Thursday, 23 April 2009

Iai-hiza hurts. It's Official!

Anyone familiar with iai will know that kneeling in seiza for long periods hurts like hell. Yes ok we all use knee pads but it still hurts the thighs (we can train that) and the joints of the knees, ankles and feet. Once we reach the fourth of the seitei iai kata, tsuka-ate, we reach a whole new level of pain. That pain is called iai-hiza.

Iai hiza is a seated position whereby the left leg is bent under oneself with the shin on the floor and the heel on your bum-hole (more or less) while the right foot rests on the floor with the leg bent upward. Ouch.

So when you're kneeling there wondering why, as a gaijin, you're even bothering to try to master this very Japanese martial art, you can rest assured that it's not your *fault* that it hurts. And it'll probably always hurt because we're just built differently. That's right we have different sized (and proportioned) lower legs! It's official too : I found this article called 'Anthropometric Comparison between Japanese and Caucasian American Male University Students' by Yasuto Nakanishi and Vincent Nethery. Their broad conculsion is that there are clear anthropometric differences between Japanese and Caucasian American males particularly Japanese having shorting standing height (ok I could've guessed that) and longer trunk to standing ratio. In a nutshell this means less in the leg department. Japanese calves are shorter but more importantly for iai-hiza their calf to height ratio is less than their American male counterparts. Hey presto: Japanese can sit more easily in iai-hiza (hey it was invented by them) while my gaijin lower legs protrude into my bum and stop me from sitting correctly.

Of course there are other issues too which I assume are common such as joint pain but at least we can know why we feel that pain in the ass.

Aw quit griping and keep practicing...

Ref: Anthropometric Comparison between Japanese and Caucasian
American Male University Students
Yasuto Nakanishi and Vincent Nethery
Department of Science, Kobe University.


Krista de Castella said...

What an interesting article.

I wonder whether the anthropometric differences also effect how safe it is for Westerners to sit in seiza for extended periods 30/60min - and whether this has potential to cause joint or ligament damage?

I know overcoming pain is part of training in zazen and martial arts but I'd feel better about dealing with it if I knew I wasn't doing any long term damage.

Littlefair said...

Fair point! I just practised iai in the garden for about 30 minutes only and my joints ache!

The falling cherry blossom made up for it though