Why Kicking and Knee Injuries Do Not Mix

oh yeah tai chi anon back i just thought of another question (sorry if its getting annoying) how well can kicks work if youre wearing a knee brace, and is this better or worse if you have steel toed boots for more oomph

Kicks don’t work if you’re wearing a knee-brace. I mean, depending on the kind of knee-brace you have that may be possible but it’s not recommended. Certainly not recommended if you’re planning on using kicks in live combat when you’re genuinely in danger. It’s also not recommended to kick with the healthy knee either because it takes two legs to kick. One leg is going to have to take all your weight, balance your body while twisting and that leg’s foot is moving into position. With a roundhouse or sidekick, the foot for the standing leg will be on an opposing forty-five or one hundred and eighty degree angle away from your opponent in order to maintain balance.

Think about doing that with an injured knee. You will scream in agony, even with a minor injury.

Trust me, I know. I grew up in a martial art where the flying death kick is the norm.

Knee-braces prevent your knee from moving or shifting around, in order to stabilize it and protect you from further injury, even soft braces will impair speed of movement and the articulation of the knee. Your knee needs to bend in order for you to kick. Otherwise you can’t kick. If you’re lacking full range of motion, the power of your kick is halved at best.

In martial arts, there are four parts to a kick.

One is the chamber. This is when the knee bends and rises into position to extend the leg.

Two is the extension. This is when the lower leg extends, achieving the force of momentum and snaps into position to meet the target. As the leg strikes the target, all your joints lock together to reinforce the point impact.

Three is the impact. Your whole leg, and really your entire body, locks for a split second to take the receiving force of the blow and to drive the full force of the kick into your opponent.

Four is the reset. You relax and return your leg to its starting position in your stance. Preferably fast enough so no one grabs your leg.

You need full range of motion in order to kick properly. A knee that cannot chamber, means that your leg is out there dragging against the air, slowing down your momentum. This reduces both your speed and the force/momentum delivered by your kick, making the kick less powerful and more likely to be stopped by your opponent. Worse, if you have an injury, you will exacerbate that injury both via the motion and any potential impact. Given that this is your knee, the injury can easily go from temporary to permanent.

Knee injuries are very common in martial arts. One of my martial arts instructors had a permanent limp in his mid-twenties from a knee injury. Frankly, it’s better if you don’t try kicking with a knee brace as knee injuries often stick with you for the rest of your life even after they heal. Your knee is basically bone held together by floating cartilage and ligaments, which means that injuries are usually tears to ligaments you need for your leg to continue functioning.

The thing about Tai Chi is that the goal of the martial art is about redirecting your opponent’s force back into themselves. There’s no way to achieve that with kicks. Kicks are about saying fuck you to your opponents and their internal organs. They can and do deliver lethal force. In Taekwondo, they can actually deliver that force through the headguard. There’s a reason why fights are stopped the second someone is knocked unconscious in sports. Being knocked unconscious is your brain no longer working, even just for a split second. It’s a cerebral hemorrhage, it’s not a nap.

What I’m saying is: don’t do it.

-Michi

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