snake creeps down-- help, my knee hurts

snake creeps down-- help, my knee hurts

Postby roh mih » Sun Jan 28, 2007 8:26 am

For weeks, or about a month now, I've been feeling a little pain in my left knee whenever I do Snake Creeps Down to the right. The result is that I can't bend down my left knee low enough as I want to. Can someone tell me why this happened? What did I do wrong? Or maybe, it's just that I have reached the maximum level such that I can't bend my knee any lower. Is my case serious? How can I get rid of the pain?
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:41 pm

Greetings roh,

The pain could be for a variety of reasons, including poor alignment, or overstretching or staining the joints or ligaments, or even a change in the weather that causes your joints to be more sensitive. The knee and the toes of the foot should always be aligned in the same plane, and the leg should work as a whole unit so that the muscles surrounding the knee are firmly supporting the joint and not allowing the bones and cartilage to bear the brunt of the pressure. In Squating Single Whip, or Snake Creeps Down, this means that the rear leg must open out at the kua or hip joint, so that when you squat down over that leg, the alignment is correct.

It’s important that you physically develop the muscles in your legs and around your knees, and equally important to develop a good sensitivity to what's going on with your knees, and not allow the joints to get torqued. You should carefully monitor what is going on in the movements that are causing problems, identify where you may be straining something, and correct the alignment. If you have a teacher or senior student observe your execution of the form, they may be able to help identify the source of the problem. In the meantime, I would avoid bending lower than is comfortable until you can ascertain exactly what the source of the problem is. You may also want to massage the tissues around you knee with some ti-da-jiu (dit-dat-jiao), which you can buy at Chinese herb shops to relieve pain and improve circulation, but it’s more important to resolve the source of the pain and correct the alignment.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby shugdenla » Mon Jan 29, 2007 5:22 am

Many students of taichi imagine it as the perfect exercise and as a result ignore basic warm-up and stretching and when they attempt such postures (snake creeps down) they end up hurting themselves and they quit!
Another group use wushutaijiquan criterion as gospel and also hurt themselves trying to emulate the 'extremes' in postures. Do according to your age and athletic ability and slowly adjust to fit your own capability. Trying to rush difficult posture is also damaging so stretch hamstrings and quadricepts and be watch of knee positioning.
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Postby Simon Batten » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:10 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by roh mih:
For weeks, or about a month now, I've been feeling a little pain in my left knee whenever I do Snake Creeps Down to the right. The result is that I can't bend down my left knee low enough as I want to. Can someone tell me why this happened? What did I do wrong? Or maybe, it's just that I have reached the maximum level such that I can't bend my knee any lower. Is my case serious? How can I get rid of the pain? </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Roh Mih: if you look at pictures of Yang Zhen Duo performing Snake Creeps Down, you will see that the back/bent/supporting leg has the foot turned so that his toes are almost pointing behind him. In my view, this is the key to avoiding knee pain in Snake Creeps Down. If the toes are turned more to the front, then this puts really terrible strain on the knee joint, particular on the inner side, as well as the ankle. Meanwhile, of course, it would be as well to lay off practising the form for a week or so to allow your knee to recover before making any adaptations. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Simon Batten » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:17 pm

Roh Mih: If you would like to see Yang Cheng Fu himself performing Snake Creeps Down, there is an extensive gallery showing him performing his form postures, including Snake Creeps down, on the following link:
http://dongfangtaiji.5u.com/photo3.html
As you will see, although the photos are old and grainy, he has the back foot turned well back. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby César » Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:38 pm

Hi Roh Mih
look at this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSAaqb30hfU
it is a Yang Zhenduo´s video performing traditional form.
And take look at this picture for your reference (this is master Yang Jun):
http://ceitai.com/yangjun/

I hope this helps

César
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Postby Simon Batten » Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:55 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by César:
<B>Hi Roh Mih
look at this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSAaqb30hfU
it is a Yang Zhenduo´s video performing traditional form.
And take look at this picture for your reference (this is master Yang Jun):

Just to help pinpoint what you've just mentioned, Cesar, Yang Zhen Duo is performing the movement at roughly 7 minutes, 15 seconds into Part 3 of the video you mention first. And yes, he can clearly be seen turning the rear foot well back as he sinks down into the posture. Kind regards, Simon.
http://ceitai.com/yangjun/

I hope this helps

César</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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Postby DPasek » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:39 pm

Roh,

While I agree with the previous statements regarding the direction of the knee relative to the direction that the toes of the foot are pointing, warming up, massage, etc., I also want to add an additional caution.

How low you go down also is very important. The clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSAaqb30hfU, that César pointed you to, as performed by Yang Zhenduo, shows the limit that I would recommend that you not exceed (despite the lower positions demonstrated in the other links and in the drawing at the heading of this forum page). There is a reason why YZD, at his age, only goes this low. I have been told that flexing the knee beyond about a 90 degree angle stresses it. Perhaps someone with physical therapy training can give more details or point you to a reference (I do not have this training). This strain may not cause injury (or even be noticeable) when you are young, or if you come from a culture which conditions the knee joint to withstand the strain by regularly squatting rather than sitting in a chair, squatting while working or going to the toilet, etc. If your rear end goes below the level of your knee, then you are probably straining the knee joint, even if you are conditioned to withstand that strain. If you are not conditioned by regularly doing two legged squats, then don’t do what is essentially a one legged squat when performing Snake Creeps Down.

