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Using your Knees

Updated: 3 days ago

Knees are versatile weapons in martial arts, applicable in various situations for both offense and defense. Here's a breakdown of how they can be applied effectively in your Systema training.


Knees play a pivotal role in close-quarters combat, a scenario where punches and kicks might be less effective due to limited space. In such situations, you can drive your knee upwards into your opponent's midsection, ribs, or thighs, making knee strikes a crucial tool in your arsenal.

In combination, knees can be seamlessly integrated into combinations with punches, kicks, and elbows. For example, you might throw a jab-cross-knee combo, where the knee strike comes after the punches to catch your opponent off guard.


In styles like Muay Thai, the clinch is a fundamental aspect of fighting (not in Systema). From this position, fighters can employ various knee strikes to their opponent's body, head, or legs. Utilize the clinch to control your opponent's posture and create openings for knee strikes.

During counterattacks, knees can be effective counterattacks against opponents' strikes. For instance, if your opponent throws a low kick, you can lift your knee to block it while simultaneously striking with your own knee.

Knees can also be used defensively. If an opponent attempts to tackle or grapple you, a well-timed knee strike can disrupt their movement and create distance. Be strategic about where you aim your knee strikes. The solar plexus, liver, groin, and thighs are all viable targets. Understanding anatomy and vulnerable points can make your knee strikes more effective.


Like any martial arts technique or skill, proper form and conditioning are essential for effective knee strikes. Practice proper techniques to generate power and ensure accuracy. Additionally, conditioning your knees through drills and exercises will help prevent injuries. Control and timing are crucial. Avoid telegraphing your knee strikes, and be mindful of your balance and stance to maintain control throughout the movement.



Using your Knees in Systema

Keeping your knees healthy is essential for martial artists to maintain peak performance and prevent injuries. Here are some tips to help you maintain knee health:

Strength Training: Strengthening the muscles around the knees, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, can provide stability and support. Incorporate exercises like squats, lunges, leg presses, and calf raises into your training regimen.

Flexibility and Mobility: Maintain good flexibility and mobility in the knees and surrounding muscles to prevent stiffness and improve range of motion. Stretch regularly, focusing on stretches for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors.

Proper Technique: Ensure you're using proper technique when performing knee strikes and other martial arts techniques. Incorrect form can put unnecessary strain on the knees and increase the risk of injury.

Warm-Up and Cool Down: Always warm up before training or engaging in intense physical activity to prepare your muscles and joints for movement. Likewise, cool down after training to help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness.

Cross-Training: Incorporate cross-training activities into your routine to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Activities like swimming, cycling, and yoga can help improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and overall strength without putting excessive strain on the knees.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain in your knees. If you experience pain, swelling, or instability, stop training and give your knees time to rest and recover. Ignoring pain can lead to further injury.

Use Protective Gear: When sparring or engaging in contact drills, use appropriate protective gear such as knee pads to cushion and support your knees. This can help reduce the impact of strikes and minimize the risk of injury.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can put additional stress on the knees, increasing the risk of injuries such as strains, sprains, and osteoarthritis. Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise to reduce strain on your knees.

Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated and maintain a nutritious diet to support overall joint health and reduce inflammation. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals can help support joint health.

Rest and Recovery: Allow your knees adequate time to rest and recover between training sessions. Overtraining can increase the risk of overuse injuries, so listen to your body and prioritize rest as needed.


By incorporating these strategies into your training routine and lifestyle, you can help keep your knees healthy and reduce the risk of injuries in martial arts and other physical activities. If you have any existing knee issues or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment recommendations.


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