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View Full Version : To Shikko or not to Shikko/Bad idea for Aikido?


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Randy Sexton
02-17-2009, 07:03 AM
Yes, I know we all need to learn to Shikko walk for movement on the mat in formal occasions. In the 2 years I have been in Aikido and observing many Aikidoka both at seminars, my own dojo, and at summer camp I observed a few things.
1. The older people avoided doing it. Mostly because it hurts like hell when you get older stretching the joints and tendon and grinding the bones together.
2. The higher ranking Aikidoka have told me to avoid doing it because it will tear the hell out of my hips and I will regret doing it other than for formal occasions. Many of our higher ranking masters are now regretting doing it because now they have chronic hip pain which detracts from their joy in doing Aikido.
3, When people move to a circle area few do the walk. Why? When I ask the statement is either they don't do it well or it hurts really bad. Now you can say train more and it gets better. Yes, that is true but do we really want to trade our healthy joints to look good doing something that has nothing to do with my abilities as an Aikidoka?
4. Younger people do it because they can. Their joints can stand the strain. For a while.
5. My opinion is Shikko walking should be eliminated from Aikido for the sake of protecting our hip joints. It is a tradition in Japan that we don't need to include for the rest of the world.
6. Your Opinion?

Dr. Randy Sexton aka "Doc"

Aikibu
02-17-2009, 01:05 PM
It's ok as a warm up exercise if it's used in conjunction with other warm up exercises I guess.

I would not miss it however and we rarely do it in class or seminars.

William Hazen

sorokod
02-17-2009, 02:48 PM
5. My opinion is Shikko walking should be eliminated from Aikido for the sake of protecting our hip joints. It is a tradition in Japan that we don't need to include for the rest of the world.

How about suwari waza? hanmi handachi? nikyo? sankyo? Should those be eliminated too by the same logic?

Russ Q
02-17-2009, 03:04 PM
Hey Doc,

I think suwari waza/shikko training has it's place. I was in my late twenties when I started and we did a lot of suwari waza in our dojo. It taught me to open my hips (hard to shikko effectively with tension in the hips) and made my quadreceps very strong and, not leastly, it taught me to move my whole body at once. We always practised one or two techniques with suwari waza and then stood. Even during "before and after class" training, I made sure I practised shikko in modest amounts - consistent but modest. It should be made clear that suwari waza training was always qualified with "If you have bad knees then please stand...". A qualification I continue in my own dojo. Those who can do it should, it will help them. Those who are injured/have bad joints should abstain. I guess it's like most training that way...:-)

Cheers,

Russ

Dan Rubin
02-17-2009, 03:15 PM
Here's an article by Gaku Homma Sensei, explaining why he does not allow suwariwaza to be practiced in his dojo. He believes that it is harmful to one's body and is of little benefit.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_articles/07/no_suwariwaza/no_suwariwaza.html

sorokod
02-17-2009, 03:37 PM
Here's an article by Gaku Homma Sensei, explaining why he does not allow suwariwaza to be practiced in his dojo. He believes that it is harmful to one's body and is of little benefit.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_articles/07/no_suwariwaza/no_suwariwaza.html

Worth reading, but things are not completely clear cut, for example:
Privately, I still personally practice suwariwaza techniques, but I stopped requiring my students to practice shikko (knee walking) or suwariwaza techniques in my dojo 15 years ago.

Russ Q
02-17-2009, 03:38 PM
Hi Dan,

Great article! Thanks for that. (I especially like what Homma Sensei said about the advice given instructors heading to the USA.....we're all so human:-) I think the article show Homma Sensei obviously cares about the long term health of his students and bases his observations on direct experience. It's a fine line to walk (or knee walk in this case). Again, I think there is value in suwari waza practise. As an instructor I think it is wise to allow individual students to decide if that kind of training is right for them. For myself, I will continue to train suwari waza techniques.

