How do you protect your knees when doing ba gua?

Tim's Discussion Board: Ba Gua Zhang : How do you protect your knees when doing ba gua?
   By Steve on Friday, January 17, 2003 - 10:17 pm: Edit Post

I just started practising Gao style ba gua and have been doing the first two circling walking forms "snaking flowing palm" and "dragon piercing hand palm." One thing that bothers me is that since both forms contain low squatting positions, I find my knees hurting after doing both forms. Any advice and tips on how to correct this problem?

   By Tim on Sunday, January 19, 2003 - 01:16 pm: Edit Post

Hi Steve,
I would suggest not training too much in one session at first, and maybe not squatting too low. Also, make sure your knees are always lined up with your toes (your kneecaps and toes are in vertical alignment). Keeping the soles of your feet flat when squatting, not allowing them to roll in or out will help.

   By Steve on Monday, January 20, 2003 - 06:41 am: Edit Post

Thanksfor the advise. I contacted my instructor with this question as well. He also told me that one reason my knees hurt is because that my leg muscles are too weak (quadriceps, sartorius, hamstrings) Are there any good exercises I can do to strengthen those muscles??


   By Ed Hines on Monday, January 20, 2003 - 03:10 pm: Edit Post

When going into low stances not only is alignment and strength important, but flexibility as well.

Can you do the long extended postures comfortably? If not stay higher until you can.

Also as you build strength in the front of your legs I reccomend you also develop flexibility there as well. People often neglecct quad flexibility, but the quads pull directly across the knee joint, and knee cap floats within them.

a good way to strengthen your legs for forms is to hold the postures in them.

happy training


   By Tim on Monday, January 20, 2003 - 04:38 pm: Edit Post

Another way to build leg strength is with freehand (non-weighted) squats.

   By SBoznak on Monday, January 20, 2003 - 05:46 pm: Edit Post

We spend a lot of time in MA training our quadriceps muscles. But there seem to be very few that work the hamstrings. Does this lead to a muscle imbalance? Or are there a series of exercises I am not paying attention to? Any thoughts are welcome.


   By the way on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 12:19 am: Edit Post

Steve, you just started practicing Gao stlye Ba Gua yet you know TWO(!) circle walking forms?!

You ask if there are 'any good exercise' you could do to 'help strengthen those muscles'. How about just practicing what you were taught?

I'm sorry Steve, I have nothing personal with you. It's just that there are always people looking for supplementary exercises to help strenghten this body part or that body part, to get better at something. How about just doing that "something"?

Do you honestly have enough time in your day where you can now divide your training time into 'Ba Gua circle walking forms' and 'exercises that help condition the body for Ba Gua circle walking forms'?

Again if I seem angry here, it's not at you. I just see this kind of thing often and I've never felt the need to get it off my chest until now.
Just do what you were taught. If the knees hurt, ease up on the deep stance and follow the good alignment advice given by Tim.

And if you have a Sifu, why would you ask Tim (who isn't your Sifu) a question first? That's your SIFU Steve! That's what he's there for!

   By Chris Seaby on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 01:16 am: Edit Post

Supplementary exercises that focus on specific movements/muscles can be a problem, if as alluded above the prime mover(agonist) e.g. quadricep becomes 'too' strong relative to the antagonist e.g. hamstring and 'over powers' its regulating ('braking') action for that movement.

Therefore need to be careful in training to balance or train complementary 'pairs', old martial advice of following bending (squating) with stretching focussed on hamstrings is pretty sound advice. Also suggests that supplementary exercises that closely 'mimic' desired movement are the 'safest' and 'easiest'.

As a sidenote to tie up a few loose ends, CIMA people should also be interested in the 'action' of synergists or fixators that aid agonists by assisting/boosting the action and/or reducing unnecessary or undesirable action (particularly rotar movements) which mean the force generated by the prime mover in a particular direction is as efficient as possible.

   By Steve on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 06:05 am: Edit Post

The Way:
I did dicuss the issue with my instructor first before I posted my question for Tim. Not that I don't trust my instructor, it's just that I'm the kind of guy who likes to gather as many experts' solutions as possible and find the right one for me.
As to supplenmentary exercises, personally I have found them useful in the past. That's why I like them. You don't have to agree with me on this. Everybody's different. That's what makes this world wonderful :P


   By Steve on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 06:11 am: Edit Post

What kind of squat did you mean? Is it the kind done with legs parallel shoulder width apart or the kind that looks more like a bow and arrow stance?
Also, by keeping the kneecap and toes in vertical allignment, do you mean that my knee should point in the direction where my toes are pointing?

