View Full Version : Seiza!

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Jack Robertson
02-19-2004, 06:32 PM
I see many people sitting comfortably in seiza.

For some reason, whenever I sit in seiza it just hurts. I can never relax. If I try to go all the way down and actually sit, I get pain in my legs.

I'm a decently flexible person. Is this pain coming from lack of flexibility in a certain area? If so, what stretch can I do to improve it?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks : )

Tom Wolowiec
02-19-2004, 10:22 PM
Where does it hurt, exactly?

Jack Robertson
02-19-2004, 10:32 PM
It hurts in the area above the knee or maybe even the knee itself.

I'm a shotputter so my legs are pretty big. I can't seem to sit. The more I try to go down, the more pain comes.

Jamie Stokes
02-19-2004, 11:09 PM
Hello Jack,

had a similar problem when I first started, although that was due to a bone chip in my knee.

I recognize the location, and am getting used to a similar sensation. (spent seven months off the mat due to work commitments)

As for flexibility, given that you are a shot putter, I guess that the muscles are developed for explosive release of energy.(proper term escapes me now)

Flexibility exercises. well, I found that stretching/ warm up exercises will help relax the muscles and tendons to allow seiza.

Stretching the ham strings, thigh muscles (as per countless manuals) then trying to sit in seiza. Even if you only manage 10 seconds first go, then release, thats a start.

It might take a while before you can sit in seiza. or given your build, you may have to modify movements till you can flex enough to sit in seiza.

Of course, I must admit that Japanese that have sat in seiza since childbirth seem so comfortable with it for so long, that I almost feel envious.

Just take it as it comes, don't try and force yourself too fast, hurting yourself never makes sense. (just be patient, and expect the flexibility to come in terms of months.)

Warmest regards,


PS can you sit cross legged OK?

Chris Birke
02-19-2004, 11:15 PM
Quite often excess muscle can lead to cutting off of the blood supply when pressured. When I sleep on my back with my arms crossed upon my chest, I often awake to them being painfully numb.

It sounds to me like your excess muscle is directly putting stress on the tendons (and perhaps additionally cutting off the blood supply, but usually there is a grace period before you feel that, and a distinctive feeling of flooding releif when you reorient yourself). I know thats an absolute possiblity in some people (often limiting range of motion in general) and I know it makes applying bicep crushes much easier.

Maybe someone has a magic cure for you, but you might just have to sit rudely. Perhaps, if it is only tendons, gradually sitting in seiza will eventually loosen you to comfort, perhaps not (it did take me a few weeks before I could sit that way for any long period of time).


I wonder how many 300 lb. bikers on angel dust Guru Plinck has tested his theory on? I'm not saying he is wrong. I am saying I would like to have a higher degree of confidence that he is right before I would personally want to take on a 300 lb. biker or Samoan, on or off angel dust. The fact that Guru Plinck's assistants are a bit on the small side doesn't boost the credibility of his claims.


There are people who believe forms are useful and there are people who don't. Among the latter group there are people who believe they are useless and people who believe they are actually counterproductive. My view is that they are useful in some ways, useless in others, and counterproductive in others, but mostly a waste of time, in terms of opportunity cost, and that there is no substitute for a live opponent doing the actual thing that you are training for or as close to it as you can safely get. Obviously, it is too dangerous to really do this in some cases, but a martial art that does not have a way to combine realism with safety is missing a necessary element.

02-20-2004, 06:57 AM
I'm a shotputter so my legs are pretty big. I can't seem to sit. The more I try to go down, the more pain comes.

What you've described seems to be a flexibility issue. It could be from, but not limited to, hamstrings or hips.

Here's a question to you. You describe yourself as a shotputter. Is shotputting more important than aikido? If it is, talk to your instructor, forget about sitting in seiza and sit in a manner that is comfortable and respectful for you and your dojo. If aikido is more important than shotputting, talk to your instructor, work on your flexibility and do as best you can, changing to a comfortable and respectful manner of sitting when seiza becomes to painful.



Chad Sloman
02-20-2004, 08:00 AM
I get it bad in my ankles, how do I help that? Most of the time when I sit in seiza I have to cross my feet in the back. Is that bad form?

Jack Robertson
02-20-2004, 10:09 AM
Hi everyone,

I appreciate all your replies!

I think that the pain is coming from my dominant knee (right). I tried pulling my left leg to myself and I can do it with no real pain. But when I try it with my right, I can't get it to myself.

So it looks I have to mostly work on the right leg.

As for whether shotputting or Aikido is more important, Aikido is the clear winner. Although shotput is still VERY important because it's part of my ticket into a good college.

Chard, my friend had a similiar pain in his ankles. He said that it eventually leaves after a while. I'm no expert, but I think crossing feet in the back is bad form.

