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Old 02-13-2003, 08:25 AM   #1
Kung Fu Liane
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Confused Seiza

Hi,

not sure if seiza is the right spelling, but i'm referring to the kneeling position that we sit in at the start and end of class.

i find the position puts a lot of stress on knee joints, often resulting in some pain (the bad type). are there any good exercises to help, besides spending more time in seiza to get over the pain?

also i heard that westener's suffer more from seiza becasue our joints are different in some way, and so are not used to the position. can anyone shed some light on this?

thanx

-Liane

Aikido: a martial art which allows you to defeat your enemy without hurting him, unless of course he doesn't know how to breakfall in which case he will shatter every bone in his body when he lands. Also known as Origami with people
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Old 02-13-2003, 10:21 AM   #2
erikmenzel
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As far as I know there is only one way to learn it: just do it. Still if you are experiencing pain then it could be wise to have somebody just look at your seiza, just to be sure you arent doing anything funny.

As for westeners not being able to sit in seiza, well I think this belongs in the same category as Japanese seamen being so special one cannt use a western condom or Japanese snow being so special one cannot use a canadian snowplow on it, the category of BS.

Erik Jurrien Menzel
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Old 02-13-2003, 10:40 AM   #3
John Boswell
 
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Good subject!

I have a few comments on this as well and questions of my own to add. Just the other night, I was asking Sensei Riggs about this very thing. He told me "westerners" have more knee troubles than Japanese or asians due to customs. In the west, we sit in chairs all day and rarely use our knees to squat or kneel down onto the floor, sit on the floor, etc. Whereas in Japan, sitting seiza is very common even outside martial arts, or just sitting on the floor. They use their legs/knees more than we do.

Strenghthening the legs with particular focus on the inside of the thigh SHOULD help the knees. In addition to the exercises, I try to sit seiza as much as possible, but I have tremndous pain myself. I take "Glucosomine" tablets daily and this helps, but you have to take it daily or don't even bother trying. Glucosemine takes 4 days before you start feeling its affects, but if you stop you go back to 'normal'.

Now then, MY questions would be: Does anyone have any variation of exercises that help with the knees? Does yoga help? or ... well, I'm open to just about any ideas. I have inherited my mother's arthritic knees and compounded this problem with flat feet. Anything I can do to relieve my situation is welcomed.

(*Yes, Sensei. I'm going to get arch supports... just as soon as I can afford them. )

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Old 02-13-2003, 10:57 AM   #4
aikido_fudoshin
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I believe seiza is easier for Japanese people for the simple reason that they have done it all their lives since its part of their particular custom. Just as an example, my sensei told me that when Chida sensei came to North America and they went out for dinner he sat in seiza on a chair. It was too awkward for him to sit in a chair the way most North American, European, etc. people would.

When you first start going into the seiza position it will be difficult and become quite uncomfortable at first, but it you will become accustomed to it after a while. One thing that you should keep in mind when doing it is that you are not suppose to sit on your feet, but you should keep some tension in your quads and try to maintain a thin gap between your upper and lower leg. The reason for this is so you get up or respond quicker to an attack. I think its a bit more comfortable like this once you get used to it. Ive been told that you should be able to sit in seiza for 30 minutes before it getting too unbarable.
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Old 02-13-2003, 03:30 PM   #5
Nacho_mx
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Instead of just sitting there with most of your weight over your poor knees, try to focus on your center, take deep breaths and always keep your back straight up, relaxing your shoulders, you´ll feel lighter and will be able to stand in seiza a bit longer. If the pain becomes a bit unbearable or your legs get numb just flex a bit and resume seiza.
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Old 02-13-2003, 03:51 PM   #6
Gregory King
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Seiza

Yes, Seiza, it is and will be painful for sometime to come but do not worry as the more you practise the easier it will get. I have had the unfortunate experience of breaking both the bones of the lower leg and of shattering my heel, both times this made sitting in seiza almost impossible to bear. The solution I was told and tried with great success was to put a pillow under your backside when you go to sit in seiza, this takes some of the pressure off an enables you to gradually sit in seiza for longer periods of time and of course eventually to sit comfortably without the pillow in the dojo. I recommend that you only practise this method at home as taking a pillow into some dojo may be frowned upon. Hope this helps.

