View Full Version : Deformed by seiza

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Carl Thompson
04-19-2007, 11:15 PM
Hello everyone

Iíve only made a few posts here but I still havenít got around to introducing myself properly, so first up: My name is Carl Thompson, from Carlisle in the UK. I started aikido at university in the Northeast of England and I have a strong interest in the Japanese language and culture. Iím currently teaching English in Japan and I also have the honour of training in aikido at the Ibaraki Shibu Dojo.

I have a question about seiza. You get to hear plenty of myths here in Japan, particularly from some of the younger ex-pat community, regarding a lot of Japanís traditions and culture. One such myth that Iíd particularly like to have explained is that seiza can cause damage. Now, I realise that keeping the body fixed in any one position for an extensive period of time will result in damage (even lying in bed youíll get bedsores eventually), but is seiza likely to cause damage more than remaining fixed in for example, agura (with the legs crossed) or zazen (meditation pose)? Personally, I think not. It seems to me that seiza spreads the weight evenly across the strongest parts of the body, provides an elevated vantage point and facilitates movement of the upper body through centring. There must be quite a few professionals out there in the aikiweb community who can to come up with some interesting stats, opinions in English and so on that I can pass on to the foreign community here.

The original comment referred to Japanese girls having deformed legs because of seiza.:freaky:

So,what do you reckon people?



04-20-2007, 06:45 AM
I don't know, but my doctor told me it was a bad position to sit in. I broke my ankle a while back and he told me it will never flex far enough to allow me to sit that way again.

04-20-2007, 08:13 AM
I'm by no means an expert, but my Sensei is (31 years of Aikido with a rank of Godan). When I first began Aikido, I (like many Western beginners) had an extremely difficult time sitting in seiza for longer than a few minutes at a time. I mentioned to him in passing once that I would practice sitting in seiza at home while watching TV, gradually bringing my "seiza time" up to 15 minutes at a time. He immediately ordered me to cease & desist this practice unless I used 2 pillows: a large one upon which to sit, and a smaller one to place beneath my buttocks. He also suggested looking into purchasing a seiza bench.

Janet Rosen
04-20-2007, 12:07 PM
From a biomechanical point of view, ANY position in which the knee is hyperflexed (seiza or sitting crosslegged) increases pressures within the knee joint. This is truly a case of YMMV: I have heard of, at one extreme, at least 3 people tearing the %#% out of their medial meniscus while getting into or up from simple seiza (2 pple ) or crosslegged (1 person) sitting situations. At the other extreme, some folks do seiza or zazen for yrs and have no discomfort.
Overall, I think Asian cultures that promote squatting while sitting or gardening or seiza, have older folks who are more comfortable with the idea of being lower being a normal part of daily range of motion. It seems to me (as a nurse) that older Americans seem to expect to have difficulty with being at ground level and I cannot help but wonder if this is part of what leads to problems with joint and muscle capabilities and ultimately with falls.
But I digress!

Basia Halliop
04-20-2007, 01:08 PM
A long time ago (long before I started Aikido) I remember reading that some researchers speculated that perhaps the recent large increases in average height in Japan in the past generation or two might not be fully explained by changes in nutrition, but might also be related to other lifestyle changes including a big increase in chairs and less children growing up with so much of their time kneeling.

Only thing is, it was a long time ago and I don't remember if it was just speculation or well researched, and now I can't find any reference done to research or scientific commentary on the subject.

But it's a thought. We know that what kinds of activity people do when their bones are growing can affect bone density and length, so it's at least not totally out there.

04-20-2007, 01:16 PM

Janet Rosen
04-20-2007, 03:14 PM
Thanks for the link - very interesting!
Historically childhood rickets would cause a bowing of the lower legs but it certainly is not widespread in Japan in the 20th C. much less the 21st.

04-20-2007, 03:45 PM
ive never heard of sitting in seiza deforming you, but im only 17, so i dont think i have to worry about that too much. an older aikidoka at my school( in his 60's i think) never sits in seiza cuz i think his joints are too stiff, he sits in the samarai position(cant recall the name) but im not sure about getting deformed as a result of seiza. sorry im not much help.

04-22-2007, 01:43 PM
I don't know, but my doctor told me it was a bad position to sit in. I broke my ankle a while back and he told me it will never flex far enough to allow me to sit that way again.I have exactly the same problem, Don. The metal and scar tissue in my ankle do not let me flex my foot straight out, and any more than a minute or two in seiza is excruciating.

04-22-2007, 03:46 PM
I have found I can fake it, but I have to keep switching feet and it makes me look jittery.

Tony Wagstaffe
04-22-2007, 05:18 PM
Wouldn't think deformity can be caused by seiza.... but too long sitting as such without moving does for me cause numbness, followed by pins and needles and may probably cause circulation problems later on in life, so I personally do not advocate it. On the other hand doing suwari waza is, I personally feel, good for general flexibility in the hip, knee, ankle and toe joints. Just use common sense and go by the "feel"

Gernot Hassenpflug
04-22-2007, 06:29 PM
My opinion is that any extreme positions ("extreme" as defined by people who have never done any serious body training) requires preparation of the body through other methods - ability to sit correctly in seiza appears to me more as the result of correct body useage rather than as a means to obtain such. I would not advise beginners to sit for long periods in that position either - to do it correctly is very demanding indeed.

Carl Thompson
04-22-2007, 07:37 PM
Thank you for some excellent replies to my post. It was exactly what I was hoping for. The link in particular is very informative.