Thanks again for everyones help: )

Jack Robertson
02-20-2004, 10:12 AM
Opps, I meant to say *Chad in my post above, not Chard.

Fred Little
02-20-2004, 10:19 AM
I get it bad in my ankles, how do I help that? Most of the time when I sit in seiza I have to cross my feet in the back. Is that bad form?
Though it initially looks like a mechanically simple practice, seiza (proper sitting) has a great many underlying layers of issues.

One basic question might be: is seiza a position of "fully at rest" or is it "dynamic?"

I've found that, even if my back is straight, total surrender of my body weight to gravity tends increase the pressure at the ankles. Even a very slight tendency to lean back will increase it more.

One trick that I have used to extend the amount of time I can sit in seiza is to treat it as an apparently still, but actually dynamic posture from which I can move quickly.

In practice, what this means is that while apparently sitting, I may in fact be using my legs to hold my weight up just enough so that someone could stand behind me and easily a slip a piece of cardboard between my heels and my butt. Practice with a friend to see how much tension in the legs is actually required to achieve this posture.

From there, practice controlled lowering of the upper body. Working carefully over time, you should be able to transfer a good bit of the pressure that you are currently feeling in your ankles forward toward the knee, distributing it more evenly across the shin bone.

In combination with very slight internal shifts of weight from side to side, you can also shift the pressure from leg to leg, allowing you to work one harder while giving the other something of a rest.

While I initially started playing with this simply to extend the amount of time I can sit in seiza, I've found that there is quite a bit of crossover into suwari-waza and kokyu-dosa, where the ability to transfer weight internally without any externally visible evidence translates into more effective technique.

Another set of tricks that can go directly to joint strength and bearing capacity (whether ankle, elbow, wrist, or what have you) is one I picked up while rehabbing some injuries in physical therapy: vary the way you execute the standard stretching exercises, sometimes treating them as isometric exercises in which the part being stretched actively resists the stretch by extension. Often, after several repetitions using dynamic isometric resistance, the relaxation and flexibility range is extended as well.

Hope this helps,

Fred Little

Ian Upstone
02-20-2004, 10:23 AM
Yoshinkai recommend sitting with the left big toe crossing over the right one... I've no idea about other schools of aikido, but that seems pretty specific if you ask me! I'm sure that there are variations and allowances for people of different shapes and sizes.

When I first started to sit in seiza I remember finding it very painful indeed. I couldn't relax down as it was too painful and I used to sit with my bottom floating above my feet without making any contact for what seemed like ages! After a while the gap reduced, and then at some point it was possible to relax all my weight down in relative comfort. This took quite a while, as I was very inflexible and not used to kneeling when I started.

Eventually I got used to it, and a few years along I actually found sitting in seiza to be quite comfortable - even if it does cut off the circulation to the feet sitting in it for too long!

I think unless there is some valid reason (i.e. injury) for not sitting in seiza, you should force yourself. Sitting in seiza is like anything: By doing it you get used to it.



Chad Sloman
02-20-2004, 11:01 AM
wow Fred, that sounds like a good method, I'll start trying that

Brian Vickery
02-20-2004, 11:51 AM
I think unless there is some valid reason (i.e. injury) for not sitting in seiza, you should force yourself. Sitting in seiza is like anything: By doing it you get used to it.


Wow Ian!

...you Yoshinkai boys are really tough cookies! ;^)

(...just kidding! ...Ian is an old friend of mine & I just couldn't resist taking a poke at him!)

..it's great to see you in here my Friend!

Congrats on your recent promotion to Shodan!

Ian Upstone
02-20-2004, 12:23 PM
Hi Brian! Nice to see a familiar name!

Yes, we are tough cookies! (I conveniently left out the bit about crying after sessions where I've sat in seiza a long time...)

Thanks for the message. I'll email you rather than clog up this forum!

02-20-2004, 12:38 PM

That's a great method for working on one's seiza! I'll have to give that a shot. Being a bigger guy, I've had surprisingly little trouble adapting to sitting seiza, but my endurance for suwari waza needs a lot of work.


02-20-2004, 12:56 PM

It's just not a comfortable way to sit for long periods of time. The best I can do is just try to keep myself as loose and realaxed as possible and change positions when it becomes unbearable.

Janet Rosen
02-20-2004, 01:37 PM
Tightness above the knee, front of the thigh, is from quadriceps being tight. I recommend standing stretches such as you see runners do


Important that the hip (not the pelvis, the hip on the side being stretched) be extended back in order for all 4 parts of the quads to stretch.

Jack Robertson
02-20-2004, 01:45 PM
Hi Janet,

I'll give the quad stretch a try.

Thanks: )