Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

May 12th, 2013

From Sensei Bob Dobrow, San-dan
Ueshiro Northfield Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo

Seiza – Proper Sitting

It is often said that karate begins with courtesy and respect. In our
traditional workout, after the initial bow (rei), the next thing that happens is
sitting seiza. Seiza literally means “proper, or correct, sitting.”

In a recent gathering, Hanshi spoke on the meticulous execution of seiza: From
the kio-tsuke (attention) position, the left foot comes back and the body is
lowered first to the left knee and then to the right. Toes are bent and the body
is propped up on the toes with the buttocks on the heels. The reason for this is
twofold: (i) it provides a stretch for the feet and ankle area, and (ii) we are
still ``ready’’ from this position to respond and spring to our feet for action
(battle) if necessary. The toes and feet are then turned down and we sit with
the tops of our feet flat on the deck and the instep facing up. This is all done
is a smooth and continuous way.

Sit tall with straight back. The eyes are closed gently. If they were open the
gaze would be straight ahead. There is a slight lowering of the chin. Collar
bone reaches to the sky, shoulders down, chest up. Right hand rests on the knot
of the belt. Left hand is cupped onto right. Thumbs are lightly touching each
other and the gi. The fingers are closed and the hands are relaxed. Breathe
slowly and focused—-in through the nose, out through the mouth. The proper
sitting position is peaceful and serene, with strong foundation coming from the
core center, the hara.

Experienced seiza practitioners can maintain the seiza posture for long periods
of time with minimal discomfort. For non-Japanese who have not grown up sitting
in this posture there may be difficulty. Start out slowly. If seiza is
difficult, it is acceptable to sit in anza cross-legged sitting position. The
only exception would be if you are injured.

There is much to this position, and one can spend a lifetime perfecting proper
sitting. It is central to many martial arts. It is the foundation for zazen (Zen
training).

We come up from seiza in exactly the reverse order as we sat down. The toes are
first bent up. Buttocks are resting on the heels. The right knee comes up so
that the body is centered with the forward right foot flat on the deck, and the
left toes bent. The weight is distributed 50-50 between left and right. Then
pushing down equally on both feet the body comes up to kio-tsuke position.

We are ready to begin.

“When walking, just walk. When sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble” – Zen
saying

Respectfully submitted,
Sensei Bob Dobrow, San-dan
Ueshiro Northfield Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo