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Old 07-16-2013, 05:25 PM   #1
Chonin
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Suwari Waza

I'm sure this has been addressed before but I would appreciate any thoughts on the subject. I'm far from testing for my 4th Kyu but it will come with continued practice. Suwari waza is tough on the knees.

Advice?
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Old 07-16-2013, 05:33 PM   #2
Cliff Judge
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Charles Edwards wrote: View Post
I'm sure this has been addressed before but I would appreciate any thoughts on the subject. I'm far from testing for my 4th Kyu but it will come with continued practice. Suwari waza is tough on the knees.

Advice?
Figure out what muscles are tight and/or weak, and take some time to warm and stretch them every day. use a foam roller or the like if they are particularly tight.

Practice sitting in seiza. You might want to practice squatting also, that seems like it has helped me.
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:37 PM   #3
Matt Fisher
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Charles Edwards wrote: View Post
Suwari waza is tough on the knees.

Advice?
Back when my knees and body could do suwari waza, 5 minutes on a regular basis (even as little as once a week) made an enormous difference in how tough it was on my knees. The other thing that made a difference - and this is a complement to Cliff's suggestion about finding the muscles that are tight or weak - was learning at some point to keep my weight over my feet and moving my feet through the center point. Before that, I tended to swing my feet around and "lean" onto my knees. Both of those mistakes made suwari waza much more work and much harder on various points of my body (like knees).

Ikeda Sensei's video/DVD on suwari waza (titled "Za") is a good resource.

Matt
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Old 07-17-2013, 01:53 AM   #4
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Matt Fisher wrote: View Post

Ikeda Sensei's video/DVD on suwari waza (titled "Za") is a good resource.

Matt
Hmm...and how are Ikeda's knees doing today?

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 06:34 AM   #5
PhilMyKi
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Re: Suwari Waza

For me suwari waza is a good learning and conditioning tool. By this I mean at the absolute top level it encourages hip movement that when applied when standing makes technique better / cleaner and it is great for building core strength IMHO. But we, in the western world, do not kneel much beyond primary school so kneeling and moving around with grace it can be a big ask...

I don't mind little and often but honestly can not survive more than twenty minutes without my knees screaming out in discomfort. Besides hakama can be an expensive bit of kit and sliding and pivoting on a canvas covered mat wrecks the fabric at the knees

Vorsprung durch Aikido!
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Old 07-17-2013, 09:03 AM   #6
Walter Martindale
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Re: Suwari Waza

Try to spend some time each day just sitting in seiza. back straight, good posture. As a "westerner" who didn't grow up using seiza as a regular seated posture, it will never be as comfortable for you (me too) as someone who, growing up in Japan, has lived it in his/her culture. I understand that modern Japan sees seiza less frequently used - I wonder if that's causing "westernization" of their knees?...

Hakama do cost - if you get the really fancy indigo-dyed cotton hakama, you'll wear through the knees fairly quickly. If you get the less expensive "Techron" (whatever that is) from, say, Tozando, they'll last longer, dye won't run, and you can even buy hakama with relatively permanent pleats. Wearing hakama for suwari-waza makes it easier on your knees because the gi pants and the hakama material tend to slip against each other more easily than your knees (especially when sweaty) and cotton pants slip over the material of the mats.

I found that when in dojo that let/required us to wear hakama my knees fared better. And yes, when the shihan decides to go on a 20 minute rant about how yudansha are expected to protect partners and mudansha and to pass on the best aikido we can, the knees HURT and the legs don't work that well for a few moments after getting back up.
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Old 07-17-2013, 10:15 AM   #7
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
Try to spend some time each day just sitting in seiza. back straight, good posture. As a "westerner" who didn't grow up using seiza as a regular seated posture, it will never be as comfortable for you (me too) as someone who, growing up in Japan, has lived it in his/her culture. I understand that modern Japan sees seiza less frequently used - I wonder if that's causing "westernization" of their knees?...
My experience with Japanese - even the older generation, is that seiza isn't really any more comfortable for them than it is for anybody else. They're just a little more accustomed to the idea, that's all.

For example, making school children sit in seiza used to be a popular form of corporeal punishment.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 12:13 PM   #8
Cliff Judge
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
My experience with Japanese - even the older generation, is that seiza isn't really any more comfortable for them than it is for anybody else. They're just a little more accustomed to the idea, that's all.

For example, making school children sit in seiza used to be a popular form of corporeal punishment.

Best,

Chris
The issue with many folks who did not grow up sitting seiza is not that it is uncomfortable, but that it is actually piercingly, acutely painful.