Greg
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Old 02-13-2003, 08:58 PM   #7
Thomas Froman
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I don't know about yoga postures for the knees but a good one for flat feet is to kneel in Sieza but up on your toes. This is very painful and you will probably only be able to do it for a second or two at first (if even that long). You should probably do this about three times a day. It may take a while but it does help.
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Old 02-13-2003, 09:19 PM   #8
PeterR
 
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Quote:
Bryan Siekierko (aikido_fudoshin) wrote:
I believe seiza is easier for Japanese people for the simple reason that they have done it all their lives since its part of their particular custom.
Not any more its not. Our Japanese beginners have as much trouble as the rest of us - all things being equal. Seiza is pretty uncommonly practiced by the vast majority of people. Recurrent theme in Japanese comedy is the Japanese Funeral Scene. You know some guy who never does seiza gets up and falls pulling off the toupe of the women in front gag.

I have even won seiza duels with 25 year Japanese vetrans of the dojo. OK OK - so we both had serious trouble getting our legs to move afterward.

If there is a difference I think it has to do with weight. The Japanese on average tend to be slimmer than North Americans. Fat thighs seem to be the major obstacle.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-13-2003, 10:52 PM   #9
mattholmes
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Quote:
Bryan Siekierko (aikido_fudoshin) wrote:
One thing that you should keep in mind when doing it is that you are not suppose to sit on your feet, but you should keep some tension in your quads and try to maintain a thin gap between your upper and lower leg. The reason for this is so you get up or respond quicker to an attack. I think its a bit more comfortable like this once you get used to it. Ive been told that you should be able to sit in seiza for 30 minutes before it getting too unbarable.
I don't know that this is accurate. I've always been under the impression that one is "supposed" to sit on one's toes, in the manner Thomas Froman described to help flat feet. I don't personally sit this way, however, my karate Sensei used to sit like this, and he could sit in seiza for hours...

I understand (and I don't know how true this is) that at one time in Japanese history, some people sat in seiza for hours and hours. Although I believe that we like to romanticize the concept of the ever-ready Samuarai constantly guarded against attack, I have a hard time swallowing that you are supposed to keep you legs tensed like that for a half hour. And then what happens? You don't get attacked anymore?

Hmmm...

Have a nice day,

Matt
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Matt Holmes (mattholmes) wrote:
I understand (and I don't know how true this is) that at one time in Japanese history, some people sat in seiza for hours and hours. Although I believe that we like to romanticize the concept of the ever-ready Samuarai constantly guarded against attack, I have a hard time swallowing that you are supposed to keep you legs tensed like that for a half hour. And then what happens? You don't get attacked anymore?
Worse they did this on rocks.

And then when they were attacked - they just fell down.

I wonder what the truth really is. My vision of a pre-Tokugawa battle hardened samurai is he sits any damm well he pleased.

Bhuddist Monk in high pitched voice "You're supposed to sit in seiza"

Musashi wanna be "Slice"

Seriously though I remember someone, somewhere telling me that seiza was a formal sitting posture and sitting cross-legged (Indian style) was much more common. Anyone else care to either tell me I heard wrong (possible) or elaborate.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:18 PM   #11
Nacho_mx
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You just try to draw a sword, perform the tea ceremony or play the koto while cross-legged!
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:28 PM   #12
PeterR
 
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Tsk tsk!

At your own home or visiting friends your long sword went on a rack - right next to the umbrellas. If swords were to be drawn fast it would be the short sword - far easier. By the way - try springing into action from seiza - I guarantee you if there was even a hint of danger the boys would not be in seiza.

The tea ceremony was just that - seiza for the required time then back to cross-legged sake drinking.

Besides koto playing and serving were done by servants.
Quote:
Ignacio Jaramillo (Nacho_mx) wrote:
You just try to draw a sword, perform the tea ceremony or play the koto while cross-legged!

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:39 PM   #13
Nacho_mx
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More on the subject...I admit suwari waza is not my favorite practice because I´m still clumsy and it kinda hurts , but I believe is an important part of training because it help us to be aware of our center and move with it, and this later reflects on our kihon waza.

Of course if someone has bum knees it´s pointless to push it and should be excused, so sitting cross-legged is O.K. except for the ceremonies at the beginning and the end of class.
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:45 PM   #14
Nacho_mx
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By the way, an attack while in seiza was a real possibility during those days (with concealed weaponry or bare hands) besides one just could not stand before the lord of the house, you had to knee walk to approach him.
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Old 02-14-2003, 05:56 AM   #15
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I've read that Hikitsuchi sensei used to perform Shinto ceremonies for hours to celebrate O-Sensei, and they were immediately followed by demonstrations. His students had to keep ready to stand up and practice.

