What is the purpose of doing suwari waza?

What is the purpose of doing suwari waza? Should we not just be focusing on standing techniques?

It’s practiced for the sake of tradition. It makes your legs and hips stronger. It’s a form of punishment. It gets you ready for fighting on the ground. These are a couple of ideas that I have seen floating around the internet.

I cannot recall a specific time that sensei has talked about this question. So I cannot relay a definitive statement from sensei on this matter. However I do have a personal opinion on this as someone who has lived and trained under sensei for 20 years. So with that in mind, make of the following what you will…

The reason why suwari waza is included in the syllabus (and again, I can only talk about the Iwama Aikido tradition here) is because of the inherent benefit that it gives you when you practice. N.B I am talking about the reason why it is still relevant to practice today in 2017 and why it has not been removed, not why it was originally included.

Doing techniques from a kneeling position severely limits our range of movement. Suwari waza therefore helps us to eliminate unnecessary movement from our technique. When you are doing the techniques from a standing position you are able to move more easily and you are able to constantly adjust your technique. As a result, people will often take several movement to accomplish something which should just take one.

If you try to constantly adjust your technique from a sitting position the movement will feel unwieldily and awkward. This can help you recognise weaknesses in your technique, and hopefully remove them.

Suwari waza is especially useful for beginners who have yet to learn the shapes or body positions of Aikido. When you give beginners too much freedom they often flop and bounce around the mat like a fish on the deck of a trawler, as their brain tries to make sense of the strange set of movements that it has just witnessed. Couple this with the fact they they are constantly being corrected, and you have information overload!!! By having them do suwari waza you can reduce their freedom of movement and give their bodies and brains a little less to worry about.

Performing suwari waza is a similar process to that of an artist chipping a lump of stone. By getting rid of all the excess unnecessary material they reveal the sculpture that is hidden within.

So in conclusion, if you were to ask: “Can you do Aikido without doing suwari waza?” The answer is of course, yes. “So, why do suwari waza?” Because it will make your Aikido that much better.

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