Warning: This #1 Karate Mistake Could Destroy Your Health Forever

Sensei Jeff is only 43 years old.

Tomorrow, he’s scheduled for his second knee surgery.knee_pain_karate


But it used to be different.

“When I was younger, injuries were never a problem. I was in the dojo almost every day training hard. These days, my knees are killing me! It seems Karate is unhealthy.”

Jeff isn’t alone.

I regularly meet Karate instructors, coaches, grandmasters, ex-champions and athletes with knee problems. It’s like a “dark secret” in the Karate world…

…and nobody knows why. 

Of course they don’t.

Just like a fish in the sea doesn’t notice the water around it, Karate practitioners don’t notice the reason for their knee problems because they’ve been doing it for so long.

However, Karate by itself will not give you knee problems.

Bad Karate will.

And if you’ve been doing “bad Karate” for a long time, you won’t notice it.

Until it’s too late.

It’s like Yukimitsu Hasegawa said in our interview:

“If you practice incorrectly for many years, you’ll become very good at performing bad Karate. Many people can’t see the difference. […] You can achieve a very high level by practicing badly!”

So, let me ask you something…

How much do you practice your stances?

You see, the #1 reason for knee injuries in Karate is due to incorrect stances.

Trust me. 

Just look at these pics:

Incorrect zenkutsu dachi, shiko dachi, kiba dachi & neko-ashi dachi.

Can you see that?

This is what I call “The Collapsing Knee Syndrome”.

It accounts for 99% of all knee injuries in Karate.

Now compare to this:

Correct zenkutsu dachi, shiko dachi, kiba dachi & neko-ashi dachi.

See the difference?

This is super duper ultra hyper important.

Allow me to explain…

The Collapsing Knee Syndrome Explained

I’ll keep it simple.

Your knee is a hinge type synovial joint and works in two ways:

  • The right way (front/back)…
  • …and the wrong way (right/left).

Get it?

(I told you it was simple!)

So, what happens when you do an incorrect stance?

Your knee is forced to bend the wrong way.

It collapses.

The reason your knee collapses is generally due to a biomechanical compromise; i.e. low degree of mobility in the hips or inadequate ankle flexibility. It can also be because you’re too stiff and lack quad length or hamstring sufficiency.

Your knee basically buckles in to unload your weight and buy slack.

It’s a survival mechanism from your body.

Although this might not seem like a big problem today – one day it will.

Because, even if you’re young and strong, a few years of training with a collapsed knee will eventually lead to an accumulation of micro tear in your knee joint, until…


There goes your knee.

And we don’t want that, do we?

Let’s fix it:

How To Fix The Collapsing Knee Syndrome

When people experience pain, they usually visit a physiotherapist.

In 9 times out of 10, the physio will give them a program of “corrective exercises” to do, which may involve weights, resistance bands and/or balance boards.

That’s cool.

But we need to fix the root of the problem – not just the symptoms.

We need to fix your stances!

Comparison of incorrect/correct zenkutsu dachi, shiko dachi, kiba dachi & neko-ashi dachi.


By making sure your knee tracks over your foot.

That’s the easiest method for an anatomically stable, powerful and safe stance.

A good verbal cue for instructors to use is: “Track your foot with your knee”.

If your knee always collapses inside your foot, you’re in danger.

While we’re on the subject, you should strive to align all your joints – not just the knee and foot. This gives you the ability to create mechanical torsion throughout your body, which helps you perform techniques with high power while minimizing risk of injury.

That’s it!

You just saved yourself years of pain, struggle & expensive surgery.

At the end of the day, it’s about training smarter.

(Not just “harder”.)

Karate should ALWAYS be GOOD for you!

It should make you happy, strong & healthy.

That’s when you can do it forever.

“Karate is a lifetime study.”

– Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952)

Makes sense?

Happy training!



PS. Did you see my new video?


