Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Suwariwaza - why bother?

I have mixed feelings about the suwari (kneeling techniques) found in aikido.  I have written in the past that suwari is an interesting link between standing and groundwork, and that people that like groundwork should be shouting, "Yippee! We get to do suwari!" instead of the constant groaning.  But I also understand that the kneeling material has a lot of perceived negatives for a lot of folks.
On the pro side, suwari:
  • is part of the art, and always has been.
  • (when done right) it is a beautiful and impressive historical/cultural artifact.
  • makes your legs and hips more flexible and stronger (if it doesn't wreck them completely)
  • allows you to practice techniques without big falls.
  • gives some hints about how aikido works at close range or in limited spaces or when your mobility is hampered.
On the con side, suwari:
  • is culturally irrelevant to pretty much the whole world outside Japan.
  • is boring.
  • is abstract.
  • is mostly inapplicable to real conflict.
  • is painful to the knees!
Suwariwaza is featured in the koryu no kata of Tomiki-ryu in the beginning of ichikata, sankata, and gokata. 
Basically I suppose if you don't like suwariwaza, it's just something that you have to trudge your way through as you advance in rank.  But you should do your due diligence to try to find and learn whatever lessons it holds while you're there.  Also, there is the added bonus of doing the suwari in ichikata because there is at least a little less of it there (5 techniques) than in sankata (8 techniques) or gokata (7 techniques).
Patrick Parker
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