How To Improve Lower Back And Knee Function When In Pain

I recently received a email question from a gentleman who practices Shotokan Karate and is challenged with lower back and knee pain.
He has already adapted his stance accordingly and no longer pushes his lower abdomen/pelvis forward as he was originally taught to do.

His question to me was, did I have any further advice on improving knee and lower back function?

I’ve given a full answer in the video below, so I’m not going to repeat it again here.

If you have a particular challenge to your own martial arts training, feel free to drop me a line and ask me!



Multiply your effectiveness with more impact for less effort and where to hit for best effect.

Bonus: Historical look at Bassai Dai, one of Karate’s most pivotal katas




4 thoughts on “How To Improve Lower Back And Knee Function When In Pain

  1. Hi Barry
    Thank you, I’m glad it helped. I’d been training for many years before I fully learnt it and figured it out!
    No need to be sorry about reference to sinking. I just wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing!
    Good luck with trying it out. It might seem strange at first, it’ll take a bit of getting used to it!

  2. Hi Sensei. Thank you very much. It was the tensing that I couldn’t work out, or at least figure out how to make without compromising speed. Your explanation in terms of stretching is excellent! This helps me better understand. Sorry about the reference to ‘sinking into’. I knew this was not what you were getting at but I couldn’t figure out how to express what I wanted to say. Thanks again so much. Now I have to try it out.

  3. Hi Barry, thank you for your reply and I’m glad you found it interesting.
    I wasn’t so much talking about “sinking into” the stance as making sure that the hip, knee and ankle joints are correct alignment. That said, I do agree with you about lowering the stance to strengthen the legs and learning to “drive” forward. But not too much so that it’s a struggle to move.

    In the main I agree with, “whole body to moving toward the target when contact is made”. I respectfully don’t completely agree with “at the instant of contact the body is tensed so as to be a complete mass and, as a unit, still moving toward the target”, but I do understand where you’re coming from.
    If you’ve ever done any weight training, you’ll know that they try to isolate muscles or select muscle groups to work in isolation. When we “tense”, we tend to isolate muscles (or group of muscles) from each other. So tensing the WHOLE BODY as we’re sometimes told, is not that easy.
    When we stretch however, we tend to link the muscles. This needs expanding on. Muscles are joined at both ends to bones so that they can pull/push; they are not connected to each other. But we have fascia which is like a film of sinew and connective tissue. Fascia forms long chains which envelops multiple groups of muscles, goes through our organs and over joints. Some of these fascial chains stretch from head to foot. Now when we learn to stretch out the fascial system, they connect these chains of muscles in a way that tensing can’t (which is why weight training isolates muscle groups)!
    If you stretch out your arms, as you might do when you yawn in the morning; you can feel a connection from the fingers on one hand through the chest to the fingers of the other. Trying to tense all those muscles is harder, takes more effort/concentration and cannot be engaged as quickly.
    So . . . . . at the end of the technique, if we stretch (as described in the video) we can engage these fascial systems (there are quite a few of them) and we get the solidity of mass that you describe (as the fascial system engages large chains of muscles rather than just a few muscle groups). So it’s easier to get that solidity by stretching out rather than tensing, and the stretching is still expanding through the opponents whereas tensing causing a small degree of contraction back towards yourself. I hope that is clear 🙂
    And yes, we’ve both wondered of the knee pain a bit! 🙂

  4. Interesting piece on knee and lower back pain, and “sinking into” the technique. I get that lower stances help with muscle development, balance (lower center of gravity), and drive/speed too. With optimal stance height for max drive/speed, is not the important thing then for the whole body to moving toward the target when contact is made. So at the instant of contact the body is tensed so as to be a complete mass and, as a unit, still moving toward the target. I have trouble visualizing this so it has been on my mind. I see it as an optimization of max speed (right relaxation) and tension (max mass). I almost see it like the body is floating/flying toward the target, then at the point of impact and max speed the emphasis then on tension both solidifies the mass and lets gravity do its work so that the resulting contact with the ground allows the energy to flow back to the target. Does this make sense. I think I wandered just a bit from knee pain? Sorry!

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