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Old 10-16-2011, 04:42 PM   #1
mathewjgano
 
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Feet and Legs

I was curious how different people approach the incorporation of their feet and legs in their movements. From general to specific ideas, all are welcome and appreciated.

A quick thought from me: I'm trying to keep my knees operating strictly in the plane of movement. I bounce my kids to sleep on an excercize ball and after a while I've noticed it makes my knees achey. When I bounce down, they flare outward so I'm working on keeping them stationary with respect to any side-to-side movement. It creates an interesting effect on my hips that I'm exploring right now...literally since I'm bouncing my 3-month old at the moment.

That's it for the moment. Any thoughts are appreciated.
Take care,
Matt

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Old 10-16-2011, 05:07 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Feet and Legs

I try to keep my feet in contact with the floor, let my hips (anatomical hip where femur meets pelvis, not the top of the pelvis where tailors take measurement and we place our hands) open and move, and sort of try to let the knee move within a narrow range in between feet and hips as needed for mobility, balance and posture.

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Old 10-16-2011, 05:09 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Feet and Legs

So in your example my knees would be gently springy without a lot of pressure in the joint. Is your soreness in the quads? If so, lateral, frontal, or medial?

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Old 10-16-2011, 06:57 PM   #4
graham christian
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Re: Feet and Legs

Hi Matthew. I would say this: The knees going outwards is a result of you lowering your arms as you bounce downwards.

So try this: First have your weight going straight down through the back of the hips and secondly have the way you're holding stay in the same position so that they only move down and up because your body is. I think you will find your knees will actually feel like coming inwards rather than outwards if not just staying as they are and also that the feeling in them will change to more of a massaging feeling rather than a strain.

That's my take on it anyway.

Experiment away.

Regards.G.
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:30 AM   #5
Lee Salzman
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Re: Feet and Legs

If you are trying to generate a single linear force from the body, this is generated by the body expanding between the head and feet into that line. So if the body starts coiled, it will straighten out, like the difference between squatting down and standing up. The knees are between these two ends, so for those two ends to maximally extend away from each other, the knees must also be extending onto this line too. The hips too. The spine too.

Rotation around an axis of the body is likewise achieved by making two lines, one starting at one foot, the other starting at the other, but they both extend into the hips, up through the spine, and up to the top of the skull, just in opposite directions. In essence, one line extends forward, while the other line simultaneously extends back (without breaking the integrity of the hips or spine, they must not collapse). Feet and knees are still extending onto those lines, not across them in a horizontal plane. Legs and knees drive into the hips, and not the hips dragging/torquing on them.

Having your knees slide around on a plane cross-cutting this line of extension (or similarly, torque on this cross-cutting plane) will cause instability and literally force cutting into the knee joints. I killed my knees for a while trying to do standing exercises that way until I learned better. When you think about it, it's obvious, but peer pressure can cause you to do funny things... Bad stuff.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 10-17-2011 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:42 AM   #6
Josh Lerner
 
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Re: Feet and Legs

Hi Matthew,

Something that occurs often in sports where the legs go through a repetitive and relatively limited range of motion (cycling, running, baby bouncing, taijiquan) is that the lateral quads (outside of the thigh) and medial quads (inside of the thigh close to the knee, the mound of muscle above the kneecap) develop an imbalance. Which causes knee pain, especially pain around the kneecap. It is usually that the lateral quads and overlying iliotibial band get overly tight, especially if you are doing movements where the knees are pushing outwards. It happened to me a lot when I was doing taijiquan regularly, and is actually sometimes called "taiji knee".

All of the quads pull on the kneecap, and one theory is that when the lateral quads are too tight, they skew the pull of the kneecap as it glides over the femur, so it doesn't track smoothly. Some people refute this, I've heard, but the two ways of treating the issue - loosening the lateral quads with massage, or strengthening the medial quads with specific exercises - seem to work pretty well.

Alternately, knee pain is very commonly and simply referred pain from the quads, so if you can find some really tender areas in your quads (using your elbow is usually a good way of doing it), spend some time working them out. If you are lucky, you'll be able to find one or two spots that actually reproduce your knee pain when pressed, which is a good sign that the pain is coming from that tight knot. Hold the tender spot until it isn't tender anymore, usually 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, then stretch your quads with your favorite quad stretch.

Josh
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:55 AM   #7
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Re: Feet and Legs

Hi Janet and Graham,
Thanks for the replies! The soreness is in the lower front and outter side of the knee and it goes away as soon as I focus on keeping them stable or relaxing my kua and legs more. I switch between driving with the legs and relaxing my legs to bounce more with my center (more or less), and then using both at the same time, trying to maintain as pure a vertical bounce into the ball as possible. As I relax one thing another thing tends to tighten and I work on making that tightening less and less pronounced, as well as to track where the tension is going. Bouncing for extended periods of time tends to make the outter rear corners of my hips (femur juntion) ache too.

