View Full Version : Knee health and Aikido

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John Carey
02-19-2005, 01:49 PM
Hi, I just wanted to bounce off another thread in this column about the knee replacement surgery. I have been practicing Aikido now for about 5 months, and I absolutely love it. However, I am having some issues with my knees. For one, during the day I can't really stand stiff legged, or my knees will "lock up" and become painful. They also have a 'loose' feeling to them, where if I rotate my knees around it feels as if they are shifting and sometimes respond with a pop. Some of the people in my Dojo also have to wear knee supports or pads while practicing. So the question it brings to mind, is if Aikido is healthy for the knees over the long haul? I am relatively new, but I don't see myself leaving Aikido for a long time, if ever. There is just too much positive to think otherwise. How do you take care of your knees? What is your overall impression of knee/joint health in Aikido practitioners?

Thanks for your response ;]

btw, Seiza has reshaped my habit of sitting cross legged. Now, sitting any other way but Seiza feels like the back is out of line, and breathing is more labored. Thanks Aikido! :D

02-19-2005, 03:31 PM
Popping when you twist your knees is normal, but I wouldn't do it habitually. The lateral stability of the joint is what's really important - if you're unsure of it, have your doctor check it out for you. Over the long run, Aikido will strengthen your knees and other joints, if you don't abuse them, but getting there you may experience a parade of sore body parts. I went through sore wrists, shoulders, knees, back, hips, ankles, etc. - each took its turn. It was like a chain reaction - when one would recover, the next would take its place as the weak link. That's the message your body is sending you. "Make this part stronger!"
Back to knees. I wear knee pads so both my knees and my gi pants will last longer. Every one has their favorite kind, but I have tried many and have done lots of research, so I'll recommend these:

Anyone I know who uses Trace knee pads (including myself) raves about them being second to none. Check them out at:

but they can be had much cheaper at:

Note: They are sold individually, so you must order two to get a pair.

Just one more VERY important piece of knee advice - KEEP THEM POINTING THE SAME DIRECTION AS YOUR TOES! If you bend them to the inside of your toes, you risk serious injury.

02-19-2005, 04:57 PM
I don't know how old you are or what your previous athletic history has been, however, every symptom you describe is a symptom of a meniscus tear. I have had all these symptoms and after slogging through the medical system and useless quad strengthening exercises, finally got someone to give me an mri and low and behold, there was a tear. Looking at arthroscopic surgery and about a three week recovery.

Bottom line is if it is bothersome and/or painful, get an MRI. Read by a competent radiologist, pictures won't lie.

02-19-2005, 04:59 PM
Over the counter knee pads might feel good, but offer little or no increase in support. Only those fancy braces with and external framework do that, and they are prescribed for rehab by orthopedic surgeons.

John Carey
02-20-2005, 02:40 PM
Well Don I am 22 years old and I dont have an previous injuries to my knees. I used to weigh 265lbs however, before dropping down to a healthy 180. So I think growing up my knees were under a lot of pressure. Thanks for the warning though, I will pay close attention to what happens to my joints. I was experiencing a lot of discomfort after a 3 day seminar and week of hard training, but that is subsiding and it feels like they are healing, so it is probably just a temporary condition. Best of luck to you in your recovery.

Janet Rosen
02-20-2005, 11:29 PM
I agree that locking up and making noise can be symptoms of torn meniscus and worth evaluating before further damage occurs.
Good aikido is not inherently dangerous. However.....Many "warmups" are not good body mechanics. Sometimes beginners will torque their knees during moving around the mat and the instructor won't see it.

02-21-2005, 12:59 AM
What steps can one take to avoid knee injuries during practice?

02-21-2005, 07:46 AM
Ensure you do irimi-tenkan without lateral twisting of the knee:-

I used to get knee pain, and this was in part due to the back foot swinging round too much in relation to the front foot, thus twisting the front knee. The heel of your front foot should point to the heel of your back foot - if your back foot goes past this it is likely you are twisting your knee.

Even if you've been doing irimi-tenkan for years, practise it again, really slowly: step forward and twist your foot towards you before placing it down. Your HIPS (which are ball and socket joints, unlike your knees) should be stretched by this movement. Then turn your hips and step back, ensuring that you don't step further behind than the heel of your (now) front foot. It will seem difficult at first, but you will save yourself alot of overstretching of the knee in the future, and it will also open up your hip joints considerably.


02-21-2005, 07:48 AM
PS I feel that aikido has this relationship with knee injuries because we keep our weight forwards, on the bent knee, and turn alot. Thus we sometimes twist a heavily weighted knee. Instead the knee should be properly aligned by stepping correctly. Some people think the damage is through suwari waza - I've never noticed that problem myself, but also I've never done suwari waza on a hard floor or tatami mats!

Jeffrey A. Fong
02-21-2005, 08:20 AM
Some things to consider:
1) use good technique - be gentle and precise in your movement; 2) lose weight; 3) increase flexibility to help that patella track right (stretch!); 4) strengthen the relevant muscle groups to ensure stability of joint; 5) be aware of your body's limitations (age, "wear and tear" resulting from hard use and genetics; our bodies have different tolerances based upon the genetic "gifts" our parents bestowed upon us, plus, you didn't think all those years of climbing and trail running didn't come without a price tag, did you?); 6) and lastly, no armchair diagnoses. Go see a qualified sports orthopaedist and do your physical therapy!