DP
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:53 pm

When you do the low form (xia shi) don't push downward forcefully. Just go down as low as your current state of looseness allows you to go with no strain or forcing. If that is high this round that's cool as long as you follow the 10 essentials. Probably next round you'll feel slightly looser and will go a shade lower.

Knee pain in xia shi may indicate that you are doing something wrong elsewhere. Whenever you bend your knee, such as in a forward bow step, be sure to push backward a tiny bit with your front leg. This will prevent you from allowing the front knee to go too far. When too far, you can't push backward with the forward leg.
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:57 pm

One more note. If you look up at the pic of Yang Chengfu doing low form above, notice that his center of gravity is about one third of the distance from back leg to front, not hovering over the back leg. That means there is some weight on the front, too.
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Postby Simon Batten » Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:08 pm

Jerry, I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about not forcing things when trying to do the form low. Progress should be gradual. In my own case, for instance, when I first started practising Xia Shih, I wasn't very supple and couldn't get down low. I worked on this gradually, just trying to get half a centimetre lower a week, or a centimetre at most. After all, six months isn't a long time, so just six months with this approach produced a considerable lowering and I can now get down quite low. The same approach can be used for raising the height of slow kicks, as well as for lengthening the steps. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Simon Batten » Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:56 am

Roh Mih: a tip for an exercise on practising Snake Creeps Down as an isolated movement. First, with your arms loose at your sides, step forward into a bow stance and make the bow stance as long as you can without strain. Keep your back straight, arms still down by your sides. Then turn your waist through 90 degrees. Then extend your arms into the Snake Creeps Down position. Practise this exercise on an individual basis as often as you wish to get the hang of it. It is also an excellent training in the discipline of turning the waist. It will get you used to the feel of the position and the the foot of the bent leg will have the correct orientation. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jan 31, 2007 6:03 pm

Greetings DPasek,

You commented: “This strain may not cause injury (or even be noticeable) when you are young, or if you come from a culture which conditions the knee joint to withstand the strain by regularly squatting rather than sitting in a chair. . . .”

You make a good point that conditioning, and to some extent culture, is an important factor in how well the knee accommodates deep squatting. One exercise I learned early in my taijiquan training involves standing as you would at the beginning of the taiji form, raising the arms to shoulder height, then slowly bending the knees and folding at the pelvis into a low squat, remaining in that position for a moment, then unfolding to a full standing posture again with the arms again rising to shoulder height. This is repeated several times, exhaling while lowering, inhaling while rising. While in the squat, and throughout the exercise, the entire sole of the foot should be comfortably on the ground, with no lifting of the heels. Once the practitioner has learned this well, the body should be easily balanced and relaxed in the low squat. This exercise not only conditions for balance, it is an excellent way to stretch and relax muscles in the legs, back, and abdomen. I have long been a big fan of squatting. There’s a sort of “bird on the beach” feeling about this posture, and one can rapidly go from a squat to a standing position if the occasion calls for it. As you note, in some cultures it’s a very common posture while taking a break, waiting for a bus, socializing, etc.


This being said, if one hasn’t learned this from an early age, or unless one can facilitate conditioning that makes a comfortable squat achievable, I think it would be best to avoid bending the knee any lower than feels comfortable and strong.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-31-2007).]
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Postby fol » Sat Feb 03, 2007 1:35 am

Fwiw, at seminars Yang Jun has recommended the following exercise for "building strength" to do SCD:

Standing, lift your knee straight in front of you until your thigh is horizontal, then open the hip by turning the leg 90 degrees, straight out to the side, keeping the pelvis level.

Hasn't worked yet for me, but I think my problems my old knees!
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:58 pm

Greetings,

I think Yang Zhenji’s instructions for Squatting Single Whip (Snake Creeps Down) are quite good. They specifically address the opening out of the right leg at the hip joint, and the alignment requirements we’ve been discussing. Note: the directions assume that the form commences facing south, and begin here from the Single Whip posture. Here’s my rough translation:

~~~
The sole of the right foot turns out toward the southwest. The body sits back, the kua lowering into a squat, with the left foot changing to empty. At the same time, the left hand rotates—its palm is facing toward the right, with the left elbow slightly dropping—and follows the torso back and downward in an arc to the inside edge of the left knee, the fingertips pointing forward. The directional position of the right hook hand does not change; it follows the torso in lowering down, with the wrist on level with the shoulder. The eyes look forward and downward.

Important Points:
1. This form includes the movement of the waist pulling the hand (yao la shou). As the body sits back, the waist draws back the left hand.
2. As the body sits back, the knees bow outward with strength (xie xiang wai yongli gong), enabling the kua to sit into the lowered position.
3. The waist, kua, right leg, and both arms sink simultaneously. Don’t allow the slightest variance, so that you can attain “upper and lower follow one another” (shang xia xiang sui).
~~~
—Yang Zhenji, Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan, 1993, p. 133.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 02-05-2007).]
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