Cheers,

Russ

dalen7
02-17-2009, 03:43 PM
Some people look like they glide when they do it, and it looks really nice.

Personally, I hate it - it bothers my knee, in fact I couldnt walk for about a week after doing suwari waza once.

Suwari waza seems cool enough, but I am not overly bent on doing it. Though if I learned a way, or strengthened my legs up to handle it, I might have more of a go at it.

As far as someone mentioned about ikkyo, nikkyo, etc. - thats not as much as doing full techniques in suwari waza...so, in that case, it doesnt really bother me. Besides, we dont even have to go down to our knees when doing the pins - just rest the arm on the back of the leg and pin, and it is truly effective. (faster and I prefer it over the traditional method of pinning. Good control as well.)

Peace

dAlen

dalen7
02-17-2009, 03:59 PM
Here's an article by Gaku Homma Sensei, explaining why he does not allow suwariwaza to be practiced in his dojo. He believes that it is harmful to one's body and is of little benefit.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_articles/07/no_suwariwaza/no_suwariwaza.html

Hey Dan,

Read the article - it was a good read and is totally logical.
Suppose we need to sit back sometimes and reevaluate what we are doing and why...and see if there is not an alternative way to go about it.

Truth be said, I can imagine if I ever teach, that my dojo would be shikko free, for the most part. (As I mentioned, there is even adequate ways to pin ikkyo, etc., without going to the ground.)

Thanks for the link - booked marked. :)

Peace

dAlen

Janet Rosen
02-17-2009, 03:59 PM
I'm glad that I learned suwariwaza techniques as a middle-aged person w/ (then) healthy knees. Since my first knee injury (not related to suwariwaza or shikko), I have refused to go into seiza even to bow in because of the "bone on bone" issue.

The quote in the Homma article that nails it for me is "Some instructors claim that suwariwaza practice builds and conditions leg muscles and joints. I say no, it is the opposite; good conditioning builds legs capable of suwariwaza practice."

In an idealized dojo, I'd say teaching suwariwaza ikkyo through sankyo to healthy beginners would be a valuable exercise but other than that everything would be off the knees.

Brett Charvat
02-17-2009, 07:08 PM
Like all aspects of training, I think shikko gets a bad rap less because of its inherent problems and more because of the problems of those who think they know how to do it but do not. I used to think I knew how to do shikko. For more than ten years, I was wrong. Maybe I'm still wrong; who knows? But at least now I've been exposed to a slightly different way to do shikko that does not stress my knees, or my hips, or my ankles, or any part of my body.

If you run incorrectly, you will most likely damage your legs in some way. If you run correctly, you will not. Is it the fault of running that some people hurt their legs while running?

mathewjgano
02-18-2009, 01:19 AM
5. My opinion is Shikko walking should be eliminated from Aikido for the sake of protecting our hip joints. It is a tradition in Japan that we don't need to include for the rest of the world.
6. Your Opinion?

Dr. Randy Sexton aka "Doc"

Is the exercise itself what causes the damage or is it inconsistant or over-done practice? I know a lot of folks get the idea that they need to learn how to ignore the pain instead of listening to it, for example, or they will not warm up very well.
Granted I'm only 31, but I would feel pain in my hips from running, but not shikko...why is that? If it's more the torque than the impact that causes damage, then shouldn't I feel achy like my elbow does after throwing curve balls?
Confused (but what else is new:D ),
Matt

Ketsan
02-18-2009, 09:31 AM
Is the exercise itself what causes the damage or is it inconsistant or over-done practice? I know a lot of folks get the idea that they need to learn how to ignore the pain instead of listening to it, for example, or they will not warm up very well.
Granted I'm only 31, but I would feel pain in my hips from running, but not shikko...why is that? If it's more the torque than the impact that causes damage, then shouldn't I feel achy like my elbow does after throwing curve balls?
Confused (but what else is new:D ),
Matt

Yeah. Most places I've trained if suwari waza is being taught, there's a grading in the next two weeks.

mathewjgano
02-18-2009, 10:05 AM
Yeah. Most places I've trained if suwari waza is being taught, there's a grading in the next two weeks.

Is that because it's inherently bad or do you think people simply don't practice it consistently? I became very comfortable doing suwariwaza and didn't sense any damage being done, but of course that doesn't mean it wasn't happening. I'd hate to think all those games of shikko-roll freeze tag were doing damage...having taught kids' classes a while back, I played more than a few.:uch:

Jonathan
02-18-2009, 11:21 AM
I and my students do a little bit (about 10 minutes) of shikko/suwari waza practice nearly every session. For those with pre-existing knee problems or who experience pain (as opposed to simple discomfort that comes from performing unfamiliar actions or vigorous exercise) doing knee walking, I recommend knee pads or standing practice.

I have been doing Aikido now for twenty years and I can feel the accumulated negative effect of all the seiza and shikko I have done. For this reason I refuse to do the kind of shikko and suwari waza practice with my students that I once did. As Russ Q said, "consistent but moderate" is the way to go, I think. I see the increasing difficulty that my shihan has with his knees and I'm doubly convinced that shikko/suwari waza should be moderately trained.

Jon.

Randy Sexton
02-20-2009, 09:19 AM
Thank you for all the wonderful feedback. Some great thoughts.
Lots to consider in how we want to approach Shikko on a personal level and in our Dojo teaching.

Doc:)

Sy Labthavikul
02-20-2009, 09:53 AM
Does anyone have a friend who is a kinesiologist, works in sports medicine, or otherwise knowledgeable enough to determine whether a given movement is safe? It'd be interesting to hear what they have to say about shikko and suwariwaza.

Michael Douglas
02-20-2009, 10:26 AM
Here's an article by Gaku Homma Sensei, explaining why he does not allow suwariwaza to be practiced in his dojo. He believes that it is harmful to one's body and is of little benefit.

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_articles/07/no_suwariwaza/no_suwariwaza.html
You've been thanked already, quoted even.
Thanks again from me, that guy is on theball!
Many powerful quotes in that article, my favourite ;
There are not ANY Aikido techniques that truly, physically force a person to fly into a break roll, even without any resistance. The true reality is that ukemi in our Aikido practice is a partnership.

Janet Rosen
02-20-2009, 01:38 PM
Does anyone have a friend who is a kinesiologist, works in sports medicine, or otherwise knowledgeable enough to determine whether a given movement is safe? It'd be interesting to hear what they have to say about shikko and suwariwaza.
My orthopedist and his PA feel that the internal pressure created within the knee joint combined with the shearing force of lateral movement make it very high risk.

Carol Shifflett
02-20-2009, 06:20 PM
Does anyone have a friend who is a kinesiologist, works in sports medicine, or otherwise knowledgeable enough to determine whether a given movement is safe? It'd be interesting to hear what they have to say about shikko and suwariwaza.

How about observations from an anthropologist who got to look at the ultimate results of knee-walking in the form of skeletal damage?

If you are not warned by the large numbers of elder Aikidoists with bad knees, please consider the findings of anthropologist Susan G. Sheridan who studied the bones of some 6,000 monks from the Byzantine monastery of St. Stephen c. 500 A.D. "The healthiest population I've ever studied," says Sheridan, "except in one respect almost all the monks seem to have had arthritic knees."
The monks of St. Stephen's did a great deal of kneeling and knee-walking to the point that the insides of the kneecaps were rubbed smooth by impact with their thighbones. One monk wrote of descending 18 steps into a holy cave, with 100 genuflections on each step, a practice he did nightly across hard stone pavement.

-- Research by Sheridan reported in Discover magazine, September 1997.

I doubt anyone does this kind of workout at the dojo, OTOH, a far lower degree of nightly trauma can still be cumulative. You can wear knee pads, but they won't pad the inside of your kneecap.

I think it's useful to take a long hard look at senior instructors and decide if we really want to go there. Knee-walking is very cool and a useful skill and all, but I think I'd rather have working knees.

Cheers!
Carol

mathewjgano
02-21-2009, 11:29 AM
How about observations from an anthropologist who got to look at the ultimate results of knee-walking in the form of skeletal damage?

If you are not warned by the large numbers of elder Aikidoists with bad knees, please consider the findings of anthropologist Susan G. Sheridan who studied the bones of some 6,000 monks from the Byzantine monastery of St. Stephen c. 500 A.D. "The healthiest population I've ever studied," says Sheridan, "except in one respect almost all the monks seem to have had arthritic knees."
The monks of St. Stephen's did a great deal of kneeling and knee-walking to the point that the insides of the kneecaps were rubbed smooth by impact with their thighbones. One monk wrote of descending 18 steps into a holy cave, with 100 genuflections on each step, a practice he did nightly across hard stone pavement.

-- Research by Sheridan reported in Discover magazine, September 1997.

I doubt anyone does this kind of workout at the dojo, OTOH, a far lower degree of nightly trauma can still be cumulative. You can wear knee pads, but they won't pad the inside of your kneecap.

I think it's useful to take a long hard look at senior instructors and decide if we really want to go there. Knee-walking is very cool and a useful skill and all, but I think I'd rather have working knees.

Cheers!
Carol

Now we're getting somewhere! Thank you for that study reference! I've got some reading to do.:D
Cheers!
Matt

JimCooper
02-23-2009, 07:02 AM
Your Opinion?


It seems to me that this is more a question of repetition than anything. Almost all the senior karateka I've met have problems with knees and hips, largely due to overdoing kicking for many years. Dojo these days tend not to do the "thousand kick" training these people went through.

In the cricket world, wicketkeepers have bad knees for the same reason. All that crouching down and getting up again, hundreds of times in a day.

Many runners have to give up running because of long-term cumulative damage (search medical sites for "runner's knee" for references).

Cumulative damage is often hard to spot at the time, especially when you're young.

My personal view is that my knees are more important than being able to perform suwari-waza, so I rarely do it.

If you must do these things, then correct technique is very important. And never do any exercise that causes pain in the knee joint, even if other people can do it.

James Edwards
02-26-2009, 03:33 PM
Personally I quite like suwari-waza (less so hanmi handachi). Only if my knees were still in good shape.. and no they weren't injured from shikko. One was from taking ukemi and the other from outside aikido.

Anyway, I think suwari-waza should not be thrown away just like that from aikido. Other than tradition, it is also a good training tool. Conditions your legs, centre, teaches you to generate power from the ground instead of floating somewhere else.

As with the monks, I'm not sure if they did the same type of knee-walking as the Japanese. As long as you do it correctly, control the descent of your knee (using your quads and not bashing it into the ground) and carefully (on mats, not on stone pavements!) I think you can avoid damage to your knees.

I also agree with Mr. Soroko and Qureshi. And what about knee-walking as a part of Japanese and Aikido tradition and form? I believe a lot of dojos have students doing ceremonial knee walking when receiving a certificate or presenting a gift.

The hombu dojo has put aside many aikido traditions such as weapons training, intensive use of atemi and some dangerous techniques, yet they still keep the suwari-waza tradition. It must have some benefits don't you think?

Janet Rosen
02-26-2009, 08:05 PM
...yet they still keep the suwari-waza tradition. It must have some benefits don't you think?
Nope.
Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it is healthy or sensible.

James Edwards
02-27-2009, 04:32 AM
Nope.
Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it is healthy or sensible.

That's a very dismissive response. Yes it does not meant it is healthy or sensible but what about the other points that I brought up?

In my point of view, suwari-waza has its martial significance and when done correctly it does not have to result in bodily damage. If you already have an injury, that's fine avoiding kneeling techniques but if a young beginner is taught from the start the correct way and conditioned properly for it, it can be a good conditioning tool.

