Avoid This Tai Chi Warmup Exercise To Loosen Your Knees!

There is a tai chi, qigong and daoyin exercise that people often teach and do to “warm up” or “loosen” the knees.  And it is the absolute worst thing you can do to your knees.  It will “loosen” them alright – to the point that you may need surgery in a few years.  WHY this exercise has been perpetuated on like this in taijiquan, no one knows.  Some teachers, as I too, believe that this originated from other leg exercises that slowly became misunderstood.

I don’t wish to put down anyone or any teachers that do this, I just wish to see people benefit from tai chi instead of getting hurt.  Let’s not concern ourselves with what a human teacher says or does – let us look to the greatest teacher of all – the Tao.  Look at how nature works.  How is your knee put together? What kind of joint is it?  What actions damage it?  How is it made to move?

Here’s a video about this. It also shows some beneficial alternative ways of doing this exercise – ways that I believe were the *original* way this tai chi exercise was done before it became “lost.”


13 Responses to Avoid This Tai Chi Warmup Exercise To Loosen Your Knees!
  1. John Crewdson
    April 21, 2012 | 12:31 pm

    Thank you for posting information like this and bring attention to some of the misconceptions that are often spread. Your testimonials from students demonstrate your ability to help anyone become healthier through taiji.

    Our focus is definitely one of the most important things we can use. When I do this exercise I refer to it as loosening the ankles, which changes the focus considerably. This allows the ankles, as well as the hips, to rotate so the knees are not stressed.

    I injured my knees when I was younger and also do work that is sometimes hard on them. When I do this exercise I also do a gentle push back on my knees, in addition to massaging them. This helps my older and now well healed knees to remain healthy and feeling good. I do however, have a student who’s joints are so loose she cannot push on her knees at all. So yes, this type of exercise is not for everyone.

    Thank you for allowing me to comment here. I look forward to more of your posts in the future and learning from your experiences.

  2. InternalGardens
    April 21, 2012 | 12:45 pm

    So true! I’m glad to hear that you are aware of this and helping people as you do! 🙂

  3. Ken Brown
    May 7, 2014 | 1:22 am

    As a long distance runner with good knees to date I always knew the knee loosening thing was bad. An obvious unnatural move. I have seen many do that pre exercise. Great video. I wish I were closer to your school.

    • InternalGardens
      April 3, 2015 | 7:57 pm

      Your intuition was correct. A hinge joint should never be rotated as a ball & socket joint. Good you followed your instinct!

  4. Jez
    May 27, 2016 | 12:36 am

    I see this all the time. One of my tai chi instructors is a Kyokushin Karate instructor and he does it. Another is a traditional Yang Style tai chi master and he does it. Another is a Tung Family Style tai chi instructor and she does it. This is really pervasive in the tai chi community and is being taught to students all the time. So too bad.

    • InternalGardens
      May 15, 2018 | 10:50 pm

      Yes. And in the 1950’s physicians used to advise their patients take up smoking as a relaxing habit. #Whatwedontknow

  5. Marios Charalambous
    October 15, 2016 | 10:18 am

    Thank you for this valuable piece of information…I used to do this to my students…definitely will not do it again…THANK YOU.

  6. John Melito
    November 2, 2016 | 10:49 pm

    Thank you! Your comments are common sense. Unfortunately, what makes sense, is not common anymore.
    I’ve passed on your video to all my students who also attend other tai chi classes. Hopefully their ‘teachers’ will stop the damaging ‘knee rolling’ exercise.

    I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience!

  7. Roberto Bertocco
    February 24, 2017 | 10:34 am

    Many thanks for your experience, i have also the same feeling with those kind of exercises.
    But during some stages we were challenged arguing these (wrong fo me) exercises are practiced since a lot of time (centuries??).

    Any of you have any medical (scientific) references to that?
    I know in general that doing Isometric exercises ca injury arts if not conducted “in axis”, but nothing more than this.

    Many thanks for any help.

    • InternalGardens
      May 15, 2018 | 10:47 pm

      You don’t need scientific studies for that. Just commonsense knowledge of human anatomy. It clearly shows that knees are a modified hinge joint, not a ball-and-socket joint like the hips (kua). 🙂

  8. Bob Jetton
    March 23, 2018 | 3:15 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I bought a Tai Chi video many years ago that teaches this exact knee exercise. I felt pain doing this within the first 30 seconds but because it was a well known master (you know this name) I thought “must be something wrong with me”. I knew this couldn’t be healthy for the knees but thought well he is a master…

    • InternalGardens
      May 15, 2018 | 10:44 pm

      Yes. A lot has gotten misinterpreted over time and lack of knowledge of human anatomy doesn’t help. The teacher may have other good skills, but I would just avoid the knee rotation exercises – they don’t make sense. Leg rotation belongs in the hips (kua), and a little bit in the ankles. You are fine – there is NOTHING wrong with you!

  9. Will
    June 1, 2018 | 2:07 pm

    20 years ago I started doing Tai Chi and had to stop because my knees started hurting. A few months back Instarted an online course and was fine until my knees started hurting. So, I’m on the verge of quitting permanently because the tai chi is bothering my knees. Guess what, both courses use that same knee exercise.

    I’d like to study with you online.

    Thank you.

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