Seiza, the basic sitting position in Far East culture and shikko – simply speaking – knee walking, are two of all fundamentals of aikido.
Many parents and dojo members ask me if those are healthy and harmless to locomotor system. My answers come from anatomy and physiology, as always.
Hips are the key to those answers as to aikido, the martial art. As we sit in seiza, hips do govern the pelvis girdle while in a relaxed position. And as we know pelvis is the basic structure for spine. If spine is supported by correctly positioned pelvis, it will not need too much of effort to remain vertical, harmonious and light.
In seiza the whole body is well open to correct breathing. Especially that reaching the pelvic floor which seems to be the very perfect breath. And that is how we understand the correct way of effective breathing. That places seiza far ahead of any other sitting positions, no matter how modern and technicaly developed chairs you use. Seiza keeps your spine relaxed from chairs, car seats, sofas…it allows it to use its whole mobility potential, elasticity and softness.
Shikko – knee walking.
From my point of view I see only advantages.
So I start with hips again: they connect your legs with pelvis, make the move with short rotator muscles (external and internal), help to control the centre of gravity and that is the answer to stability in all techniques no matter if they are the low or high. Those short but very strong muscles need to be elastic and endure to cope with that challenge of coordinating our locomotor system. Thanks to them our body does what we need it to do, the right side of it will communicate with the left one, the upper with the lower one. Hips are simply locomotive brain of human body. In correct shikko body posture is balanced , spine is not forced to make any unnecessary and harmful movements. And if we manage to connect it with the proper breath – the body will thank us for that with grace.
What about the knees? Do they confuse me? Not at all…
Knees in seiza and shikko are well and safely locked so their sensitive construction and function are not in danger in any way. Seiza is immobility and it is not of a risk to joints. Nothing wrong happens to knees in seiza. When moving we use only a small but extreme part of the total range of joint movements. As I repeat so often – as we decrease the range of movement of any joint, that leads us to joint limitations and inefficiency of movements. That is a part of degenerative disease. Knee patella in both seiza and shikko is safe and there is no need to worry about its surfaces or anything else.
And what about feet?
Nothing wrong about them either. In seiza we put them in extreme flexion that helps to preserve the passive movement for years. In shikko we support the body weight on joints that connect toes and fingers with the middle part of feet in a way of very good care for all foot dynamics and passive strength. It also stimulates long and short foot muscles to do the right job. Strong and elastic feet equal long life for that body parts. And when we step into older age, they will work much much better than those lacking from correct shape. Extremelly extended toe equals convenient leg extension, easy and long steps and light walking without needs of compensating in hips, pelvis or spine.
To make the story short…
Both seiza and shikko have been tested for centuries by Far East movement masters and passed those tests well. They both work well for health and body condition. Several thousands years of tests cannot be wrong. To preserve the elasticity and endurance of hips and knees for years, let us not avoid seiza and shikko. As a contrast – ask some of your colegues to cross the dojo dimention in shikko if they are not familiar with that movement. That will display the side effects of prolonged sitting while resting or working and not working out. It is worth to abandon sofas, chairs and beds and land on floor to take care of the most important aspects of our physical and emotional body. It is to serve us for the whole life. It is also a part of what I understand under the term of physical awareness and body care.
Seiza i shikko – Like it!