Dazzler
02-27-2009, 04:52 AM
Nope.
Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it is healthy or sensible.

Very true.

Just because something is traditional doesn't mean it isn't healthy or sensible either.

I love suwari waza and hanmi handachi work and will always teach them...but in moderation.

I always stop when the first one starts to bleed:cool: ...but we do have a cream canvas tatami so thats understandable.:eek:

Regards

D

Randy Sexton
02-27-2009, 07:46 AM
IMHO My personal concern is not from performing suwari-waza techniques or temporarily being in seiza position.

My concern is in doing and teaching shikko walking as a routine part of moving around the mat and the practice of having students shikko walk around the mat as part of training in what I feel is a misguided attempt to strengthen muscles, loosen joints, and teach balance. There are much better exercises to loosen and strengthen and teach balance.

Bottom line, look and listen to our Shihans and see how many of them can still do shikko walking without excruciation pain; if they can still do it at all. What I see is our great teachers suffering from having had to learn and perform techniques that ultimately have done tremendous damage to their hip and knees to the point I see pain on their faces when they bow in and out of class and try to maintain their dignity sitting in seiza. Not to mention the struggle going down and standing up from seiza. It breaks my heart that the men and women who suffered so much to learn this great art, and be able to pass it on to us, are now having to pay the price in pain on a daily basis.

As for me, I will do that which is required but will use my common sense in deciding how much my body can handle. I intend to stay in the game but I can not play if I can not walk.

Doc
Dr. Randy Sexton

Dazzler
02-27-2009, 08:04 AM
Trouble with common sense Doc is that its not that common :)

I'm training with Sensei Bernard Harding this weekend in Bristol , aka the nimble kneed ninja from neath...he fits flooring for a living and is continually on his knees...also has to beg his wife to go training too so gets extra practice there.

Anyway ..

He certainly has no problems after 30 years or more doing kneework - I'd love to be able move like him.

Also watched some footage of Shioda recently. He was like a human hovercraft ! No sign of problems there either although the Yoshinkan members might know different.

Moderation though must be the key? Neither of the above are/were huge men but I do train with two ex-rugby men who both suffer as do a lot of footballers.

I guess listen to your body is the answer - if it hurts don't do it.

Cheers

D

mathewjgano
02-27-2009, 09:41 AM
Trouble with common sense Doc is that its not that common :)

I'm training with Sensei Bernard Harding this weekend in Bristol , aka the nimble kneed ninja from neath...he fits flooring for a living and is continually on his knees...also has to beg his wife to go training too so gets extra practice there.

Anyway ..

He certainly has no problems after 30 years or more doing kneework - I'd love to be able move like him.

Also watched some footage of Shioda recently. He was like a human hovercraft ! No sign of problems there either although the Yoshinkan members might know different.

Moderation though must be the key? Neither of the above are/were huge men but I do train with two ex-rugby men who both suffer as do a lot of footballers.

I guess listen to your body is the answer - if it hurts don't do it.

Cheers

D
This is part of why I was a little shocked at the idea that shikko is bad. My sense of learning shikko was that when it was practiced regularly and mindfully, it wasn't the least bit painfull. Granted I was in my early twenties when I trained hard, but I had been plagued with chronic ankle, knee and hip pains since playing soccer on astroturf in highschool. It was so bad that after games I walked up stairs like I was70 years old...no exageration. I never experienced anything remotely like that practicing shikko.
The study on Byzentine monks refferenced above certainly provides compelling evidence on the accumulative wearing down of the knees for one set of practices. I can imagine their sense of penance might have had something to do with their condition, though that's almost pure speculation on my part. I do assume, however, unless the knee-walking was done in an identical (or near enough) way, we can't necessarily assume the same or similar results.
There's some pretty compelling evidence all around us for how potentially damaging shikko/seiza can be. It's been mentioned as one of main reasons for not doing large amounts of shikko/seiza, and I think it's safe to say the knees aren't generally as strong later in life so for almost that reason alone can I agree. I know I haven't seen a lot of older folks practicing them comfortably, so there's certainly a trend worth paying attention to.
Now that I haven't trained consistenly for some time now, I can't just fly around like I did before. However, when I did practice regularly, "gliding" seemed to be the key to low-impact results. As I said, I've experienced a lot of chronic leg/hip pain...to the point that I pay very close attention to what I feel inside my body. It's a little shocking to think of shikko/seiza as fundementally flawed because I experienced almost no knee strain when I began Aikido. In fact, my sense of Aikido practice is that it's amazingly restorative so I'm fairly keen on finding something definitive here. Skiing is my first love and I intend on using my knees for years and years to come.