Thanks again Steve

   By Tim on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 02:25 pm: Edit Post

The kind with the feet parallel. Another variation that Luo taught me (and that we practiced everyday) is a kind of squat with the feet toed out. The exercise is called "Kai Kua" (opening the hips) and is done in a wide stance with the toes turned out about 45 degrees. Squat and rise slowly, keeping the back straight (your torso will tilt forward somewhat at the bottom of the squat). There is no need to go past thighs parallel with the ground at the deepest point, be sure to feel as if your knees are opening outward as you squat to keep the knees lined up with the toes (kneecaps point the same direction as the toes). Don't let your rear curl under at the bottom of the squat either. As you squat, you will feel the groin muscles stretching. The movement looks much like a plie in ballet.

Kai Kua has the added benefit of stretching the adductors on the inside of the legs and increases the flexibility of the hips and lower back.

   By Steve on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 - 07:56 pm: Edit Post

Thank you so much for the great responses and inputs. I did the exercise you described above and I could feel it working. One thing I found out is that it is harder to do the squat while keeping the back straight with feet parallel rather than at 45 degrees. Any idea why?

   By G on Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 05:09 am: Edit Post

Tim I also have a question on this subject . For a while I practiced Hindu Squats and found that they fairly rapidly increased my leg strength
calves and quads but my right knee started to tighten up eventually getting quite painful forcing me to stop. I tried leaving it alone for a month and easing back into it but ended up with the same problem. My instructor recommended Kwa squats instead which is with feet parallel and keeping the knees still and back upright as possible fold at the hip sinking and rising slowly.
To do ten of these is quite an effort and I was told that they train the Psoas lower back and stimulate the kidneys which is all great but they dont really do a whole lot for my leg strength.
So in short can you recommend an alternative to Hindu squats or an alternative way of doing them that wont strain my knee so much.

Thanks G.

   By Tim on Wednesday, January 22, 2003 - 02:27 pm: Edit Post

I think that, once you squat past thighs parallel with the ground, your lower back will start to curl under if you keep your feet flat, regardless of the foot positioning.

You might try the "Kai Kua" squats I described above. The knees stay lined up with the toes, and the shins remain vertical, so there is little strain on the knee.

Another squat exercise that is good for overall strength is a variation of your kua squats. We call them wall squats. Stand with your feet parallel, shoulder width apart and your toes touching the wall. Touch your forehead to the wall and then slowly squat all the way down until your rear is touching your heels, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Your forehead slides down the wall as you squat. The wall keeps you from extending your knees past your toes. These squats will also increase your hip and lower back flexibility. If you have trouble squatting all the way down, move your toes back from the wall a few inches.

Finally, the good old fashioned "chair sit" is a good exercise for the thighs. Squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground and your shins are vertical, with your back against the wall and hold for time. For more intense training, from the full squat position, press your palms against the wall beside your hips for base and lift one leg straight to the front. Lock the knee and hold the squat with the extended leg parallel with the ground. A few seconds on each side will be enough.

   By G on Friday, January 24, 2003 - 06:38 am: Edit Post

Tim cheers for that I've tried all of the above and found the Kai Kua and wall sits very good. I also noticed my legs had a lot less tension holding stances so thanks again.


   By Bob #2 on Friday, January 24, 2003 - 02:22 pm: Edit Post

I tried the wall squats very helpful also.

Do you have any recomendations for removing forehead smears from an interior wall?

   By English Critic on Saturday, January 25, 2003 - 08:50 pm: Edit Post

Bob #2,

Either new paint or elbow grease and bannana peals both will work equally as well. As a matter of fact if you smear the inside of the bannana peal on your forehead first, the wall will remain stain free. That or try washing your face. I have been thinking that Tim and I could collaborate on a book extolling the virtues of bannana peals. Of course this secret information may be stuff he doesn't want to dole out. :-)

   By Dennis Mace (Unregistered Guest) on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 01:21 am: Edit Post

To expand on some things Tim touched on, some lessons that have been helping me get over knee pain is learning how to open & close the hips (kua). When turning the foot, as in Bai Bu or Kuo Bu, make sure that you are rotating the whole leg, from foot to hip, not just the foot from the ankle down--that's what places alot of stress on the knees. Also, make sure you are turning your hips into your stepping direction, that helps root/balance.
The same can be said for rotating the palms--not just from the wrist to the fingers, but the whole arm rotates from the shoulder (base/root of the limb).
This simple lesson goes a long way for power generation, balance, and longevity of practice. Also, one of the fundamental principles to starting to learn "You Shen Fa" (Swimming Body Methods). There are also plenty of other important principles to Tang Ni Bu that are essential to building leg strength/alignment/balance.
I hope that helps?

Dennis Mace

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