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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 6 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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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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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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