Janet Rosen
02-27-2009, 12:00 PM
That's a very dismissive response. Yes it does not meant it is healthy or sensible but what about the other points that I brought up?

In my point of view, suwari-waza has its martial significance and when done correctly it does not have to result in bodily damage. If you already have an injury, that's fine avoiding kneeling techniques but if a young beginner is taught from the start the correct way and conditioned properly for it, it can be a good conditioning tool.
Yes, James, and had you read my earlier comments that's pretty much what I'd opined.

apollosperson
03-04-2009, 06:17 PM
Shikko is a foundation for the footwork of our art. It teaches us to move with our one point, and makes it harder for those of us who can cheat with force to do so. I know it isn't fun, but when practiced properly, isn't really painful, only partially. :) O'sensei also said we should practice shikko regularly. Also, much to my orthopedic surgeon's dismay, I shikko.on a regular basis. It actually helps keep me mobile, and I have had my ACL repaired twice.

Luc X Saroufim
03-05-2009, 02:59 AM
i have been sidelined for the last month because of inflammation in my right knee. it has forced me to reconsider how important some "traditions" are, especially when i plan to train for a very long time.

some people can train their entire lives with no joint problems, but i found out i'm in the other camp.

Joe Bowen
03-05-2009, 03:31 AM
I'm not the greatest fan of Shikko, mind you, but I do feel that there is a real value of doing it. While there may be wear and tear on the joints through this practice, it may not always be debilitating and the effects may vary. For instance, look at Kobayashi Yasuo Shihan. He's over seventy years of age, has been practicing Aikido for over 50 years, still moves incredibly on his knees and is even willing to take breakfalls out of koshinage. Shikko can't be that damaging, if he's still capable of doing what he does...

chuunen baka
03-05-2009, 10:12 AM
I'm not the greatest fan of Shikko, mind you, but I do feel that there is a real value of doing it. While there may be wear and tear on the joints through this practice, it may not always be debilitating and the effects may vary. For instance, look at Kobayashi Yasuo Shihan. He's over seventy years of age, has been practicing Aikido for over 50 years, still moves incredibly on his knees and is even willing to take breakfalls out of koshinage. Shikko can't be that damaging, if he's still capable of doing what he does...
Well, you know there are always examples of older folk who survive healthily despite their bad habits - smoking, drinking or shikko. Some people just seem to be indestructible. Most of us are not.

Joe Bowen
03-05-2009, 11:24 AM
Well, you know there are always examples of older folk who survive healthily despite their bad habits - smoking, drinking or shikko. Some people just seem to be indestructible. Most of us are not.

Maybe that's the actual "Ki" (pun intended) to the whole thing! If you drink heartily you actually lubricate the joints and keep them supple! :D

kironin
03-05-2009, 12:01 PM
well, I guess my knees are screwed since I have to do it for Iaido as well as aikido. So far, being nearly 50 I have had no real problems.

I try to be careful about things like twisting motions and such.

try sitting in tate-hiza for a while.

and interesting situation recently in class on randori,

a student was moving so much that she couldn't throw so had her do the randori from kiza position and she did much better. It was a good lesson.