  • Bert Smith
    I have to mention Hip replacements as a result of not turning the support foot in mawashi kicks Crushed vertebrae doing back kicks with the spine in the direction of the kick. There is a clue it hurts just a little but it adds up. Natrual is the only way/
    • True, Bert-san. I've seen some horribly injured knees due to incorrect kicking mechanics. The same principle applies to all joints.
      • I see almost 90 percent of karaeka stances are wrong. In a regular forward stance the rear foot should be pointed directly straight not on any angle at all. Cat stances are to wide and the one in front, the knee should be bent only the back one should be locked. The distance between the side of one heel and the rear of the other heel should be your fist when you drop the heel. Toes on the taised heel should be at 12 o’clock and the rear toes should be pointed at 9 O’clock. In that stance you can pivot bring the rear leg through stepping into another cat stance. This comes directly from Samurai “Knee walking” (pivoting/steping).
    • I'm 42 and had both hips replaced. I've been doing karate since 16. Arthritis suspected to be caused by rugby but karate could have contributed. Although I was always taught to turn my feet out when doing mawashigeri.
  • Dana
    Finally I know what got me my injuries. I'm 16 and I have a very bad right knee. Will work on my stances!
    • Awesome Dana-san! Remember, this principle applies to all stances, not just the ones shown in the article.
  • Asmaa heikal
    great article jesse!! you just saved many karateka from getting bad knees. osu! *bows*
    • Thanks Asmaa-san, let's hope so! :-)
  • Another way to correct the knee position is to keep your weight on the EDGES of the feet rather than the inside.
    • Austin
      I like to use that (keeping the weight on the outside edge of the foot) as a cue for my students. It creates the right action of pushing the knee to be in line with the toes and opens the arch of the foot which is helpful for balance. However, I always try to get them to eventually understand the full reason for putting the weight on the edge of the feet as well. In the long run, they need to know thing like that to be able to do martial arts for their whole lives.
  • rj
    A great article as usual sir. Curious, what are your thoughts on the deep stances in Shotokan? All I hear is "deeper" & "longer" to "strengthen" the legs; however, I'm of the opinion that there are better ways to strengthen the legs. Standing in a stationary deep stance may gain strength but moving through deep stances as in kihon or kata just seems, in my mind, to put too much stress on the knees and hips whether you're in a good stance or not. Your thoughts please.
    • Ken
      Watch the deep stances in Kuk Sool Won. Their forward stance always has improper positioning of the rear foot and it is never corrected.
    • Andreas
      Hi rj. I know your question is old but I will answer it. Some shotokan and taekwondo senseis teach that you should use really deep and long stances. This is not a good thing! It puts a lot of stress on your knees and might cause injury. It also hinders your mobility a lot and makes you slow (or at least not as fast as what you could have been). These senseis should be avoided. Hope that answers your question. Best regards from Andreas in Sweden
  • Michael Nissen
    True! During my early years of Karate, I didn´t notice how me knee was tracked with my foot, which caused my Sensei to keep reminding me of it. At that time I hated it, but now I´m more grateful for his empathy.
  • Nic
    Great article! As always short but extraordinary focused on the topic. What do you think about the very deep stances in shotokan karate? Do they like "favorite" knee injuries? After my two knee surgeries I practice my stances a little higher without losing focus on the correct hip rotation and the generation of power in the lower abdomen. I have the impression that my injured knee benefits from the higher stances. Greatings from Germany! Nic...
  • millis prens
    perfect training makes you perfect .
  • One of the most important Karate-publications ever! Great work!
  • I will read the whole article later but watching the photos I have to somehow disagree. I don't think that "right kiba dachi" is right. Regular Shotokan kiba dachi is not a natural nor traditional stance. Well, not even long stances are traditional karate stances, and their lenght is the whole risk. We keep on doing them, that's ok. But that Kiba dachi can be done in another way, not both of the pics: https://youtu.be/Rq8wwzRpo3U?t=3m10s In zenkutsu dachi, I think it's better than the knee goes in than out, but anyway the rule for any stance i would say is that the Knee has to point where the toe is pointing.
  • Brenda
