet Rosen
08-30-2006, 12:18 PM
:)for prevention, really stretch before & after aikido.
Stretching before is less necessary than warmup before. More people than not seem to confuse and combine the two.

Kevin Wilbanks
08-30-2006, 02:58 PM
Stretching before is less necessary than warmup before. More people than not seem to confuse and combine the two.

You are preaching my sermon. I didn't feel like getting into it, so I passed. Actually, not only is passive, static stretching not a warmup - it has not been show to prevent injury - there is a chance it can cause injury if done improperly or excessively. The way most people stretch with forceful, passive stretches can tear muscle fibers. I have also seen studies that show this kind of stretching actually results in decreased strength performance afterward compared to not stretching at all.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is a different story. Dynamic stretching is somewhat 'ballistic' where there is a sort of rubber-band bounceback effect at the end of the motion range. If done properly, it can help prepare the muscles for the coming activity, and is especially useful if the muscles will be doing something like this in the activity - like sprinting or throwing. As one might expect, the dynamic stretches need to be movement specific, and done more gently than whatever will be happening to them during the training. Ballistic stretching done incorrectly, on the other hand, is likely to cause injury. I do several types of leg and arm swinging dynamic stretches before most exercise.

Janet Rosen
08-30-2006, 03:44 PM
I knew I could rely on you Kevin :-) thank you

Nikopol
10-07-2007, 11:43 AM
http://www.beinghealthynaturally.com/naturalcures/arthritispain.htm

this has some good ways to speed up your cartilage recovery.

John Matsushima
10-08-2007, 11:29 AM
In my experience, it is not the suwari waza practice itself that causes knee injury, but improper form. When doing shikko if one bounces or improperly shifts his weight while moving then extra force is placed on the knees. I have never used kneepads, but found that practice with a hakama is MUCH easier because it allows me to slide as my knees rotate.
Having said that, I have also experienced a knee injury, but I believe it was due to a different reason. There are many instances, such as in ikkyo, when uke is not allowed the luxury of ukemi, that he is forced to go crashing to the floor, sometimes on his knees. Also, in the traditional method of ushiro ukemi where one is taught to collapse the leg, this often causes the knee of the collapsed leg to hit the ground. Usually, this is not very painful, but one week after receiving ikkyo ura I noticed some pain, and then I couldn't do shikko for a week. Since then I have made variations to my ukemi so that I use my ankles more and avoid hitting my knees on the mat. Since then, no problems.
It was also mentioned in this thread about injuries to other joints. Again, I believe this to be due to improper form ( on part of nage ). Kote gaeshi's that twist the hand away instead of back toward uke I think causes damage to the wrist. Also, using force in techniques such as ikkyo can cause damage to a resisting uke.
Attention to detail in form and practice is important to avoiding injury.

Janet Rosen
10-08-2007, 02:20 PM
http://www.beinghealthynaturally.com/naturalcures/arthritispain.htm
this has some good ways to speed up your cartilage recovery.
#1 : gelatin is an incomplete protein; ie, it does not have all the essential amino acids a human needs/in the right proportion. Further, and way more importantly: when you eat or drink a substance, the digestive tract and the bloodstream do NOT say "oh, it comes FROM cartilage, so I have to send it TO cartilage." A nutrient may play a particular role (say, a B vitamin acting on the neuro system, vit C acting on the capillary walls), but fats, carbohydrates and proteins don't go running to specific body sites to "fix them."
#2: "Cartilage recovery" is an issue for the subset of aikidoka w/ osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and the like HAVE been promising in this regard for some people - certainly w/ pain relief if not w/ recovery - and there are some injections in early use/very expensive that are looking promising for getting some regrowth. But pretty much, as of late 2007 and for most of us, once its gone its gone and all we can do is try to mitigate the damage and prevent it from proceeding at a worse pace.

Pierre Kewcharoen
10-25-2007, 02:30 PM
I have bad knees since I was 24 from playing soccer. glucosamine/chondroiten supplements help as well as going to a gym and strengthening/rehabbing the joints.

xuzen
10-26-2007, 08:48 AM
All of you are wrong wrong wrong....

Being Biped and having Gravity gives you bad knees. Period.

'Em BJJ' er are smart... they play their game lying down most of the time and spread the load over a larger surface are. The Gracie... smart people.

Boon.