Does Japanese tea ceremony fascinate you? Everyone sit in a small tatami room and taste bitter matcha tea. Entire ceremony follows the very elegant ritual. Tea ceremony, as well as other Japanese traditional arts such as calligraphy, kado (flower arrangement) or Aikido, carries a zen philosophy. During the ceremony, people sit in seize (正座). You haven´t seen sieza? It looks like this, sitting on your heels.
The word seiza is written 正座 in Japanese. 正 (sei) means correct and 座 (za) means a seat. Actually the kanji for to sit is 坐 but because of the regulation of toyokanji (当用漢字/ list of kanji for daily use), it has been decided to use 座 instead of 坐. Anyway, seiza has a meaning of “sit correctly”.
This is why, everyone, including Japanese people, thinks this is the right way to sit in Japan.
Is seiza really the traditional way to sit for Japanese people?
Not really. I mean yes, it´s one of the traditional ways of sitting but not the only one, moreover this way of sitting is relatively new. It was introduced after the Meiji Restoration.
According to a specialist in mind-body interventions of ancient Japanese, Hidemasa Yatabe, the concept of seiza and even the name was created by the government structured in the Meiji period. In other word, seiza was formed in the late 19th century by learning at schools and became the formal way of sitting for Japanese people. Surprisingly, seiza is a quite new custom for Japanese people.
Then, what was the traditional way of sitting forJapanese people? Nothing fixed. If you look at the painting onfusumadoors,ukiyoe or statues of theshogunsand monks, they sit in variety of ways. You will find some insieza but they are not the majority.
You may be surprise but the master of the tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu (千利休) made tea in Tatehiza (立て膝) . Can you imagine, the grave tea master makes tea with one knee up in front of the important shoguns?
Other ways of sitting are Anza (安座). You cross the toes in front of you. If you practice yoga, this may be familiar to you.
Agura (あぐら). You cross your legs a little deeper than anza. This is a quite common way to sit on the floor for us now too. Some say Agura causes bowlegs that many Japanese girls suffer.
Rakuza (楽座). You put the back of the feet together. I see many babies sit this way but for adults this may not be the most comfortable one. I´ve seen people having trouble with this in yoga classes.
Rakuza seems to be a common way of sitting for the ancient Shoguns or the Emperors.
Wariza (割座) also called onesan zuwari (お姉さん座り). First you sit seiza then slide the legs on one side. Your bottom is on the floor. This samurai is even leaning onto his sword.
Sonkyo (蹲踞) is what Japanese call, unching style (うんちんぐスタイル) because this is how people crouch in the toilet. Samurai weresitting this way even in the Edo period. In the samurai TV programs, all of them sit in seiza but in the reality, sonkyo seemed to be more common. Sonkyo is also called, “Yankii zuwari (ヤンキー座り)”. Bad youngsters in the 80s would sit like this and the name was established.
Kikyo (跪居). It looks like sonkyo but you lift the heels and sit on the toes. If you have seen sumo, this is kikyo.
The image of samurai sitting seiza style seems to be the influence of TV programs and films. Have you ever sit seiza? Maybe you are better than me but I can´t do it even for five minutes. After 10 minutes, my legs are already numb. Samurai were warriors and had to be always attentive to a sudden attack. It wouldn´t have much sense if they had numb feet and could´t fight. You could say that samurai must´ve been used to it. Perhaps, but it´s not practical. Sitting seiza could impede a quick reaction to the enemies. Until the mid Edo, the correct way of sitting (seiza) was agura (cross legs) or Tatehiza (one knee up). What we call now seiza was called Kiza (危坐/跪座).
Tatehiza ismore appropriate for Samurai.
So when people sit in seiza?
Samuraiwere obliged to sit seizato see the shogun in Edo period. It was the way to sit to show the obedience and loyalty.
In the middle of Edo period, seiza was becoming more common. The book “正座と日本人 (Seiza to Nihonjin / Seiza and Japanese)” explains that seiza was a symbol of the control of Shogunate. Shogun and Daimyo (feudal lord) forced the lower class samurai to show the obedience. Or perhaps it was introduced as a courtesy in the hierarchy society.