Different people's legs grow differently - I know plenty of Westerners who have long quads and hamstrings, small calves, and sufficiently flexible ankles to sit in seiza with no problem, even if they don't do it much until they are adults. But I have never heard from a Japanese person who actually felt intense pain sitting in seiza who had not had an injury.

Last edited by Cliff Judge : 07-17-2013 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 07-17-2013, 12:17 PM   #9
Gerardo Torres
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Re: Suwari Waza

My best advice for suwari waza is: don't do it. It's just bad for your knees and body. It's one of those things we do because we're told to do it (aka "tradition"), but other than "tempering the spirit through physical punishment" there is little to no martial benefit from training suwari waza that cannot be achieved standing. Mind you, I did a lot of suwariwaza in aikido... I'm just doing less and less of it these days as I try to avoid destroying my body like so many aikido veterans have.

If you must practice suwariwaza, some bits of advice:

Keep posture straight focusing balance from the spine rather than being double weighted and shift weight from knee to knee. This will relieve pressure from the knees as you move as the weight is better distributed and controlled.

Wear knee pads so knees don't grind too hard on the floor (not too thick ones as they might prop your posture back).

Keep everything connected; activate legs and arms connected to center, so when you move everything moves together. Do not move from the hips, move from the center in a connected manner. Connected legs (and arms) make you stronger and more efficient, so you don't tax individual body parts as much while moving. If you know how, spiraling and opening/closing the legs instead of just flexing would make you even stronger and more efficient.

Keep eyes up (don't look down on the floor in front of you). This will help you keep good posture.

Remain "active", as you move in suwari waza; do not let your hips go up and down too much as you walk, instead maintain hips at the same horizontal level as much as possible. (The same applies to tachi-waza btw: don't let the hips go up and down as you move.) Going from rest (letting the butt rest on or near the heels) then raising to a full step puts a lot of stress on the muscles and knees. Even if you're just sitting seiza, don't slouch or let the weight rest, remain "active" in a "ready" position; think of the iai-goshi posture which is a combative "ready" position.

Last edited by Gerardo Torres : 07-17-2013 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 07-17-2013, 01:28 PM   #10
Janet Rosen
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Re: Suwari Waza

Darn good advice!
I even do my kokyudosa crosslegged nowadays (talk about learning the difference between hips and center...)
I will add: even more helpful than kneepads is adding additional padding to the dogi pants. I did a how to column on this in the Mirror many years ago - basically you make a couple of huge rectangular patches of cotton fabric to affix inside the pants legs and quilt into them a slightly smaller rectangle of Pellon Fleece. You position it just under where your knees are - you will notice that your pants legs slide up as you kneel so the padding really is needed lower than your knee when you are standing.
I did this back in the days when I still had good knees and it was wonderful for suwariwaza (and also awkward landings from ikkyo) - like pivoting on a potholder!

Quote:
Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post
My best advice for suwari waza is: don't do it. It's just bad for your knees and body. It's one of those things we do because we're told to do it (aka "tradition"), but other than "tempering the spirit through physical punishment" there is little to no martial benefit from training suwari waza that cannot be achieved standing. Mind you, I did a lot of suwariwaza in aikido... I'm just doing less and less of it these days as I try to avoid destroying my body like so many aikido veterans have.

If you must practice suwariwaza, some bits of advice:

Janet Rosen
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Old 07-17-2013, 01:29 PM   #11
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
But I have never heard from a Japanese person who actually felt intense pain sitting in seiza who had not had an injury.
I have.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 01:38 PM   #12
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post
My best advice for suwari waza is: don't do it. It's just bad for your knees and body. It's one of those things we do because we're told to do it (aka "tradition"), but other than "tempering the spirit through physical punishment" there is little to no martial benefit from training suwari waza that cannot be achieved standing. Mind you, I did a lot of suwariwaza in aikido... I'm just doing less and less of it these days as I try to avoid destroying my body like so many aikido veterans have.
Personally, I don't think that it's really a tradition - it's a combination of smooth canvas mats (which encouraged the practice) and young students (whose knees could hold up to the training) after the war.

The young guys on smooth mats introduced a lot more movement than existed previously. If you look at Daito-ryu and other traditional schools there was very little of the moving around on your knees that you see in Aikido today.

Yasuo Kobayashi used to say that he was the one who introduced shikko as an exercise - in the 1950's.

People today are paying the price with their knees.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 01:52 PM   #13
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Personally, I don't think that it's really a tradition - it's a combination of smooth canvas mats (which encouraged the practice) and young students (whose knees could hold up to the training) after the war.

The young guys on smooth mats introduced a lot more movement than existed previously. If you look at Daito-ryu and other traditional schools there was very little of the moving around on your knees that you see in Aikido today.

Yasuo Kobayashi used to say that he was the one who introduced shikko as an exercise - in the 1950's.

