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Old 07-26-2000, 09:22 PM   #1
Ken
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Ai symbol

I'm writing to ask if anyone has had problems with knee pain after a period of sitting in seiza.

I'm experiencing pain in my right knee after sustained sitting in seiza when my sensei is explaining a point at length, say 10 minutes. The pain seems to be located inside the knee and makes even walking up the stairs or getting out of the car painful. It usually lasts for a few days but as it appears to be a regular occurence, I'm wondering if I should be doing something different.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-26-2000, 11:08 PM   #2
akiy
 
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Not to be too flippant about it, but this reminds me of the old joke of the patient who goes to the doctor. While being examined, the patient moves his arms around and says, "Doctor, my arm hurts when I do this." The doctor turns to him and says, "Then don't do that."

I would say that if doing seiza hurts so much later, then don't sit that long in that position. Work your way up to it. If your teacher is talking away, then go ahead and change your sitting position to cross-legged.

I don't know of a single aikido teacher who has reprimanded anyone for having to change his or her sitting method. I'm sure that your teacher would rather have you with working knees, too. The best thing may be to let your teacher know about your condition and get his permission to sit out of seiza at times...

-- Jun

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Old 07-27-2000, 06:46 AM   #3
carlin
Dojo: Open Sky Aikikai
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I am intrigued by the posting on seiza. I am very interested in beginning aikido but it is difficult for me to sit in seiza. After about a minute, I feel pain on the tops of my feet and my lower shins. I am reluctant, however, to just sit cross-legged all the time.

Do others feel the same pain? Do those areas stretch or strengthen over time, lessening or ending the pain? If I sit seiza a little bit each day, will I be able to sit without discomfort?

Thanks for your time.

Mike
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Old 07-27-2000, 07:15 AM   #4
JJF
 
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I know the pain....

Hi!

I used to practice Kendo in a Dojo where the floor was concrete with a thin layer of vinyl on top. No mats that is. It was pretty tough on the knees.

Unfortunately out instructor would'nt accept anybody not sitting i Seiza, so we had our share of pain. He liked to talk for a long time as well - so sometimes when it was time for us to stand up and practice we looked like a bunch of old folks that couldn't find their canes.

Anyway - my point is: don't worry about not sitting in Seiza. Do it for as long as you can, and then shift position. Don't let the pain keep your attention from what your instructor is telling you. That would be far more insulting than sitting with your legs crossed. Eventually you will build up flexibility in your legs, and you will be able to sit in Seiza for some time, but don't let it bug you. Focus on your Aikido instead.

Have fun!

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 07-27-2000, 08:31 AM   #5
jxa127
Dojo: Itten Dojo -- Mechanicsburg, PA
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GO SEE A DOCTOR!!!!

While all the advise so far is good, I don't think it goes far enough. If you're having pain for a couple of days after an Aikido class, then you ought to see a doctor!

Go ahead and modify your training, but also find out what's wrong.

-Drew
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Old 07-27-2000, 09:06 AM   #6
BC
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Although everyone eventually get more flexible for sitting in seiza, I think that it still can be tough staying in that position for long periods of time. I know in my dojo, the only requirement is that you are in seiza to bow in and out, and if you're uncomfortable, it is acceptable to sit cross-legged. It's also considered bad manners to sit with your legs splayed out in front of you.

One story on seiza. Last year, on the last day of a week long summer camp, the guest instructor taught an hour long class on meditation at six in the morning - in seiza. After a week of practicing aikido for five classes a day, most people were pretty sore and stiff, especially early in the morning. Needless to say, the majority of people shifted between seiza and cross-legged positions during the class, except the yudansha in the first row and those folks who were exceptionally flexible and/or who had a strong tolerance for pain. One of my sempai told me that at seminars, if you're sitting in the first row, you HAVE to stay in seiza the whole time. One of the poor yudansha in the first row actually feinted during the class! Man, you should have seen everyone trying to stand up after the class, it looked like we were all crippled! In hindsight it was pretty amusing.
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Old 07-27-2000, 08:15 PM   #7
Ken
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Talking Seiza on bed

Thanks for all the great posts, guys.

Carlin, I had pain in the tops of my feet (insteps) and ankles too when I first started Aikido, but I practiced sitting in seiza at home on a thick blanket and on the bed which allowed me to stay that way for longer periods of time until I became more flexible. See if that works.
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Old 07-28-2000, 12:03 AM   #8
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: GO SEE A DOCTOR!!!!

Quote:
jxa127 wrote:
While all the advise so far is good, I don't think it goes far enough. If you're having pain for a couple of days after an Aikido class, then you ought to see a doctor!

Go ahead and modify your training, but also find out what's wrong.

