In my previous post I mentioned I was looking into getting a knee brace similar to this and I actually ended up purchasing that exact one. I chose to wear it for an entire day leading up to practice and in some ways, this will be a review of the brace as well as any preliminary changes to my knee.
First off, it was quite snug and felt very secure around my knee. The fabric is quite soft and comfortable, although the bottom of one of the springs kept digging into part of my leg if it slipped to a certain point (more on the slippage later). My knee felt very stable and free of pain the entire day. Bending my knee also produced no additional pain whatsoever. On top of that, it is light as a feather and didn’t hinder my movements at all. The material did not bunch up or pinch in certain areas and breathed quite well.
Once at practice however, I started to notice a few shortcomings here and there. During kata, no problems at all. The brace stayed put and no issues with pain. During keiko however, the inner grip slips did absolutely nothing. The image on the website is misleading as they hint that the grips are applied all around the inner lining, which is definitely not the case. The grips are only placed across a small portion of the front and back of both the top and bottom cuffs, not nearly enough to be effective against fumikomi. Towards the end of practice, the brace would completely slip down to my ankle after three or four fumikomi, forcing me to stop for a moment to pull it back up after rotating to the next partner.
After practice, I felt no aching whatsoever and the next day, not one trace of pain at all. To be on the safe side, I chose to wear a brace during the day (a different one but more substantial) but we’ll have to see how well this trend holds up. The last thing I want is a knee joint replacement by the time I’m in my 30’s.
At the end of the day, this is a fantastic brace to use but when your leg gets rather slick with sweat, be prepared for constant slippage during practice. It feels great and secure when properly in place around your knee but the anti-slip grips need to be much more substantial to be effective. I’ll also look into wrapping part of my knee in pre-tape wrap to give the grips something more to hang onto.
After going through all this, I’m starting to wonder how many other kendoka experience something similar or have had other joint problems stemming from fumikomi. Assuming these issues are not the result of forcing super hard, stomping fumikomi or heel-first fumikomi, I’m curious as to what the long-term outlook is for a kendoka’s knees and what adaptations they use as they get older. Something to think about for the future.