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In Aikido it is known that repeated suwariwaza techniques (seated techniques) are very hard on your knees. Most of the older masters have knee issues where they struggle to transition from seated to standing positions.

Are there any knee exercises that can be done to help prevent this?

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Please consider choosing an answer. –  Trevoke Feb 7 '12 at 22:03
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Squats are your friend, as well as leg presses. You want to strengthen all the muscles around your knee so if/when the tendons and ligaments start to wear out, the muscles can compensate.

When your doing your squats, make sure to keep your back straight, your heals on the floor, and try to keep your knees from going to far forward (they shouldn't pass your toes).

Avoid doing leg extensions if you have any patella or meniscus injuries.

If body weight squats are easy, progress to single leg squats :)

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Squats, squats, squats! Yes! Also, when you do squats, straighten up your legs all the way when you come up, exactly to avoid patella / meniscus problems. Helps the body stay aware of what's right :) –  Trevoke Feb 1 '12 at 3:52
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Knee issues more often than not come from postural mistakes, rather than suwari waza.

My advice is to just practice suwari waza and try to increase the amount of training until you get confortable. If you learn to do it properly, your movements will improve and will prove less painful to your knees.

I should also note that doing suwari waza is much easier when you wear an hakama, once you get the handle of it, since the hakama helps the knees slip more easily on the tatami.

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+1 for Knee issues more often than not come from postural mistakes –  BenCole Jan 31 '12 at 22:04
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The biggest things that have helped me:

  • To second Patricia: Squats, particularly bodyweight squats, close squats (where your feet are closer together), and (now) one-legged squats. Ensuring good form all the way through the exercise and ensuring that you go below parallel (above parallel may cause knee issues). There are a couple of good progressions out there to work yourself up into Single Leg Squats if you can't do them now (e.g., Convict Conditioning has an excellent one, just ignore the propaganda that they use to sell it).
  • Use a foam roller on the legs, particularly on the IT band, and either use a foam roller or massage directly the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis. Work on these particularly after working out.
  • Checking your form while transitioning, in your stances, and when doing anything that involves the knees. This also means listening to your knees: if they start acting up then don't push them, stop.
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+1 for This also means listening to your knees: if they start acting up then don't push them, stop. –  BenCole Jan 31 '12 at 22:03
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I have had a lot of knee problems with aikido. My physio has told me to do squats 100 each set..... 1 leg squats 30 each leg 3 sets........ And a patella conditioning exersise hard to explain how to do it but it's great.

It's important to avoid excessive stretching of your quads when you have a persisting knee problem and go easy on your knees.

Try to find what you are doing that is causing your knee problems.

For me I found myself pidgin toed (with my lead foot slightly in) during techniques weapons helped me align my feet better with effort. The way I sat in seiza also affected my knees alot.

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The big problem with knees, is usually people either wear out the cartilage on part of the discs, or they over stretch/pop a tendon. The latter is mostly an issue with shoulder/hip throws, sports with cleated shoes, tackles, or locks on the ankles/knees for grappling.

The former, though, comes from bad posture and... sitting with pressure on the knees.

A lot of physical practices advise to not put your knees further forward than your toes - this isn't just a balance thing, it's also the point at which you're hyper-compressing sections of your meniscus discs. Do it long enough, over time, and the meniscus develops cracks. Then tears. Longer still, you can wear away a whole section and have bone-on-bone grinding.

Unfortunately, this isn't something the body can repair, really. The same thing happens with spinal discs, given enough time.

This is where you end up having to decide what parts you want to practice, and how much. Just as much as full contact sparring is a thing you CAN do, you have to decide at what point you've now just accruing more damage than learning.

Given the formal kneeling stances, there's not a lot of mitigation - it's a knee at the maximum flexion position, there are no muscles to take the weight off of it. Some people use cushions or wedges between their calves and butt to raise their body and reduce some of the direct pressure, but obviously, traditions usually do not look well upon that choice.

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