-Drew
While it might be the case that there is "something wrong" I can't say that I know that many adults who start aikido and don't have their knees,feet, and/or legs hurt after sitting in seiza for very long. The issue is that we aren't Japanese and didn't start sitting that way when we were young. I have heard that even the young Japanese students today are having the same problems as they no longer are customarily sitting that way all the time at home etc. It is my opinion that seiza isn't good for the knees. If you have a knee problem it is best to avoid sitting that way as mush as possible. I tell me students that they only need to sit in seiza when we bow in and bow out. If they have any discomfort they should sit crosslegged at all other times. It is quite possible for your knees to adjust. After over twenty years I can sit for prolongued periods without lasting effect but I definitely am stiff when I get up, more so as I approach the advanced years. Anyway, your knees have to last you. There is no real value to pushing it when it comes to seiza. If you're in your twenties I suspect that you'll get used to it. After that I wouldn't try to get used to it.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-31-2000, 06:47 AM   #9
carlin
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Thanks to everyone who has replied. I am working on my tolerance for seiza by sitting on a bed. I'm a bit concerned about long-term damage to knees by sitting in seiza, although right now my knees don't hurt at all.

Mike Carlin
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Old 07-31-2000, 07:38 AM   #10
jxa127
Dojo: Itten Dojo -- Mechanicsburg, PA
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Quote:
"I'm a bit concerned about long-term damage to knees by sitting in seiza, although right now my knees don't hurt at all."
I'm glad you're knees don't hurt right now. However, I reiterate, if you're concerned about long-term effects of sitting seiza, go see a doctor.

I'm afraid that sensei Ledyard got the impression that I was implying that there must be something drastically wrong with you if you can't sit in seiza w/o pain. That's not the case. What prompted my suggestion was your description of having pain for one or two days after practice. That seems a bit more serious than the normal problems that most people have with seiza.

If you have good health insurance, seeing a doctor can't hurt, and it may help prolong your practice for many years to come. You may want to see a sports medicine doctor instead of a regular one. Sports medicine doctors will help you enjoy Aikido, while a regular doctor may tell you not to do it.

-Drew
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Old 07-31-2000, 07:54 PM   #11
Axiom
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I at first found seiza hideously uncomfortable when I started taking classes. I've been getting better at it, though my ankles are a bit stiff immediately afterwards. I think that not only does practice help, but trying a variety of different variations of seiza has helped- ie, spread your legs further apart, change the position of your feet, etc. Just sit down, and spend a few minutes finding the most comfortable way to sit.

I've also noticed that women have a much easier time(in general) with sitting in seiza. Though it could be that the women I have spoken to do it habitually.

Hope this helps,
Alex Magidow

_________
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind
-- Gandhi
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Old 08-22-2000, 05:23 PM   #12
Nick
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It's just something you have to get used to... fortuneately, I have discovered the budo at an age when stiffness is not a huge problem, however, in Aikido I do sit in seiza much more than in karate. In general there seiza was used only for formal occasions, such as belt promotions, etc. When I first started Aikido, I found it very painful to sit in seiza. However, if the budo have taught me anything as a naive young boy, it's if you can't do something, do it until you can. I started sitting in seiza as much as pssoible- opting for the floor in seiza rather than my quite comfortable leather couches, in ibuki-no-ho, and as much as I could in class. As a result I can sit in seiza for much longer periods than I previously could...

However, that's just me... if this doesn't work for ya, find something that does...

Kanpai,

-Nick

---
Nick Porter
"Do not fall into the trap of the artisan who boasts twenty years of experience, when in fact he has had only one year of experience-- twenty times."
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Old 08-28-2000, 08:57 AM   #13
Dan Hover
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Ai symbol nickels worth of advice

Ice, ice and I don't mean Baby. Make sure you are taking care of those knees before and after class, Icing them is probably the best thing, for short term relief, also I would consider spending the money and getting Knee pads, you will probably want to get the foam neoprene type, and if you can get the ones that are open in the back as the seem as if they would be more comfortable. ATM sells them in their classified section. I personnally do not own a pair, but I imagine someone out there might...

Dan Hover

of course that's my opinion, I could be wrong
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Old 08-28-2000, 02:36 PM   #14
Magma
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I found that I couldn't just sit seiza to practice sitting seiza. With nothing else going on, the discomfort I felt was all I thought about. Instead, I started doing little things in seiza (ironing clothes, reading a book). That way I could set small goals for myself - one more shirt, two more pages, etc.

Incidentally, I don't know if anyone can corroborate this, but I have been told in the past that part of the reason the seiza posture proliferated throughout feudal Japan was because it was painful and made moving difficult upon rising. For instance, if your responsibility were to protect your lord and a potential threat/enemy came to visit, by putting him in seiza you increased your chance of intervening should he attempt anything because you would be assured that he would be moving slower.

Food for thought, anyway

M

[Edited by Magma on August 28, 2000 at 02:48pm]

Tim
It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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Old 08-28-2000, 03:23 PM   #15
Dan Hover
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Quote:
Magma wrote:


Incidentally, I don't know if anyone can corroborate this, but I have been told in the past that part of the reason the seiza posture proliferated throughout feudal Japan was because it was painful and made moving difficult upon rising. For instance, if your responsibility were to protect your lord and a potential threat/enemy came to visit, by putting him in seiza you increased your chance of intervening should he attempt anything because you would be assured that he would be moving slower.

