Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shizentai - How far apart are the feet?

Recently on my favorite blog, I was reading...

"In shizentai (natural, upright posture) the feet are less than hip-width apart. The farther apart you get your feet, the greater the tendency to get both of them out from under your center. From this mid-point of shizentai, you want to take small, conservative steps - as small as practical to get the job done."

I hate to seem a like a nag to my favorite blogger, I seem to be practicing a different style of the art than him. But it is through those differences I am learning the most. He could probably kick my butt and is a true scholar so take everything I have to say with a grain of salt. Thank you sensei for the inspiration, your hard work and putting up with my daily banter.

Now on to the topic at hand.

Keep your feet less than hip width apart.

Really? I don't see this, myself. I understand some people do some nice Aikido with this in mind, but I do not see keeping your feet close together as Shizentai.

Shizentai demands a stable base. The mental models I use to maximize stability are to keep the feet at shoulder width - no narrower.

Now I am not saying we have to do anything the way our teachers did, but I think we must look closely at their technique to learn from. Let us look at Tomiki Sensei executing technique.

Even when looking at his films, Tomiki Sensei always keep a shoulder width or wider Shizentai. Mifune, a martial artist I highly respect also demonstrates a wider shizentai than hips. His was shoulder length or wider.

Here is a copy of his book The Canon of Judo. Check out his stance work on page 38.

Today's wrap up. Stance work is a personal choice. Shizentai, Hanmi, or a deep horse stance - it all has it's place and time. Each stance, I am sure has it's weakness and strength. In my quest to define what is Shizentai by the originators and founders intent of the word, I believe Shizentai demands the feet are wider than hip width. Just my observation. I imagine if my knees were bad I would modify my Aikido to make shorter steps with a narrower stance. But is modifying a stance to something totally different, still deserve the name of the original stance?

I can't believe I have been writing so much about stances. Man o man, I am such a nerd.