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NickH's picture
Pulling Techniques Through Necessity

Hi All,

1 week ago, I had to have a knee X-ray after a period of knee pain brought on by a longer-than-usual run.  The result of the scan was that, as well as having cartilidge in my right knee that is well-worn, no big deal, I guess, I have the onset of arthritis as well.

My doctor told me that I really shouldn't run anymore, which, whilst being irritating, is not the end of the world, as running is my least favourite thing out of all of the activity I do.  The mountain-biking, the weight-training and the Karate should all be okay as long as I'm careful.

My reason for posting this topic is:  I have come to the conclusion that, when training, I'm now going to have to pull my kicks somewhat short of the 'leg fully-extended with speed and power' position that I am sure we are all familiar with.  I have experimented with this this weekend and, whilst it's going to take some getting used to, I can do it, if it means I can continue training and not run the risk of being crippled in 10 years.  My doctor agreed that this would be a good thing to do for the sake of my knee.  So, the question is, how will this affect power delivery if I ever have to deliver a full-power technique?  If I become accustomed to 'pulling', will that become ingrained into my technique so it becomes the norm, even in a 'situation'?  The 'new' method of kicking seems to produce a quicker kick, but, I imagine, not as powerful.

This is all very irritating; after all, I'm 'only' 41.  But, life has dished this up and now I have to deal with it.  If anyone has any thoughts, I'd be glad to hear them.


shoshinkanuk's picture

ok, my statement first - I am no doctor and my knees are in good shape!

I cannot remember the last time I kicked and fully extended the leg on air, our system simply does not do it. And in my honest opinion I cant see how it adds any functional force to techniques, in application terms.

The nearest I get to fully extending anything is against resistance (makiwara, bags, focus mitts, people in armour) and I have found the impact on the joints is 'cusioned' anyhow when hitting full force, and with full intent. So we may fully extend but safely.

Im sure there are qualified people on here who can offe rmore scientific advise, but I would say your in a good position to carry on safely, if you adjust your trianing just a little.

Jon Sloan
Jon Sloan's picture

As with Shoshinkanuk, I'm not a medical person.

I think that kicking/punching to thin air is a relatively modern pactice that came about with the advent of large class sizes and the Japanification of Okinawan karate. So, older practictioners would have spent their training time mostly hitting other people or makiwara. There's no good reason to march up and down throwing our limbs out into thin air. Adjust your training to include more pad work, bag work and partner work. You'll get all the power you want against resistance without needing to fully extend limbs.


Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

Hi Nick,

Sorry to hear about your knee troubles.

A couple of points though:

I'm with Shoshinkanuk on this and basically you should never have been extending your knees fully while kicking in the air.  I don't know how old you were when you started but you're lucky to have made it to 41 before you noticed the damage. Your body will do all it can to prevent you injuring yourself and any strike done in the air will be 'pulled' anyway as your body attempts to prevent the kind of long-term injury you now suffer. 

The only way to kick with speed and power is to impact on something - makiwara, pads, bags, people - and then, as you will notice, your joints are a long way from extended. 

I would disagree with Jon that there is 'no good reason' for Kihon style drilling as it teaches very well the triggers of a variety of key strilkes but the spirit of what he says in terms of impact to develop a whole strike is sound.

I would advise strongly that you look at your punching as well and make sure that you are not extending your elbows fully because that will be causing long-term damage as well.

This is a very common karate injury and it is completely as a result of bad training practices and locking out joints.

Finally, I can't run either but find that skipping is fine.  I also prefer it.

Take Glucosamine and good luck with the rehab

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Nick,

I can’t really add much other than to support what has been said already.

NickH wrote:
So, the question is, how will this affect power delivery if I ever have to deliver a full-power technique?  If I become accustomed to 'pulling', will that become ingrained into my technique so it becomes the norm, even in a 'situation'?  The 'new' method of kicking seems to produce a quicker kick, but, I imagine, not as powerful.

While line-work can be a useful part of the mix, the need to “pull” kick and punches due to the lack of an object to decelerate the strike is an inherent part of it. Such “air striking” does not develop power any way so I would not worry about that. To develop power you need things to hit and, as has been suggested, you may find that bag work etc will enable you to hit hard without the risk of over-extending the knee (but check with your doctor first).

The other thing to consider is that kicking is probably among the least effective methods for real situations any way (you don’t get the space and the lack of stability they introduce can be problematic). So you could put kicking into your “martial arts” box and keep other methods for practical use? I think it is important to compartmentalise like that anyway.

The bottom line is that almost everybody has some physical limitation – through either genetics or injury – and the key is to ensure that excellence is still achieved in a way that is appropriate for the individual. If you are not the world’s most powerful kicker, then that matters little is you are a competent kicker and the other areas of your skill set more than compensate for that. The key is to excel at what we can do, as opposed to fixating on the effects of any limitations. I hope that helps?

All the best,


Steven's picture

Hi Nick

I agree there is a risk of injury in training without impact due to hyper extension of arm or leg.

What works for me (without medical expertise) is that if you are doing kihon or "line work" which presents this risk, then rather than locking the elbow or knee joint you could think about momentarily locking the relevant arm or leg muscles at a position just prior to joint hyperextension.  This protects the joint while provides some controlled feedback in the absence of hitting a target (rather than having the joints bang off the end stops).

I try to get this concept across at the earliest opportunity for new / young students as it helps prevent short and long term injury.

Hope this helps, it seems to work for me.



NickH's picture

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

I find myself quite annoyed at this stage, as I am now aware that NOT ONE of the instructors that I have had during my training life ever told me NOT to extend the leg fully when kicking into the air.  If I had had an instructor who had given me the correct advice, I wouldn't be in this situation now.  Indeed, if I had had the sense to realise it myself, that would have helped also.

Anyway, I have this now, so I need to deal with it.  I thank you all for your advice and I just wish that I had had an instructor of the calibre of you all.  That's the beauty of this forum:  intelligent, knowledgeable people, ready to help!


Harald's picture

Dear Nick,

don´t worry. To have the onset of arthritis is not unusual if you have done sports intensively for 25 years. The last two years I had a torn cartilage on the left and the right knee. One becomes older, I´m afraid. Anyway, this year I did a kata from shindo yoshin ryu daily for a couple of weeks and it worked out that I could do seiza again without much pain.

That means, you should concentrate on the recovery method(s). Be patient. Focus on exact technique. Every problem is also a chance to develop something. Your kind of technique that is not good for your body is widely spread. You got already advice above.

If it comes to real fighting, you should place your damaged leg back. But this will be pretty clear, I suppose.

Good recovery,


P.S.: Don´t believe every physician. If I had, I should had stopped training 20 years ago. Choose one who is also addicted to sports (and a specialist on knee problems, of course).