    The actual term for this is valgus collapse. These pictures show a classic case of what happens with external tibial rotation/torsion. I'll bet dollars to donuts that the people that do this have this problem. It's not necessarily an issue with doing the stance properly, it's that they CAN'T do the stance properly. Sometimes surgery is needed if the bones are twisted but for the most part physically rotating the tibia and taping it in place coupled with some exercises to strengthen the hip muscles will work. http://traylbodywork.com/video/knee-pain-tibial-external-rotation-syndrome/ And of course I only know this because I've already been through physical therapy for it. virtually solved my problem with the exercises, then got lazy and stopped doing them and now I'm back to not being able to get into a descent stance due to pain.
  • That Bastard
    Quite useful Jesse, thank you.
  • Christian
    A nice article as always, Jesse, but let me also point out that many Karateka (myself included many years ago) are simply too weak in terms of functional strength to maintain good form over a prolonged period of time. We get what we train for. So, yes, correct stances over everything, but goddammit, functional strength as well. 500 air squats with half ROM and crappy form will give you nothing but sore legs with no effect. I cringe when I see crappy "strength" exercises that defy all biomechanics and that follow no plan but "harder, faster, more". Strong muscles stablize your movements, thus decreasing the risk of injury and increasing the stability of your stances. My experience is that many instructors don't have the slightest clue about a reasonable strength routine that will advance their students and not destroy them.
  • liz
    Overpronation in the feet is the main reason your knee will 'collapse' like this - check if your foot is rolling inwards. Feet = base of skeletal system; fix your feet first to fix the (and hips...and back...and shoulders...etc)
    • This exactly. Some people just aren't taught the stances properly, some people bio-mechanics are crappy and need to focus more on ankle rotation. If you have flat-feet you are very prone to overpronation and knee issues in day to day life not just Karate! One thing that I've found that helps in the Dojo is some sports-strapping tape along my plantar-fascia (running from the bottom of my big toe, along my arch and up my heel an inch.) Although there are many different strapping methods this one works for me and it's trial and error as to what works best for you. If we just focus on our knees our ankles remain collapsed, but if we straighten our ankles our knees follow!
  • Ryan
    Thank you so much for this. This applies to taiko drumming as well. I need to watch for this—I have to get a really wide, really deep stance (probably a variant of zenkutsu-dachi) to level my hara ~2" above the drumskin, since my legs are so long. I'm sure something's going wrong and unchecked there. I already have chronic joint pain and instability; don't need anymore!
  • Ossu! [bow] The other day a Sensei corrected my neko ashi dachi - and my knees thanked me. It wasn't a dramatic difference but I could definitely tell it felt better. As a middle-aged beginner I can't afford to learn bad habits. Thank you! [bow]
  • Liam
    I learnt this the hard way back in 2004. I ended up having shredded meniscus and had to have it removed via arthroscope. For the following 2 years I didn't know why it happened. Then i realized it was because i was doing my stances incorrectly, along with me growing did the meniscus. So since I started teaching in 2006 i have been very picky about students stances and making sure that they are doing it properly
  • Hi, my name is (truly) sensei Jeff from Holland. I'm just 42. Hope i don't get knee injuries next year. I love your articles Jesse. But this co-incidence is really funny.
    • jeff
      LOL Hi, my name is (truly) sensei Jeff only I am from Eugene. In addition I am 42 and turn 43 later this year. I tore my ACl in 92 playing softball, hurt it again in 98 playing football and then again in 99 car accident. Starting to feel arthritis after those injuries and 18 years of karate. I guess I am going to be extra mindful of my knee placement and that of my students. The angle of the back foot in Front stances and cat stances are the most common mistake I find white belts doing and am fixing all the time. I too love your articles Jesse. I have to say this double no make that triple co-incidence is really funny. Maybe there is a link of people named Jeff born in the 70's who turned into sensei's.
  • Jim
    Please share with us where you received your medical training.
  • Jim
    Where did you receive your medical training?
  • Manu
    Dear Jesse Expecting an article from you soon regarding "How to Avoid knee injuries due to incorrect kicking mechanics" Manu Kochi Kerala,India
    • Hisham
      I second that. Jesse-San, please write an article on knee injuries due to incorrect kicking practices. I got ligament inflammation in both knees because of practicing the snap kick really hard. I still dont fully understand what went wrong. It has been a year and hasnt healed yet:(
  • ezzi91
    I had some knee and shin problems, I couldn't run well and karate also hurted. After that my physiotherapist told me that I tend to place my weight on the inside edge of my foot. Not only in karate but in my everyday life. I bought good running shoes that help me to maintain my weight more on outside edge of my foot and I try to concentrate on stances in karate. It is hard, but absolutely necessary. I see lots of people doing bad stances and I always try to correct them. This is truly an important matter.