Food for thought, anyway

M

[Edited by Magma on August 28, 2000 at 02:48pm]
never heard that one, although I have heard that they sat in seiza because it was considered to be impolite to stand in the presence of the Daimyo, who usually sat on a raised dias, and to be taller than he was considered rude. Seems a little more believable than that.

Dan Hover

of course that's my opinion, I could be wrong
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Old 08-31-2000, 01:12 PM   #16
chillzATL
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It's rather odd for me. My knees have gotten bad, i'm not sure what is wrong with them, I should probably go check them out. But if I squat down, my knees ache really bad, but sitting in seiza is very relaxing on them. I guess my knee injury has nothing to do iwth bending them, it's the pressure of holding myself up on them that gets me.
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Old 09-04-2000, 02:59 AM   #17
JJF
 
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Go see a doctor!!!

It's probably something you do wrong. I used to have a similar problem because I often 'overstreched' my knees. When you do this it feels like the leg is relaxed, but actually all weight is carried by the knee and bone structure in stead of by the muscles (i think). I was told by a doctor to simply start paing a lot of attention to the position of my knees and in a couple of months I had changed my habits so that my knees are now a little bend at at (allmost) all times.

Another possible reason could be, that you twist your knee while doing some kind of footwork. Just like you back you knees can take a lot of hard work but they will only take a little abuse before they will alert you by pain.

Finally: If you sit a lot on a chair during day, and you feet can't quite reach the floor (flat feets on the floorsurface) then that will strain your knees too. Soulution: get a small stool (or one or two phonebooks tied together with duct tape) to give your feet the neccesary support.

Anyway: try to focus on the types of movements you knees do when the pain is beginning and go talk to a doctor about it. And remember to take good care of them. I have seen a couple of karate-ka's forced to leave karate due to bad knees and it's a sad sight.

Take care of yourself

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 09-04-2000, 05:39 AM   #18
Keith_S
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One thing no one has mentioned yet, so I may as well......

I've been advised several times that when sitting in seiza for a long period of time, not to get up quickly, take as long as is required to get feeling back in the feet and legs and let no one ruch you.

At one dojo I went to I was told that they'd had at least one case of a broken toe and a Japanese friend told me of a couple of cases of broken ankles when people got up too quickly.


Also, for what its worth, sitting in seiza can become "Comfortable" after a while. I practiced at home every day, slowly building up the length of time in seiza while watching TV or reading. After about nine months of this sitting in seiza is comfortable. The problem still remains of my feet going to sleep and after about 30 - 40 minutes I lose feeling in them. Does anybody have any suggestions for preventing this (apart from getting up).
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Old 09-04-2000, 08:00 PM   #19
Ken
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Talking Rock 'n Roll!

About what to do to help stop your legs from falling asleep: I was in Japan a coupla years ago and we had to sit in seiza for a long time while my dojo group was being graded. The Japanese chief examiner sat in seiza for more that an hour during that grading. When we were given a few minutes break to stretch our legs, we were all hobbling about like old men but all he did was to raise himself off his feet and rock backwards and forwards a few times on his knees before sinking down again into seiza and waiting for our return!

I've tried it and it does help a little. Let us know how you find it.

Cheers!
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Old 09-05-2000, 01:49 AM   #20
Keith_S
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Thanks I'll try it, but on the ocassions when I've sat in seiza for a long time getting up for a few minutes or trying a sly lean forward to take the weight off of my feet, has made it worse. The blood seems to ruch back in and the legs wake up.
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Old 09-06-2000, 04:15 AM   #21
pantera
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Unhappy I sprained my ankle a while ago and now it hurts

About 3 months ago I sprained my ankle. This did not happen in a Aikido class but it happened about 2 months after I started. At that time I still had diffuculty with sitting ins seiza for any length of time longer than 5 minutes, but I was getting better.

Then I sprained my ankle BAD. Now I find that my ankle cannot cope with seiza anymore. My other ankle can sit in seiza for longer (up to 15 minutes) and what I also sometimes do is to fold the bad ankle in under the good one to relieve some of the bad ankle's pain. I am worried however that my bad ankle will stay bad and not heal properly.

Has anyone had a similar experiance and know what I can do to make it better ?

"And in the Darkness of your eyes a
star is born..."
unknown (to me)

Pieter Breed
Stellenbosch University
South Africa
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Old 09-06-2000, 08:03 AM   #22
Magma
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Unhappy Ankle Injuries

I too, have blown an ankle... twice. Both times were very bad. The number one thing you can do to heal it is get physical therapy. Shortly after your injury is the best time to induce healing in the joint, so don't let the opportunity pass. If you don't take the proper steps now, you may develop a weakness in the joint that will compound itself into hip/pelvis/lower back problems later.

That's regardless of sitting in seiza. But I think the ankle's inability to sit in seiza is a symptom of the healing that still needs to happen there. As your ankle gets stronger you'll have less and less pain sitting in seiza.

Both of my blowouts happened before I started aikido, but I have had one minor twist since. I felt that injury in my seiza for nearly a month and a half, so don't rush this one. If you are uncomfortable, change your sitting posture, and let the sensei know later. Everybody has had an issue with seiza at one point in their career.

M.

Tim
It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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