Monday, March 2, 2009

Walking Kata - Shizentai - Weight on Feet

So the exploration of the stance we take in the Walking Kata continues. The stance is Shizentai, or a natural body posture.

As a young'n I was taught the Waking Kata. From the very beginning we heard "yoi" which was our command to rise up on the balls of our feet. As I recall we were taught that you should be able to slide a piece of paper between your heel and the floor. The entire kata, indeed the entire art form was to be practiced this way.

At this point of my development I would like to challenge this idea of constantly floating on the balls of the feet. The first point I would like to point out about riding the balls of the feet is this required the calf muscles to be firing constantly. In my humble opinion muscle tension just to remain standing is inefficient. Second, riding the balls of the feet causes "floating" to happen much easier. Floating is a balance break when your weight shifts forward and you become pinned on the balls of the feet as a result from body rise.

The New Idea - How to distribute weight on the feet

Stand normally and relaxed on your feet. Now focus approximately 60 percent of your weight on the balls of the feet, and let the remaining 40 percent dissipate through the rest of your foot. Your can keep weight on the heel. Just make sure more weight is on the ball.

This is how the foot works. Don't reinvent the

Why not use your entire foot? It is natural, the way we were evolved to walk. We can through training make it more efficient. The old way of focusing your weight solely on the balls of your feet means you are balancing your entire system on two points, one per each foot. The human foot was evolved to carry weight on three points per foot! 1 versus 3. Which sounds more stable?

How weight is normally distributed.

Look at he above picture. For Aikido purposes switch the focus of weight (most weight) from the heel to the ball. Switch the (second most weight) to the heel, Otherwise this picture stands as a good example of what we should be doing to be relaxed dynamic and NATURAL.

Try the old way too, and use what works for you and your practice.


  1. When I studied Yoshinkan, we used the whole foot. Keeping on the balls of your feet, and the resulting tension seems un natural.

  2. the problem with putting weight mostly to the heel is that you go to a resting condition-- wherein the body weight starts resting on the bone structure and the knee straightens-- we dont really want our knee to straighten because when striaght it is much more vulnerable to injury and it also adds a lag in terms of our potential responsiveness -- you are right to note that the calf muscles stay enganged when weight is largely on the ball of the foot and this also fits in with tomiki's ideas on "preparing the self" -- entering into shizenhontai is not total relaxation - but more like zazen -- aiming for an alert and engaged form or postural relaxation-- and yes you are right --it is "unnatural" it requires conditioned practice to make it your reactive default--shizenhontai is work not rest--
    the whole foot in contact with the ground is good beacuse you get to use the heel as an extra stabalizer-- i think tomiki's sheet of rice paper analogy was an attempt to describe a dynamic feel in which the weight is bourne mostly by the ball of the foot (around bubbling well point) but that the heel brushes the floor and is still useful as a secondary stabilizer-- many folks have carried it to an extreme and tried to take all weight off the heel like a cat stance almost which is precarious and leads to the instability problem you mentioned -- more properly there is weight on the heel but the load of the body is predominatly carried on the ball of the foot -- the heel feels light and mobilized which in effect keeps your knees slightly bent which in effect keeps your hips and center engaged and your spine upright and relaxed-- alternatively: weight on the heels, knee(s) straighten, hips disengage, spine starts looking for something to lean on--time to go to sleep-- very relaxed but not very good for responding to threats-- what we seek is the best part of relaxation and naturalness with the best part of alertness and responsivness