One of the characteristic things about aikido is the practice of working with techniques in which both partners are kneeling (suwariwaza) or with the defender kneeling and the attacker standing (hammi handachi). This makes movement more difficult and offers very direct examples of various principles with generally low-amplitude falls. It also makes your hips and legs stronger and more flexible. This handful of helpful hints is about the practice of suwariwaza as a whole rather than being about one particular technique.
- Watch Doshu in the above video to understand the awesome potential for kneeling movement (starting at about 2 minutes). You usually think of kneeling as being less mobile, but this is a remarkable example of mobility and flow. This is also a good demo of suwari.
- To get better at doing aikido on your knees, play with both structured techniques (suwariwaza) and freeform pushing (kokyuho). Play with throwing into a pin as opposed to continuous throwing (juntai).
- Do groundwork randori (judo or BJJ rules) at different intensities all the way from scratching-and-scrambling anaerobic newaza randori to light-and-compliant flow. Skill in standing work (tachiwaza) and ground work (newaza) both carry over into skill in suwariwaza.
- Suwariwaza is a good opportunity to play with the Kito principle. Define an acceptable level of effort in your mind and gauge every push against that standard. If you can’t effect the technique with less than that level of force then try something something else at 90 or 180 degrees to that initial force. I like to think of this as “pinging” uke and then using arms as “feelers” to gauge the resistance. A good example of this is kneeling shoulder-push sumiotoshi paired with a “Japanese pass” arm snapdown onto uke’s belly.
- If you are doing your structured suwariwaza practice using the Tomiki kata set, don’t forget katamenokata and especially kimenokata from judo. These are different ways of doing the same things and the things in kimenokata back up the suwariwaza in Sankata (for instance) very well.