When I was at school, seiza was used for a punishment. If we forgot homework, seiza. If we forgot any class material, seiza at the back of the room. If we don´t listen to the teacher, seiza. In the sense of obedience, it´s still functioning. But this could make more Japanese people dislike seiza.
There is Japan Seiza Association in Japan. Their aim is to give better image about seiza and talk about anything related to seiza; history, furniture or event. If you can read Japanese, maybe it´s interesting to have a look.
Harder than becoming a lawyer or a surgeon in Japan is becoming a 8th dan Kendo Swordsman. Chronicles 2 men and their attempt to reach that peak - one is a former National Kendo Champion who has failed the very 1st step of the test 4 times. The other is a 78 year old man who has been taking the test for 24 years.
Taken from: Explaining how to execute Oji Waza, or at least trying!(http://shinaiworld.com/execute-oji-waza/)Although in Kendo we practice to strike only four targets ( Men, Kote, Dou, Tsuki), kendo offers a broad range of techniques (to keep it short I will focus on the execution of Oji Waza).
The most popular description of Oji Waza I have read and heard counter attacking techniques. Most people describing the execution of Oji Waza would tell say is a “reaction to your opponent’s technique.” The problem with this description is that it is incomplete.
Many high ranking sensei explain that Oji Waza starts before your opponent’s attack, with the use of seme and pressure towards your opponent. Although we consider it to be a reaction, you want to have the control of the moment and not just stand there waiting for your opponent to do something.
The most common mistake we make when practicing and/or using Oji Waza during Keiko is that we make a decision on what technique we are going to execute before we approach our opponent and then we wait hoping that our he/she use the technique we are waiting for. This not only stops you from having control of the situation but also takes away your freedom to execute an appropriate technique according to the situation.
We must train the appropriate reaction in order to successfully do Oji Waza and that we can do frequently during practice, but what is often forgotten (specially at lower ranks) and that we must also train is what comes before, which is controlling the situation and making your opponent attack you.
The way it has been explained to me and I understand it is that you most approach and pressure your opponent to the point where he/she has no other option but to attack (and if he doesn’t then you should be in the right distance situation to attack), and then once your opponent is committed to an attack you counter.
In case you don’t know them yet, the different Oji Waza can be divided (according to the book “Best Kendo Waza”) into the following categories.
Because I like to see things more than reading about it enjoy and study the following video, in which the sensei demonstrates the approach forward before executing the counter technique.
In Kendo is not uncommon to see many sensei practicing with as many kenshi as time allow, and is not uncommon for us to ask our selves how do they do it. Through training sensei develop the ability to use energy efficiently, and to avoid unnecessary and wasteful motions.
A very important skill that most sensei seem to have is the ability to breath properly through their time fighting. Most people don’t realize this, but there is more than one way to draw oxygen into our lungs. The most common response when asked to take a deep breath is for people to expand their chest and slightly arch their back. Not only this results in unnecessary tension in several muscles, it also prevents people from filling their lungs completely
The most effective way to breath is Diaphragmatic breathing, simply put it means breathing using our diaphragm to bring the air into our lungs. When you don’t use the diaphragm to breath you are activating accessory muscles to bring the air in which not only gives you less air, but also it wastes more energy. You should learn to use your diaphragm for breathing, not only because is more efficient but also because is the first step towards learning to use the Hara.
Relearning to breath is not quick, but it is simple. First laying down take a couple of breaths and with your hands try to find the spot that rises when air goes in your lungs. Then Inhale slowly through your nose keeping the focus on raising your stomach. Count to 2. As you inhale, your stomach should move out. Breathe out through pursed lips. Count to 4. As you exhale, you should feel your stomach move in.
To improve breathing is recommended to train your diaphragm a couple of minutes a day. If you feel that it is becoming easy, you can also develop the strength of your diaphragm by working against resistance. You can use weight on your stomach and work against it (start with little weight at first).