Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Shisei: Posture

Essentially the shisei (posture) comprises of three main points: 1. koshi (the hips); 2. senaka (the backbone); and 3. atama/kubi (the head/neck). When these are perfectly vertical from the ground, good posture has been achieved. The challenge, however, is maintain this shisei when lowering the center of gravity—via bending at the knees—and when moving into different tachikata (stances). In actuality, good shisei transcends vertical alignment as it also
encompasses horizontal alignment; that is, keeping the hips level. Hence irrespective of being in (or transferring into) shomen/zenmi (hips fully forward/square to the front), hanmi (hips in the half-facing position) or gyaku-hanmi (hips in the reverse half-facing position), it is as if the upper body is resting on a perfectly flat platform.

When doing high reps of keriwaza, it is hard to keep good posture.
Overall, when shisei is correct one can move optimally from their centre and carry the heaviest part of the body, the head, most efficiently. What's more, from an exact shisei, one can `break the rules' (i.e. - break their posture) when appropriate. For example, for certain waza, like 'the slight forward lean with yama-zuki'; when contracting the body/forward folding i.e. - the jump in Unsu kata; ducking techniques; special free-fighting postures, and so on...

I could go on promoting good posture but will rather just give two more `pros', which I have not covered... Proper shisei helps one to breath well and is good for the human body. As far as kokyu (breathing) goes, "slumping the body tends to cause one's breathing to be shallow" and, thus, is less efficient and unhealthy. If one thinks of the body as a machine, you can simply imagine that bad shisei is like setting up and/or using the machine incorrectly: the output/productivity will certainly be less. Insofar as health goes, good shisei eradicates the danger of 'uneven distribution of weight on the spine' and, indeed, and other joints. Everyone knows that bad posture is one of the prime culprits behind back pain and back/neck injuries as a whole, so I will leave that there.

More than physical gains, shisei also assists one psychologically. Standing tall from the waist up makes one feel `genki' (positive/energetic) and also conveys jisshin (self-confidence) to others. Conversely, while a 'bad shisei' won't necessarily mean that one is lacking confidence or is sad; or that they are tired; however, it certainly won't help a person feel otherwise. The bottom line is that bad posture, when one is not totally exhausted or facing illness, can be summarized as either laziness and/or lack of self-awareness: both of which, needless to say, are not in one’s best interest.

Taken as a whole, good shisei will result in far better karate, better physical capacity in general, and better health. Common sense, yes! But implementation 'in reality' is often harder than one might think. I really recommend regular self-analysis of people's posture, as it can quickly become bad, and not be noticed! All the very best from Oita, Japan. STAND TALL!!!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2016). 

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