Tai Chi Knee Strikes

Xiaotong Huang

A knee strike is a strike with the knee, either with the kneecap or the surrounding area. We often see knee strikes in Muay Thai boxing. I believe no one would compare Muay Thai boxing with Tai Chi show boxing. The reason is very simple, Muay Thai boxing is very fast, and Tai Chi is very slow; Muay Thai boxing applies a lot of ferocious knee and elbow techniques, and Tai Chi looks gentle and uses many silk sealing movements.

However, in Chen Tai Chi form one and two, there are a number of knee strike techniques, which are quite similar to Muay Thai boxing. Some movements involved in knee techniques include Gold Rooster on One Leg, Turn Flowers out from the Bottom of the Sea, The Fist of Protecting Heart with Jumping Step, Go Straight with Left Palm into Well, Thrust Reversely, etc.



Tai Chi Knee Strikes

1. Straight Knee Strike

The straight knee (also known as a front knee) is a typical knee strike, and involves thrusting the front of the knee into the head or body of an opponent.

The straight knee can be applied from a stand-up position. A particularly effective clinching position for throwing front knee is the double collar tie, where the head of the opponent is controlled.

Typical targets for the front knee include the head, hips, ribs, chest, stomach and thighs. In Tai Chi, a double collar tie with a front knee to the face was often seen in the movement of First Closing (Chu Shou).


Application of Straight Knee Strike

Left and Right Kicks (Zuo You Deng Jiao)

Grab the opponent’s both arms

Pull his arm downward

Raise right knee to strike his chest





Turn Flowers out from the Bottom of the Sea (Hai Di Fan Hua),

Use left hand to control the opponent’s right upper arm

Apply right elbow into the opponent’s back of head

Simultaneously raise right knee to strike his face




2. Diagonal Knee Strike

The Diagonal Knee Strike, sometimes called a side knee, is similar to the front knee except that it does not use a forward thrusting motion, but is instead rotated from the outside. Some Tai Chi movements includes diagonal knee strikes are Thrust Reversely (Dao Cha), Dash Leftward (Zuo Chong), Go Straight with Left Palm into Well (Jing Lan Zhi Ru).

As the front knee needs some space in between the combatants to be performed, the diagonal knee strike can be executed from a minimal distance. Typical targets include rib cages, hips and the side of the abdomen.

Application of Diagonal Knee Strike

The Cannon of Turning Head (Hui Tou Dang Men Pao)

Block an opponent’s right punch

Step to left side

Raise right knee to strike into the opponent’s abdomen diagonally




Jump a Step and Twist Elbow (Fei Bu Ao Luan Zhou)

Grab an opponent’s right arm

Pull it pack

Raise left knee and press it onto the opponent’s right elbow




3. Jump Knee Strike

It is very powerful knee strike if using it well. A Tai Chi fighter springs up to thrust the knee towards the target. The opponent can be badly injured by this move. This move can be seen in The Fist of Protecting Heart with Jumping Step (Yue Bu Hu Xin Chui).

A jump knee strike is similar to a front knee, except that it is performed by jumping, and often by rushing towards the opponent.

Generally, jump knee strikes can be effectively applied when the opponent is off-balanced, recovering from previous strikes, or as a counter to a strike by the opponent. It can also be used as a follow-up maneuver after delivering a particularly incapacitating strike.


4. Low Knee Strike

Low knee strike is applied to either destroy an opponent’s balance to prevent the opponent from attacking or injury the opponent’s knee joint.

Use hands to control an opponent’s punch

Right step forward

Promptly shift body weight to the knee to strike the opponent’s front knee


Summary of Tai Chi Knee Strikes

One of old Tai Chi sayings said: every part of body is a weapon. Knee techniques are a very important technique in Tai Chi combat. They can be one of the lethal weapons to strike an opponent. The violence of the knee is equal to that of the elbow if a Tai Chi fighter used it properly with a good technique, balance and timing. In order to achieve a best outcome, the knee attack has to be quick, powerful, and sharp.


Xiaotong Huang

Chen Tai Chi practitioner, Sydney


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