How to shiko or knee walk

Shiko is a word I was taught for knee walking. I don’t know if that is the correct term but I’ll use it in this article and in class until I learn the proper term.

We use shiko to move around on the padded mat (the tatami) in the dojo. From the kneeling position (Fig. 0), often called seiza, you lift the left knee and slide the right foot behind the left foot. (Fig. 1) The right foot should be on the ball of the foot, not the instep. Keep the heels of both feet close to each other the entire time of the shiko. The feet are at right angles to each other. Place your hands on your thighs near the kneecap. If they slide up to mid-thigh to higher, move them back to this position.

Fig. 0: Seiza or kneeling position

Fig. 0: Seiza or kneeling position

Fig. 1: Left knee up

Fig. 1: Left knee up

To move forward, press down on your left knee with your left hand. When the knee contacts the mat, pivot your hips so your right knee is up and your left foot slides under the butt and next to the right foot. (Fig. 2) Again maintain the right angle and close proximity.

Fig. 2: Right knee up

Fig. 2: Right knee up

The body should not move or sway. Only the hips, knees and feet move. To move forward again (Fig. 3), press down on the right knee with your right hand. (Fig. 4) When the knee contacts the mat, pivot your hips so your left knee is up and your right foot slides under the butt and next to the left foot. Maintain the right angle and close proximity to the other foot.

Fig. 4: Front view with knee up

Fig. 3: Front view with knee up

Fig. 5: Pressing the knee down

Fig. 4: Pressing the knee down

Continue alternating these sequences until you get to where you want to go. It should be smooth and quiet. Don’t wobble or fall over. Take your time and maintain your balance throughout the entire process.

Turning around is easy. Assume your right knee is up. Fold it towards your left knee, which is on the ground. At this point you are almost in a kneeling position called seiza except you’re on the balls of your feet not the insteps. Lift the left knee out to a right angle. At this point, you are ready to continue your shiko walk.

We use this movement when others are kneeling in meditation, for receiving rank awards or when the instructor is discussing something and all the students are listening. When a visiting master instructor or other dignitary is sitting, it is rude to stand while they are seated. By keeping our profile low we can scoot off the mat and attend to the task at hand.

One thought on “How to shiko or knee walk

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