People today are paying the price with their knees.

Best,

Chris
Very interesting and informative post Chris, thanks. The last time I saw Kobayashi sensei was when he visited my dojo back in the mid to late 90s. I still remember being impressed how a person of his age could move so smoothly and freely in suwari waza, as if he had rollers on his knees and feet! He seemed to enjoy that training so much that it gives weight to his claim.
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Old 07-17-2013, 04:09 PM   #14
Russ Q
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Re: Suwari Waza

Hi all,

I find that if I practice suwari waza sparingly that it can help open my hips and is great at teaching you to move your whole body from center at once....that said, I don't like doing a lot of it and I've yet to run into some who says they enjoy it and/or has done it intensely for years without injury. It's a risky practice but most things are one way or another. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for you in your aikido "career"....

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 07-17-2013, 05:59 PM   #15
graham christian
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Re: Suwari Waza

I have never seen injuries as a result yet have seen how easily damage can be done to the knees by those who don't do it properly.

There are no doubt reasons why and how it can damage the knees due mainly to not being used to using them in such a way and people like carpet fitters are a good example of those who after a while get knee trouble.

However, we are talking Aikido and from my view it's learning how to do it properly that is the main protection far and above all other 'theories'.

Firstly I would say it is well worth doing and much is learned from so doing which otherwise would be missed. Second would be a matter of when? The simple answer is when the person is ready and not before.

Thirdly I would say approach is the key. Approach meaning prior things to be in place and practiced first in order to get full benefit and freedom of movement and thus no damaging effect on the knees.

Just doing kokyudosa would be pre sawariwaza as an example and is a good way of getting the knees and feet used to such positioning as well as just sitting seiza for small periods and extending them.

Then in order to even attempt suwariwaza I personally would have to see the student comfortably doing taisabakI 180% back and forth continuously at ease.....from centre., Until a person can do this...from centre....then they will damge their knees if made to do lots of suwariwaza. So basically centre protects the knees is my motto.

Peace.G.
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Old 07-17-2013, 06:15 PM   #16
graham christian
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Personally, I don't think that it's really a tradition - it's a combination of smooth canvas mats (which encouraged the practice) and young students (whose knees could hold up to the training) after the war.

The young guys on smooth mats introduced a lot more movement than existed previously. If you look at Daito-ryu and other traditional schools there was very little of the moving around on your knees that you see in Aikido today.

Yasuo Kobayashi used to say that he was the one who introduced shikko as an exercise - in the 1950's.

People today are paying the price with their knees.

Best,

Chris
What about in the days of the samurai and the 'inner sanctoms' of the shogun or 'boss'. Isn't that where it originated? In other words it had an original purpose and was practiced. I also have seen Ueshiba doing plenty. Thus it has a history all of it's own and a reason. Seeing the reason is seeing the use. Swordsmen I am sure would sit seiza for a reason to do with these type of movements too.

Peace.G.
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Old 07-17-2013, 06:39 PM   #17
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Re: Suwari Waza

AFAIK samurai would never sit in seiza with their long swords in their belts, it would instead be placed on the side or disallowed while inside certain places and only able to carry their wakizashi (short sword).
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Old 07-17-2013, 06:53 PM   #18
graham christian
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Gerardo Torres wrote: View Post
AFAIK samurai would never sit in seiza with their long swords in their belts, it would instead be placed on the side or disallowed while inside certain places and only able to carry their wakizashi (short sword).
You think so? Have you seen many samurai movies? Have you seen sword drawing skills done from the knees?

When it comes to etiquette and the sword even the placement was based on the fact of not being able to take it as if drawing it. Once again...a reason for.

If you have reality on drawing a sword from the knees then you will see it's no different from standing.

That's why it's safer and indeed vital for a samurai to sit so in readiness.

That fella in lone wolf and cub demonstrated it quite well.

Peace.G.
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Old 07-17-2013, 07:00 PM   #19
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
What about in the days of the samurai and the 'inner sanctoms' of the shogun or 'boss'. Isn't that where it originated? In other words it had an original purpose and was practiced. I also have seen Ueshiba doing plenty. Thus it has a history all of it's own and a reason. Seeing the reason is seeing the use. Swordsmen I am sure would sit seiza for a reason to do with these type of movements too.

Peace.G.
Traditionally there was only a limited amount of movement around on the knees - nothing like the amount that is done today.

If you watch Ueshiba in 1935, or even when he was older, he actually doesn't cover all that much ground on his knees.

Also, if you've done it, there's a big difference between moving on your knees on plain tatami (which is what everybody used to have) and the modern canvas or vinyl covered versions.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 07:30 PM   #20
graham christian
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Traditionally there was only a limited amount of movement around on the knees - nothing like the amount that is done today.