  • Michael
    I injured my knee during a basketball match. Now it hurts a little if I do something wrong. So I learned the stance stuff by myself. Or actually my knee told me what to do and what not to do. And my knee told me You are 100% correct Jesse:)
  • Pete Sbirakos
    Jesse-san, Understanding the anatomical structures of the knee is imperative to realizing how the knee functions in relation to its range of movement including deficits that may arise. The images displayed in your post, all show internal rotation of the femur (collapsing knee syndrome) which by the way is the vernacular as opposed to the technically correct term of knee valgus. You correctly point out that stabilizing the knee and aligning the knee to the ankle and foot is a great first step in developing torsional control and better alignment of the knee. Whilst this is a great first step, it is not nearly enough. Knee valgus usually arises because of an issue further up the kinetic chain of the body - weakness of the gluteal muscles. Within the gluteals, there are the group of muscles known as the deep external rotators. These are: piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus, obturator internas and externas as well as the quadratus femoris. Generally, it is these muscles that require appropriate strength building exercises to properly function in externally rotating the thigh or the femur. Once appropriately built and along with developing awareness of aligning the knee, can go a long way in preventing or even alleviating knee pain and also correcting patella tracking issues. Finally, strengthening gluteal max, med and minimus may also help to contribute to femur stability in relation to jumping and landing. It must also be thoroughly understood that the above muscles must be strengthened according to the muscles mechanical range. For example, to strengthen the deep external rotators, the hip and knee must be flexed at 90deg and externally rotated through a resistance eg "the clam" exercise. What must also be understood is that activating the deep external rotators and NOT the quadriceps when performing the exercise is the key point. Most when peforming the clam, tend to activate the quads, hence the deep external rotators are kept inactive making the exercise pointless. Speaking of patella tracking issues, with knee valgus, other symptoms may also arise such as the difference between vastus medialis weakness and vastus lateralis strength. This difference can also exacerbate knee issues and/or further contribute to knee valgus. Hence strengthening the VMO may help with patella tracking issues. Others have pointed out over pronation of the foot that may contribute to knee valgus and generally contributes to other foot issues. Furthermore, with knee valgus, the issue of tendinopathies may arise such as patella tendinopathy or gluteal tendinopathies (usually as a result of overloading). These tendinopathies require other remedies to fix and there are now many excellent studies showing how tendons can be brought back from dysrepair to an athlete being fully mobile. I enjoyed reading your post, Jesse-san and hopefully people can begin to realise that rehabilitation when the right knowledge is applied can lead to long lasting and pain free knees. Mostly!
    • Thank you. Due to some sciatic pain due to a spinal hernia, and a lot of sitting in front of a computer, the deep rotators (or one or more of them) went to sleep especial one responsible for internal rotation. This caused deep butt pain, knee pain, and finally recently in my otherwise active 56th year, hip instability. I used a wobbly board to help my knees and I thought at the time that I was strengthening my knees, but now I realize it was my butt muscles I was strengthening. Reverse clam-shells are good but as you say, I think I am not activating my deep muscles but doing the exercise with other bigger muscles. I am thinking of doing The twist (dance) A twist board Mawashigeri and Ushiromawashi geri If you or Jesse have any more ideas for deep rotator muscle exercise I would be most grateful. Karate seems to be both a cause and a cure. No wonder I took up karate at 50.
  • Jakob
    Hello Jesse, i have the same problem and i hurts very much. it came after 5 years! now i pay attention to it and had already a physiotherapist but i can still not fix it :( :( :( currently i dont know what to do anymore.... *verysad*
  • Sjaco
    The backfoot of the correct neko ashi dachi looks a bit wrong to me. It looks like the toe's are pointed forward, instead of sideways (45 degrees). This contradicts with another example from your site http://cdn.karatebyjesse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/rika-usami-nekoashidachi.jpg
  • Szilard
