Most normal, healthy people donít give much thought to their knees. They are there and help us function, but so what. A Martial Artist knows better. Knees sit uniquely on being both a deadly weapon and a disabling weak spot.
Anyone who has watched Muay Thai or Silat are familiar with just how powerful a correctly executed knee strike can be. In fact, it can be so harmful that most styles who practice any form of light sparring restrict the use of knees.
A correctly placed knee strike is like driving a hammer into someoneís body. Against the chest, it can cause internal bleeding, broken ribs, and knock the wind out of your opponent. Against a limb, it can shatter bones and cause severe dislocations. Thus, when practicing a knee strike against a fellow student, you must always use the right level of protection and control. Most of the time, only advanced students in controlled settings are allowed to practice these techniques.
Knowing how to execute a correct knee strike is just as important as the strike itself. Most students who wish to learn how to execute knee strikes will spend hours developing iron body techniques in order to strengthen that part of their legs. The term ďknee strikeĒ is somewhat deceptive in that itís not just the knee cap that is delivering the strike. All parts of the leg in and around that area deliver the attack. And in real situations, it is highly likely you may not hit exactly on the knee. Thus, itís important that when a student starts to train in knee attacks they also spend time developing iron leg techniques to strengthen the knees overall.
Knee techniques are great for close-ranged combat and allow for deep penetration into the target. Because of the close-range, itís important to develop the proper rooting and waist whipping to generate power without compromising balance. In many ways, the training is similar to what a hurdler must learn in terms of rotating the leg and bringing the knees upwards. The range, however, that a Martial Artist must do to perform the technique correctly is much larger.
On the other side of the coin, the knees are one of the weakest points of the body. When struck from behind or just behind the knee cap, they can cause even the strongest man to crumble to the ground. In fact, many ghost techniques exploit this weakness to gain the upper hand. [To learn more about ghost techniques, visit my article here: Ghost Techniques in Martial Arts.]
The knees are our support and without good knees it becomes difficult to perform even the simplest of tasks. My father had recently had a stroke and one thing the stroke took away was his ability to send mental signals to his right knee. With just one knee disabled in this fashion, he engage his knee to even just stand up, let alone walk or perform any of the basic functions we hardly think about.
Knee injuries are also one of the major reasons many athletes in professional sports retire. Once the knee is weakened by injury that personís balance and ability to move have been compromised and itís very difficult to regain it all back. Knee injuries to many Martial Artists who are active sparers and fighters have resulted in countless hours of pain and suffering. And those Artists know all too well how they will forever be plagued by that injury whenever they try to step back into the ring.
Thus, itís important for students to not only learn how to use the knee for attacks but also how to protect the knee. Some of these techniques are as follows:
- Learn and use proper stances in all your techniques
- Ensure the area you train in is clear of obstructions and as flat as possible
- Try not to fight/train when youíre overly fatigued
- Listen to your body and donít over exert yourself, especially if you feel pain already
- Use proper support if you already have an injury
- Do exercises that help you develop the muscles in and around the knee to help protect it
Stay safe and happy training!