As I teach the art of Ninjutsu I have come across a problem: most people can’t sit down.
The Japanese sit on the floor, like many cultures, in formal settings and in the martial arts the seating stances of seiza, suwari gata and fudoza are adopted, all of which are used in both unarmed and armed attacks.
We do not have this floor sitting culture so for anyone who has sat in seiza (legs folded beneath you) will know what I mean; the pins and needles as your legs go numb and the pain as you try to regain your feet – like bambi on ice.
I live in the North East of England were people rarely sit on the floor; in our culture we stand (i.e. pubs) and sit at tables so we find it hard to get into these seated positions. We should have started an art called Geordie jiu jitsu based on pub fighting (oh wait I think we have already LOL) everyone knows a person that I would class as a social hand grenade i.e. explodes in every social setting. I will let you know when I have the art up and running LOL!
Sorry about that, sometimes my mind wanders off. Getting back to sitting on the floor; the last time most people sat on the floor was school hymn practice, sitting crossed legged and trying to sing ‘Morning has broken’ when all you can think about is how numb your bum has become and what you were going to do for the weekend (hymn practice was always the last class of the week in my school) wandering again, sorry. Fudoza is this seating stance.
Suwari-gata means sit on foot. As the description suggests you sit on your left foot and have your right foot at your left knee so you can get up quickly.
All of these seating stances were used in traditional settings; suwari –gata was used so if you drew your sword from this seating position you did not cut your knee off (Japanese were taught right handed). I have found little tricks that help people learn these stances and also get better flexibility:
To get better at this position sit in the stance and rise up and forward to make the quads work and stretch as if you were pulling yourself up by a rope then carefully lie back as if to but you back of your head on the ground (do this slowly) then return to seiza. You can build up the time you stay seated to build up your tolerance (I saw a documentary that showed people at a Buddhist retreat sitting in seiza. If they lost their focus while meditating the monk hit them with a large wooden paddle. And they thanked him!) I have been known to use a bamboo shinai at the gym for the very same reason.
People have a great problem with this seating stance. The way I have found to get them to do it is to give them a wooden sword. Everyone likes swords (you are all mad ) whether you like Star wars or Zorro, when you get a sword in your hands you don’t feel the pain of your legs stretching, you just want to play with the sword but in doing so you use the stance correctly .
You have the sword in your belt on the left side and take a step with your right foot as you do this unfold your left foot (that you have been sitting on) and make a horizontal cut from left to right then regain your seating position while putting your sword away you can work up to full standing position when your legs are strong moving from this stance.
The problem I find in this stance is ankle flexibility is normally poor, so to increase this put one leg out straight and place your other foot on your quad with you ankle joint facing to the ground and gently push your knee to the ground this will help gain the flexibility needed for sitting in this stance.
This topic has become increasingly popular due to lack of flexibility in the general public; you have to keep using anything that helps you to do the art you have chosen whether it is BJJ, Ninjutsu or kickboxing. The movements are used in many art forms all the way from Iai-do to wrestling so whatever you enjoy doing make sure you have the best seat in the house!
Until next time
Geordie jiu-jitsu rules!