    Well, forcing the students lower than what their limberness allows will destroy their knees, that is almost like proverbial wisdom by now; however "old school" senseis normally prefer to see low stance at the loss of correctness of the stance. If you look at old Okinawan footage, and even Japanese (just look at Otsuka Hironori) nobody collapses his knees to achieve a lower stance than what his limberness allows with correct knee placement.
  • James
    Awesome article - I've been doing ITF Taekwon-Do for 12 years and this definitely applies to us too. Thanks for the tips.
    • Mina uran
      Is there any info on knee injuries in TKD? Is there any Articles like this, but for TKD?
  • Arjun
    Oh god Jesse, how do you create such a worthful articles. Just awesome
  • Manuel
    Loved this article thanks!!! I will share this article with all my Tang Soo Do friends here in Panama... with your kind permission of course!
  • MrFin
    Solid, static and well writen ! Thank you Jesse, I believe that this will save knees ! I have had four knee surgeries, meniscus are removed almost totaly from left and right knee. People, those problems that Jesse wrote, observe them and if you make those mistakes, correct them ! Knees foregive you a lot, but when they broke, they broke. Fixed knee is and will always be a fixed knee !
  • Lee
    Might be interesting to note what are the frequencies, intensities and times of these knee injuries. Look up (if you haven't already) FIFA 11 warm up protocol. They designed a warm up to address this issue specifically, acl tears.
  • I hope I am not guilty of oversimplification or "truthiness" here...but it seems to me that another avenue to approach this issue would be to emphasize active arches in the feet, yes? Most of the "incorrect" pictures depict markedly collapsed arches as well as knee valgus, and perhaps a "ground up" approach would give a trainee a place to start.
  • James
    Hi Jesse, Appreciate this post! Simple and straight to the point. Will Address this to my fellow students as they all seem to have this kind of issue, regardless of how technically specific this can be, keeping it simple is great so that it can be passed on to many people! Thanks! James
  • Chip Quimby
    Nice article, Jesse! There's a lot to be said for proper form. We need more more proper mechanics in karate training and less machismo. That being said, human anatomy and bone structure, especially in the lower legs, vary considerable. Many people will never be able to align their knee joint and ankle joint, simple because of their bone structure. Their stances will need to be different in order to accommodate their anatomical differences. As teachers, I think we owe it to our students to try and understand the human body and how it functions. We also need to accept that not every stance we teach is going to be designed the same way for every person (and that can really be a touchy subject culturally). Great karate training is tailored to the individual. Thanks again for promoting good habits and training longevity. OSU!
  • Andrew J
    Nice article Jesse - But it's not nearly enough. For me, my stances are okay - but my kicking caused me knee arthritis and cyst development in the hip. Both air kicking and heavy bag kicking were direct contributors, and had I been taught early on to kick properly, I wouldn't be looking at hip surgery and knee pain. To be honest, I don't like the way we in taekwondo and karate are taught stances. Most commonly, we see students standing in a stance, practicing correct foot, hip, ankle, head, and torso alignment - sometimes for entire classes. Or we will do walking drills doing nothing but a stance. I also take Aikido, and the method of stance practice contrasts sharply - and correctly. We don't do stance drills in Aikido, and most Aikido schools don't either. And why should we? Stances are not stationary - they're "transitionary". They allow us to move from one place to another. Why do some instructors teach students to sit in a horse stance for a long time, when not a single technique requires it's use for more than a mere second? That's like saying if 400mg of Ibuprophin is good enough to cure a headache, then 24,000mg must be better. My complaint is we are uber-focused on the stance, and not so much the technique the stance is supposed to support. So much so that we often subtract the technique. I no longer teach stances per se. If anything, I'll spend a minute showing proper stance, and then never go back to it again. I now do it Aikido style when teaching Taekwondo. The amount of time, application, and technique used for a stance is determined by poomsae/hyung (kata, or forms). There is no need to stand in a stance just to develop legs. Such conditioning can - and should - be better accomplished with other exercises. A stance is designed to move you from one place to another, and it is contradictory to demonstrate that by not moving anywhere.
    • Enea