If you watch Ueshiba in 1935, or even when he was older, he actually doesn't cover all that much ground on his knees.

Also, if you've done it, there's a big difference between moving on your knees on plain tatami (which is what everybody used to have) and the modern canvas or vinyl covered versions.

Best,

Chris
I don't know what you mean abt. traditionally and amount done today. What I do know is those who practiced it in the long distant past obviously did a lot of it but as I said they had a use and real reason for it. Maybe many nowadays don't know why they do it but just do as theiy're told.

In the old 1935 film of Ueshiba I would say he covers quite a lot of ground quite freely but obviously the gait is not as wide as could be if standing but there again doesn't need to be, especially when done by him.

Of course today the mats are much softer and that's all good as far as I'm concerned but perspective is the key once again. The old days of Japan didn't have cushion filled mats and trained specifically for terrain. Tatami actually would be harder than most grassy terrain.

But I did find it interesting once when reading how the guards of the shogun or daimyo etc. indoors trained in open hand moving from the knees as part of their job.

As I tried to explain in my earlier post the secret is moving from centre, turning around centre etc. This is what protects the knees. When done properly all 'weight' goes to centre and thus none is left on the knees.

Peace.G.
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Old 07-17-2013, 07:46 PM   #21
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Re: Suwari Waza

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
I don't know what you mean abt. traditionally and amount done today. What I do know is those who practiced it in the long distant past obviously did a lot of it but as I said they had a use and real reason for it. Maybe many nowadays don't know why they do it but just do as theiy're told.
Well, it's not obvious to me. In everyday life people would only move short distances and not be spinning or turning under pressure. In traditional koryu - just look around at the various curriculum and method of practice. If they had to move around a lot...they stood up.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-17-2013, 08:11 PM   #22
graham christian
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, it's not obvious to me. In everyday life people would only move short distances and not be spinning or turning under pressure. In traditional koryu - just look around at the various curriculum and method of practice. If they had to move around a lot...they stood up.

Best,

Chris
Mmmm. Interesting. I suppose it's down to types of training. When you watch for example samurai movies you see choreographed moves but still they are based on expertise. Whether it be azumi or lone wolf but notice there is lots of moving and turning. Real as I call it suwariwaza is or should be no different. All be that high grade.

If I look around at the various koryu or curriculum and methods of practice the many times I will just shake my head unfortunately. Even whilst standing I find many can't turn under pressure and thus to me don't understand some basic motion principles. There is actually a barrier to go through in order to freely do so, a mental barrier. Plus in my experience an incomplete understanding on the whole of the power of basic motions of aikido irrespective of technique. (taisabaki being one such)

Anyway, if doing suwariwaza it starts off nice and slow and technique by technique but eventually is or can be no different to multiple attacks from standing and if I may say so that when 'in the zone' so to speak it becomes easier than when standing, a strange yet illuminating experience.

Peace.G.
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Old 07-17-2013, 09:52 PM   #23
Matt Fisher
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Hmm...and how are Ikeda's knees doing today?
Chris,

Are his knees bad because suwari waza is inherently destructive, even in small amounts, or are his knees bad because of the extreme approach he took to training? Honestly, I don't know...

I never did suwari waza for long periods of time at once, unlike the 45 minutes solid of suwari waza that Ikeda Sensei did in a Saturday morning class at a seminar over 20 years ago. My personal experience was that the video/DVD was a good source of a range of practices that I could use - for 5 minutes or so at a time - to focus on and improve various aspects of my suwari waza.

Matt

PS - For the purpose of complete clarity, I had to stop doing suwari waza about 8 to 10 years ago not because it had damaged my knees but because I have muscular dystrophy and the muscle deterioration had reached the point where I couldn't move properly anymore. At that point, doing suwari waza meant that I was moving wrong and definitely NOT doing my knees any good.
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Old 07-17-2013, 10:34 PM   #24
Chris Li
 
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Re: Suwari Waza

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Matt Fisher wrote: View Post
Chris,

Are his knees bad because suwari waza is inherently destructive, even in small amounts, or are his knees bad because of the extreme approach he took to training? Honestly, I don't know...
It's probably a combination of both of those and some other things that I can think of - but suwari waza almost certainly figures into it in a major way, try asking most orthopedists and see what they say.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-18-2013, 04:40 AM   #25
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Re: Suwari Waza

Interesting thread.

Suwari waza doesn't feature in our syllabus, thankfully. Looking at some of our seniors in their 60s and 70s with serious knee issues I can understand why.

We do some occasionally hanmi handachi (birthday beastings). The long term state of my knees (which weren't great before I started) is the only potential downside I see with Aikido.
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