To my mind this relates a little to shomen uchi practice...as I understand it...in which I try to sit back within myself as I connect my spine (and relaxed upper body) with the up and down of the hips/legs. In both cases when I feel like I'm balancing tensions and alignments I can feel the muscles relax around the femur/hip junction (which also tends to get tired easily when I bounce for a while without thinking about what I'm doing). My upper body/spine is more or less just along for the ride. In shomen uchi I'm raising the sword by pushing up with hara and sort of bouncing the ken/jo at the end of each down stroke.

Graham what you describe of the knees drawing inward happens when I focus on the purety of the vertical drop. I see this relating to the way the legs tend to flare out while raising the sword, but squeeze inward on the down cut.

Lee and Josh, thank you both for your replies! I've been workng on this post off and on for about 2 hours now and didn't see your posts until just now; I'll read what you said in more depth and may have to reply tomorrow when I have more time.
Take care folks!
Matt

Last edited by mathewjgano : 10-17-2011 at 12:59 AM.

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Old 10-17-2011, 02:13 AM   #8
Michael Varin
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Re: Feet and Legs

Hello Matt,

This thread is all over the place, so I'll just make some general comments and you can take them for what they're worth.

The feet and legs are probably the most important parts of your body with regard to most movements you perform. Of course, ultimately, I believe you must view the body as a whole and not a collection of separate parts.

I focus on keeping my feet soft and relaxed, with more weight near the heel. I let my toes rest on the ground, but could lift them without really changing my balance. I typically, keep more weight on one leg than the other.

I always let my knees track the toes, and strive to keep the lower leg as vertical as possible. When I lower myself, I will bend at the hip before bending at the knee.

I think it is important to recognize the roles of each joint in your body. When it comes to feet and legs, you have ankle=mobility, knee=stability, and hip=mobility.

When I step, I try to let my weight set straight down. Most of the time now, I land with a mid-foot strike. When I pivot, I prefer to do so at the hip, e.g. I set the foot down with my toes in the direction I will be facing and then rotate from the hip. If I must truly pivot on the foot, I tend to use the heel, or the little toe side of the ball of the foot depending on the type of movement I am making. I don't like to pivot on the big toe side of the ball of the foot (This is one of the habits that I believe contributed to my knee problems).

Foam rolling is great (more useful than your elbow, in my opinion). If you don't do it, start. I progressed to harder and smaller objects. In fact, about two hours ago I was feeling some lateral pain in my left knee. I rolled the bottom of my foot, my tibialis (shin), calf, hamstrings, quads, IT band (lateral thigh. . . nasty tonight!), and glutes. About 8 minutes later. . . All better.

I don't know much about bouncing babies, but in my experience letting your knees flare outward is much better than letting them collapse inward, which I avoid like the plague. Just make sure you are engaging your glutes during the movement.

It sounds like you have a nice practice of becoming more sensitive of and relaxing your body during random daily activities, which I think is an important practice. However. . .

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote:
I see this relating to the way the legs tend to flare out while raising the sword, but squeeze inward on the down cut.
You lost me on this one, because I feel the action is almost the exact opposite of what you describe, but then again I am not entirely clear on your description.

-Michael
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Old 10-17-2011, 11:08 AM   #9
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Feet and Legs

Hi Michael,
Quote:
Michael Varin wrote: View Post
This thread is all over the place, so I'll just make some general comments and you can take them for what they're worth.
I tried to leave it wide open, but maybe that wasn't the best approach. I just didn't want to constrain what people might have to offer, but it might have helped if I had more than a vague question...or my tendancy for stream of consciousness posting.