On the formal status of seiza : in Kagemusha (Kurosawa movie), the people sit in seiza for formal situations (when they are on duty), and sit cross-legged when off-duty.

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Old 02-14-2003, 08:09 AM   #16
aikido_fudoshin
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The best time to practice seiza is after doing a lot of suwari waza. It builds character, if you know what I mean.
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Old 02-14-2003, 09:03 AM   #17
Jonathan Lewis
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Quote:
Louis R Joseph (aikilouis) wrote:
I've read that Hikitsuchi sensei used to perform Shinto ceremonies for hours to celebrate O-Sensei, and they were immediately followed by demonstrations. His students had to keep ready to stand up and practice.
True. Actually, even without the demonstrations, towards the end of the ceremony, we would bring an offering of branches up to the kamiza. Simply walking up there, people have on occasion, twisted their ankle because they could not feel their lower legs.
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Old 02-15-2003, 07:07 AM   #18
Kung Fu Liane
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Confused

Ok, thanx to everyone who posted. looks as though i'm gonna have to tought it out then.

BTW has anyone else noticed that the spelling of Seiza is just like the english word 'seize'? curious...

Aikido: a martial art which allows you to defeat your enemy without hurting him, unless of course he doesn't know how to breakfall in which case he will shatter every bone in his body when he lands. Also known as Origami with people
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Old 02-15-2003, 03:12 PM   #19
Jonathan Lewis
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Please don't conclude that you will just have to tough it out. It may be that that wil work for you, but it also may be that that will cause knee problems that are difficult to recover from. If it feels like it will cause injury, don't do it. Maybe do it for shorter time till you get used to it, maybe don't do it at all, maybe do some other stregthening exercises that enable you do seiza without injury. Find something that works to your benefit in the long term.
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Old 02-24-2003, 03:46 PM   #20
TomE
 
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Re: Seiza

If seiza really makes your knees hurt so badly, it might mean you're putting your weight too much forward (trying to avoid the pain from overstretched ankle joints, perhaps?)

When I started aikido, only my knees and my toes would touch the ground during seiza, and it usually started hurting pretty soon. These days, everything *between* those body parts also rests firmly on the ground and I can sit in seiza much longer.

So when you sit in seiza, just relax (I know, I know... ), sit upright, and let your weight sink down naturally. Don't slouch forward or backward to relieve the pain - maintain a good posture, and when it really becomes too much, switch to sitting cross-legged. Try to hold out a little longer each time; eventually everything will get stretched enough and the (worst) suffering will end. It worked for me; and I've really come to like sitting in seiza for relaxation and meditation (though, admittedly, not for more than a half hour).

edit: I should add that Jonathan has a good point - there is a limit to the amount of pain and discomfort you can/should ignore, especially if you've already been injured before. Listen to your body, you know best what you can and can't do.
For the record: one of my knees and my spine were damaged in an accident some twelve years ago. But I've found that doing aikido has improved my posture and I have far less trouble with my back now; and the knee has also become stronger - although that never gave me much trouble to begin with, except for the occasional loud (but painless) cracking of cartilage when I overtax it (often during hanmi handachi), which tended to scare the hell out of my training partners at first ("omygodhe'sbrokenhislegomigodomigod...").

Last edited by TomE : 02-24-2003 at 04:00 PM.

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Old 02-24-2003, 04:21 PM   #21
kung fu hamster
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Sitting seiza for 30 minutes? Egads, after 5 minutes I'm jiggling around because sitting that way makes me want to go to the bathroom. Glad I don't live in the shogunate era, I would have been beheaded by now.
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Old 02-25-2003, 03:40 PM   #22
Qatana
 
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Sitting in seiza for 30 minutes is a piece of cake. i regularly attend meditation retreats where we sit up to 16 hours a day! I found that sitting in cross-legged meditation position got pretty agonizing after a couple of days so started alternating it with kneeling.

How long do you actually sit in seiza in class?In our dojo we may sit cross- legged during instruction, seiza is necessary only for bowing in and out. A couple of minutes shouldn't be harmful. For meditation you may want to use a bench but i recommend a zafu or meditation cushion, standing on edge to support your torso & keep the weight off your knees. Good luck.

Q
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