Photo courtesy of Dokiai
A few days ago I was having an email discussion with an aikido guy whose opinion I respect a lot. We were talking about suwariwaza and he had this to say...
I hate the kneeling techniques. I don't really get a lot out of them and they always make my knees hurt.
At the time I didn't really think twice about this. I even half agreed. This is a pretty common sentiment - that suwari is a time-waster, is out-dated, is culturally irrelevent, and doesn't add anything to your practice. But the more I think about this, the more bothered I am by it. Not by his opinion (everyone has opinions), but by the situation behind it (aikido suwari sucks).
Why does aikido suwari practice have to be terrible? People should be shouting, "Yippee, we're doing suwari!" when we work on it. Why is it such an onerous time-waster? People in BJJ don't moan, "Damn, it's time to do groundwork again!" Consider the following spectrum of martial arts practices arranged in close-and-tight to loose-and-far order...
(close) judo newaza - BJJ - suwari - standing clench - aiki (far)
If you buy into this ordering, then suwari becomes the missing link between close standing work and loose groundwork. Some BJJ guys call suwariwaza 'kneeling takedowns' and some old amateur wrestling books refer to these techniques as 'short takedowns.' Everybody does suwari as a link between ground and standing, so why does aikido suwari suck so much to have to practice?