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Floating the knee, a gentler, more relaxed way to lift a leg to step

January 18, 2018

Every time you take a step, you need to lift a leg to move it.  When your thigh is  tense it takes more effort than when the thigh is relaxed.  It is like moving a bag of concrete mix vs moving a bag of feathers.

Does that analogy makes sense to you?

Today in class we were working on the Tai Chi for Arthritis from which was developed by Dr. Paul Lam.  The form, like all Tai Chi and much of Qigong involves some stepping forward and side to side.

From years of practice, I have learned how to step very slow and gently, placing my foot to specific spots using very sot movements and smooth transitions from one location to another.

Most of the students were “thunking” from position to position. There was no softness to their steps.  I could see and tell without touching that of them were tensing their thighs as they lifted,  using way too much force and effort to lift their legs. 

When they went to step and touch to the next spot, the release of such much tension on the downward movement caused the leg to drop, or fall into position instead of being gently placed down.  You could hear and feel the “thunk”.

The tension also translated to their hips and balance.  Working so hard, the tense muscles caused the whole hip girdle area to tighten, making it harder to hold balance on the hip and structure of the support leg.

I told them about how I use a floating knee technique to lift my leg.  I relax my hip and imagine the kneecap floating up and down, raising and lowering the calf, using the hip as a hinge point.  In this  technique,  the thigh is much more relaxed and able to move in any direction, be it up and down, sideways or front and back. Its job only to connect the lower leg to the hip, instead of muscling through a lifting motion.

What a change in the students movements!

They all immediately said their legs felt lighter and were able to do a better initial job of soft touching.  Of course it will take time for them to refine their feel of how it works, however they are off to a much smoother way of stepping and touching.

Joe,  the older of this group at age 80 said “I can see how this relates to everything I do in Tai Chi and Qigong.  It changes everything!”

If you have any questions on this method, please let me know.

To your health and wellness,


  1. I like the effect the image of a floating knee cap has. It is different from what I recommend but is similar in one way in particular. My method utilizes pushing the ball of the back foot off the ground to move the leg forward. Both techniques require agile leg joints: ankle, knee and hip. In fact, one way to tell if you are walking these more efficient ways is whether the knees bend as you walk. A stiffened knee (or other leg joints) causes the feet to have to shuffle. With both your technique and mine, the knees are flexible and freely moving (implying the other leg joints are as well).

    I like both.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also like to have folk relax the hip so the knee falls forward to raise the heel. This keeps the pelvis level and in balance. I see a lot of folk raise their heel by pulling up with their hip. In effect, putting their pelvis and balance center off kilter to the side.


  3. Valuable advice, thank you


  4. I am happy to hear you found the post useful!

    Liked by 1 person

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