      I disagree. Stances, proper ones, are the foundation of all martial arts. All the kicks and punches are delivered from correct stances to achieve the desired effect. Same for blocks. The transition movements are to go from one stance to the next. You must NOT aim to punch, kick or block during a transition: you will most likely hurt yourself, and not achieve the power and speed you need. All this is down to anatomy as Sensei Jesse correctly points out. Maximum power and speed are achieved when muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments are in the correct position, aligned and, through training, after having gained the correct muscle "memory" to deliver consistently the same types of strikes reliably. That is just not possible during transitions, when by virtue of moving from one position to the next all limbs and weight distribution are in constant change and not properly aligned. This mistake is common in lower belts who concentrate on the transitions whereas they must improve their stances first and improve their transitions later.
  • Cecília
    Great article as always Jesse-san, I noticed that my kiba-dachi was wrong so I've been trying to correct it but I reach the end of the class with pain on my knees. Is it normal since I'm changing an habit? I also feel a lot of tension on the heels.
  • Michael
    It is superb to hear people speaking about this. After many years of karate, I recently developed "jumper's knee". I am now limited in the kicks and jumps I can make due to a constant pain in the kneecap. A common injury for active bare-foot sports. I raise this to also highlight ... it is NOT JUST the KNEE position that is important BUT ALSO the ANKLE. http://rehab-technologies.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/foot-orthotics.jpg This seems obvious, yes, but we need to be aware of it to be able to correct it. With a long zenkutsu dachi or strong shiko dachi, the knee may be correct but the weight on the foot incorrect. The weight should be on the outside of the foot so that the ankle does not collapse inwards. A simple question we can ask ourselves is whether our our feet are shoulder width or hip width. Especially common for men is to have a sanchi dachi that is over hip width apart which can cause the ankle to be forced inwards leading to miss-alignment. Such miss-alignment will slowly cause an aggravation of the patellar tendon over the knee, resulting in growing and constant knee pain. Thankfully its all curable. Hope this helps someone.
    • Rwan
      Hi! I recently got Jumper's knee also after my tournament :( can you please advice me about how to cure it? One Dr gave me medicines, other dr told me to rest, someone else to wear a knee support and then someone else to get a physiotherapist :'( too lost!
  • Emma
    I have always had some pain in my knees and hips, most likely due to flat feet. I also have extra rotation in my hips so my feet turn out further than most, however they don't turn in as far (which makes it very difficult to turn my foot for certain kicks. I'm hoping the rotation issue will improve with training and stretches, but I think my flat feet contribute to bad stances (possibly the case for many others too). Any suggestions on how to compensate for or strap flat feet to help with this would probably be useful for many like me :-)
  • Taekwon-Do Girl
    I do taekwon do, and every time our instructor makes us correct our stances, I see why now. To keep my knees from collapsing when I get old lol. Not really... :P
  • Keith
    Very nice. I see some of this in kata. The knee should always be kept in line with the ankle as much as possible. I am nearly 45 and have a bum knee and hip-bone (genetic) and am well aware of the additional care and stretching that side requires (painful, but worth the correct form) so have been aware of the need for perfect stances with regards to knees for a long time. We must practice our Karate' the right way so it is a benefit and not a detriment to our health. I have been told by my own Physical Therapist that kiba dachi is better for one's knees than shiko dachi because kiba dachi naturally puts more strain on the knee. This conversation came about obviously because we ere concerned about my knee health. However, I have used kiba dachi for years without ill effects. So that conversation was probably unnecessary as my knees aren't that bad, thank God. Thanks for an awesome article!
  • Adam
    Whatever shall we do for hangetsu and sanchin dachi :(
    • Keith
      I am familiar with Sanchin dachi. I think because the body is upright there doesn't appear to be as much strain on the knees. But I can see when performing Sanchin Kata in Isshin Ryu how this stance could hurt someone's knees because of the force pushed through them. Generally, I pull my legs toward my center but there is considerable force placed on the knees during the stance. I am more careful today because of my age of course so all I can offer is to listen to your body. If a correct stance causes pain somewhere, listen to that warning and be mindful of what the pain could mean.
  • Diarmuid
    I have to say I agree with Adam above. From these principles, and how my own joints feel, I can see no safe way to perform Sanchin Dachi, and I am constantly struggling with Fudo/'Sochin' Dachi, over how to get a correct positioning that is also strong AND does not hurt joints... While I accept I may just not have cracked Fudo Dachi yet, I can see no safe way of performing Sanchin Dachi, with all the necessary tension that should be applied. Can you recommend a safe way of doing it? Or just avoid it?