Quote:
You lost me on this one, because I feel the action is almost the exact opposite of what you describe, but then again I am not entirely clear on your description.
I see what you mean: as you squat on the down-cut, the legs tend to flare outward with respect to the hips. I was thinking more of what I remember doing in suwari. I'm not qualitfied to comment on how good or bad it is, but I tend to think of my limbs as expanding outward from hara: legs pushing down on the ground, raising the body upward, and outward along the outside surfaces, while raising the sword, and down and inward during the cut...a basic opening and closing of the front side. This isn't to say my elbows and knees are moving laterally since they're also squezing the centerline at the same time...so the sideways expansion gets translated into vertical expansion...somewhat, at any rate. For me it describes where my intent is going. So I try to have my front-side intent trying to expand in all directions on the draw upward; then contracting more or less toward the centerline and down on the cut, but now that you mention it, I'm really squeezing/pressing in two directions at the same time, it's just that one direction tends to take dominance depending on which directions I'm actually moving.
The more I think about it the more complicated it seems and the less articulat I'm feeling, but my basic thought is: inhale and expand in all directions on the raising of the blade; exhale and contract on the cut. Of course as one part of a surface contracts another can be said to expand so it's not as simple as that, but in the most general sense that's how I think of it.
As it relates directly to the legs, and I'm not saying I have it right, but I'm extending down through my legs into the ground ("relaxed" weighting), creating a basic triangle shape. Then I imagine I'm standing in wet concrete and any leg pressure comes with the thought of moving my feet through it. If I start with the knees, the feet don't move well, so first feet, then knees, then hips, etc. This is what I'm trying to do when raising up. When dropping, it's more of a straight down drop coming about through that squeezing of the centerline. Lately I've been focusing more on the rotation of the femur to help translate pressure, rotating the front outward while raising the blade...more open/close. This adds to that sense of mine of expanding the legs outward on the raise and inward on the cut, though I'm guessing, again, the back of the femur is doing the opposite.
I'm not well-practiced, so any descriptions on my part should probably be viewed as something to correct rather than something to take into someone else's practice...and which is, again, part of why I tried to keep the thread question so wide open.
Thanks for the reply!
Take care,
Matt

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Old 10-17-2011, 07:52 PM   #10
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Re: Feet and Legs

Wow...if this is just suburi i'd understand... But Matt, could you actually move around while cutting like that? I would think that you'd rather leave the powering of cuts from the center and allow your legs to feel light.

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Old 10-17-2011, 09:57 PM   #11
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Feet and Legs

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote: View Post
Wow...if this is just suburi i'd understand... But Matt, could you actually move around while cutting like that? I would think that you'd rather leave the powering of cuts from the center and allow your legs to feel light.
Lol! Well that is all I'm really describing, and even that is just a basic shomen uchi. I'm sure my descriptions are muddled at best...And my ideas about intent aren't meant to represent an actual understanding. I'm beginning to see something of how my muscles are fighting against each other when I try to be "strong," even though I try to move in a relaxed way.
Regarding the legs feeling light, are you referring to the feet in wet cement idea? If so, the legs don't feel stiff or heavy or even excessively (near as I am able to judge) tense so much as ready to move with force; like being ready to kick something out of the way if it were to suddenly get in the way of my foot. I practice with a similar idea in soccer and I have to have quick kicks or I can't function as a fullback.
For powering my cuts, which aren't good I admit, I think "light and powerful." For me the ideas above seemed to work in that direction, but I am out of practice and reworking my ideas.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 10-17-2011 at 10:03 PM.

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Old 10-18-2011, 10:11 AM   #12
graham christian
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Re: Feet and Legs

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hi Janet and Graham,
Thanks for the replies! The soreness is in the lower front and outter side of the knee and it goes away as soon as I focus on keeping them stable or relaxing my kua and legs more. I switch between driving with the legs and relaxing my legs to bounce more with my center (more or less), and then using both at the same time, trying to maintain as pure a vertical bounce into the ball as possible. As I relax one thing another thing tends to tighten and I work on making that tightening less and less pronounced, as well as to track where the tension is going. Bouncing for extended periods of time tends to make the outter rear corners of my hips (femur juntion) ache too.

To my mind this relates a little to shomen uchi practice...as I understand it...in which I try to sit back within myself as I connect my spine (and relaxed upper body) with the up and down of the hips/legs. In both cases when I feel like I'm balancing tensions and alignments I can feel the muscles relax around the femur/hip junction (which also tends to get tired easily when I bounce for a while without thinking about what I'm doing). My upper body/spine is more or less just along for the ride. In shomen uchi I'm raising the sword by pushing up with hara and sort of bouncing the ken/jo at the end of each down stroke.

Graham what you describe of the knees drawing inward happens when I focus on the purety of the vertical drop. I see this relating to the way the legs tend to flare out while raising the sword, but squeeze inward on the down cut.

Lee and Josh, thank you both for your replies! I've been workng on this post off and on for about 2 hours now and didn't see your posts until just now; I'll read what you said in more depth and may have to reply tomorrow when I have more time.
Take care folks!
Matt
Hi Matthew.
I see where you're coming from on this with regards shomen etc. When you say you can feel the muscles relax around the femur/hip area that is exactly what I talk about when mentioning what I call Koshi. With all sword movement and cuts I say do from koshi, from that relaxed base of spine area. Now when cutting down in this fashion you will find your knees bend naturally but but then become completely still as you cut and as you say let the sword bounce back to centre line. Try it from koshi, or if you prefer in said manner but this time don't use hara. In other words you extend out from koshi and cut. Feel the difference. If nothing else another thing for you to experiment.

Regards.G.
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