    • Just follow the principle of tracking your feet with your knees, Diarmuid-san. To perform a safe sanchin-dachi is like any other stance. Bend your knees (apply pressure) in their natural direction.
      • Hello am Manasseh I bet I got the wrong training in kicks and am in deep pain of both knees could it be arthritis?
  • For people with flat feet, the tendency is to pronate, or roll to the inside edge of the foot. One of the reasons for this is the lack of an arch means they don't use their toes for support the same way a normal person does. You have to teach them to LIGHTLY grab the floor with their toes. This lifts the inside edge of the foot off the floor. This needs to be taught along with concentrating on the knee position. I have flat feet and so do a couple of students. I'm aware of the dangers of improper knee position. I've also had people 40+ come in with knee problems and a year later, their knees feel much better. One person got rid of the braces because he no longer needed them. We do Goju, so we use "sanchin" dachi a lot. It's all about correct skeletal alignment. We have one lady that ruined her knees and one hip in Tae Kwon Do. She started training with me before her knee replacement surgery. After her surgery, her sister, who's a physical therapist, reviewed everything we did. According to her, everything was biomechanically correct and she gave my student the green light to use karate as part of her recovery. It's important to know these things in order to help your students.
  • Akshat chaudhari
    Hey jesse i read your article quite a while ago and now i am quite confident that i properly align my knee with my foot And don't experience any pain during practise , but i feel minor knee pains ( only when i sit in a stance at home ) after the practise . Well i have to admit that my zenkoshidachi is not quite the way it has to be but i try my best to get every stance perfect during katas . What am i doing wrong ? Is the problem only the above stance ? Well , i am practising karate for about 4 years 4 months now and i am trying to get my stance perfect for about maybe only 2-3 months but will my pain stop ? It's not severe but just a minor feeling but will it stop ? Please reply ! I don't want to lose my knee because it will ruin my karate and surely i don't want that. Is the pain just a normal thing or is because i sit deeply ithe stance or some thing else ?
  • I have another problem. I am just too bendy! And about three weeks ago something crackled in my knee while I was in a squat (packing something) about an hour after my training. And now, the more I walk, the more it hurts. The less I walk, the pain almost disappears. Very annoying!
  • RSimpson
    By this point, many studies have confirmed that knee injuries due to valgus collapse (knee moving inward) have their roots in: -relative weakness/inactivity/late firing of the glute. max, medial hip muscles (glute. medius, mnimus to a degree) and hamstrings -dominance of the adductors, which tend to compensate to pick up the slack left by the glutes -relatively weak/late firing core muscles, particularly the obliques The solutions, which show up to 88% effectiveness in prevention among field and court-sports athletes, involve: -strengthening of all glute muscles, and hamstrings, and obliques. The QL may need to be addressed too, or it may need to be "toned down" to facilitate recruitment of the obliques. -patterning of those muscle groups to restore efficient activation and timing, as well as improving eccentric strength. This often tends to be along the lines of the 4 main core sling systems (posterior oblique, lateral, anterior oblique, and deep longitudinal -"toning down" the adductors (groin), lateral hamstrings and peroneals via targeted stretching -positional training, general (keep knees over feet) and sport specific (landing, cutting and turning positions, or stances in this case) -Picking a few exercises based on these strategies each class can be a great warmup. Look into the PEP program developed by Silvers and Mandlebaum for ideas. -Also, and this is a big one, frequent contact can make muscles hypertonic, aka, overtight. If you are doing a lot of impact conditioning or contact work, those areas would benefit from regular foam rolling and targeted stretching/mobility exercises to offset the toll of repeated impact.
  • Nathan
    Hey Jesse, How does this apply to sanchin-dachi? My dojo teaches that in sanchin-dachi you have to turn both feet inward. I have noticed that this puts a lot of stress on my knee joint, because when my front foot turns inward, my knee is forced to go sideways. Is my dojo teaching me a bad form of sanchin-dachi? I've been questioning a lot of things about this dojo lately. Thanks for your awesome article.
  • DailyKata
    I'm past 50, been practicing kata since high school as a hobby. I've switched to high stances, as low or deep ones actually hinder mobility. I think higher stances are better for older people.
  • Rabia jubran
    Every thing you mintioned is right, I hope I could see this article before, for me it took a year and half and 3 surgeries to come back to karate, I think the master should allow students to practice slower so they can correct Thier stances, even in high grade builts
  • ok its correct. I will had: bad way to stand up after seiza pressing the knee; bad rotation on the foot which twist the knee when you perform mawashi geri; bad falls.... But yes people don't think to bad stance. I think we are to weak on the medial gluteus and the hip mucles. Thank you for this useful article.
  • Jesse
    I was born without my L4 vertebrate and had to have my lower back fused together when I was 18. I stopped doing karate. I'm 40 now and have been back into it for about 3 years and run into this problem alot with my knees and not having good hip rotation in my kicks. My back and hips usually hurt alot so I've been working hard to try and correct this problem.
  • Jessie! Very good point! I've mentioned this before, but in my opinion, the number one cause of knee injuries is kicking the air hard. I've learned a lot about leg mechanics. I've run well over 100,000 miles without a permanent knee or hip injury, although I've had occasional issues, they have all resolved with minor care.
  • Paul
    Well I have heard of wingeing dickeads but if you blame karate for knee injuries well YOU have been doing it wrong. Either you had bad instructors or you were slack yourself. I am a 4th dan and made the Western Australian State team 14 times. Apart from a broken knuckle, due to fighting a nut case when I was 14 and some other minor injuries sports karate is one of the best sports any person can do. Are you all a bunch of wingeing Americans wanting to sue someone??
  • jeff johnson
    Hi Jesse, I follow you on Youtube. I'm 53 and have been in karate a little over 2 years. Flexibility isn't my strong point. Side splits are most difficult. front stretches are improving with proper warm-up. The side stretch of course, there is a little pain in the hips as well as very tight in the growing. Seems light there is no chance of improvement. or atleast the progress seems very slow.
  • Mike
    The stances put huge pressure on the knees even when done well. Doing anything extreme to the body causes problems. I kept warning a friend about his ultramarathons. He didn't listen. He can't run any more. He injured his ankle.
  • Jan
    I started karate when I was 10 years old by 13 I had a bad back because my instructor thought I was doing press ups wrong (but I was'nt I had a shapely bottom) and so he of kick or walk over my back as I was holding position on the floor! Then when I was 14 I was doing a high kick, both feet off the ground about 7ft in the air as I landed both legs collapsed beneath me, I had torn both cartilages and ligaments. The thing is I had good positioning I trained new students & I was graded by Scottish karate champion & passed with flying colours then I was graded twice by a Japanese master who was a red belt & passed when all the other students failed. My sense told me he pushed me the hardest because I was the best student, but by 14 I was done, my legs would suddenly collapse & I was in screaming agony with my back. I went through years of physio & lost a good job because of it & it didn't help. I'm now 48 I have arthritis in my left knee, my right knee is being checked out suspected torn cartilage doing nothing! I have arthritis in my neck, my arms pop out their sockets & my lower back has two popped discs. Had I known I would be affected so badly I would never have done it. I loved doing karate but I'm in so much pain & I can't exercise to ease the pain. It doesn't mean this will happen to everyone but it's just a little warning that this is a risk. My old sensei is full of arthritis now too. Maybe now with all the health & safety it'll not be as bad but in my dad it was full contract sparing & I, and I who was only 4'7" & 11 years old was sparring with grown men who were around 6' and 12st & I had to put them down, which I did but it left me with weak painful ankles lol I'm falling apart!
  • Mina uran
    is it common for martial artists to experience knee buckling/wobbling but without pain? Also, we use our knees so much, so how can we protect them from damage so we can practice our sport for our whole lives?
  • james
    I'm 53 as wanting to start karate but now wondering if the risks are worth it.
  • Mahdi
    Came here after a bad knee day. I am 39 and I am resuming a long halted karate journey, so I am glad I found this. Makes a lot of sense. Arigato gozaimasu
  • Ken
    In a horse stance, your feet can go wider than your knees as long as your knees do not collapse inward. The best is to have your feet in a horse stance pointed out at a 45° angle like in a Sumo stance By having your feet wider than your knees it is actually stronger stance than having your lower leg straight up and down under your knees above your ankles. This is simple Kinesiology and physics. When you're doing a long stance the back foot must be be pointed at least 45° forward if not more but should never be pointed 90° out, forming an L shape

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