This is Part 3 of a seven-part English translation of an article by Nakamura Sensei, 7th Dan. Posted with permission from Nakamura sensei and translated by KendoNotes.
So, finally, we delve into seme.
One slides the right foot and goes forward in seme and the center of gravity moves forward. However, during this phase, please never raise the hands. For if the hands are raised, one’s movements can be read by the opponent and one can be taken in (deceived) instead. One’s hands are raised at the moment when the opponent is about to initiate a strike. This is the instant for one to strike.
Next, I shall explain in a bit more detail the part on seme-komu and the sliding of the right foot. If one were to release the tension from the right knee while in the kamae position, one would fall forward with a thud. With the left leg, push one’s weight lightly as if to prevent oneself from falling. In doing this, one does not fall and one’s center of gravity moves forward parallel with the floor.
With regards to one’s speed going forward, please imagine the shinkansen (Japan’s high-speed bullet train) starting to move. One starts moving quietly (with stealth) to the extent that one cannot sense or feel oneself starting to move.
With this kind of movement, one semes in while sliding the right foot (forward). The distance one semes in with the right foot varies depending on the opponent and waza (used). With this seme, along with a quiet (stealthy) initial movement and hands which are not raised, the opponent will be unaware initially (of the movement). At a certain point as one comes in closer, the opponent will realize this with “Ah” and initiate a strike in panic. At this moment, the opponent comes in closer by half a head-length in an attempt to strike. One advances the right foot again and then, at the same time, kicks the left foot and strikes.
Since one’s motion is launched a half to a single heart beat faster than that of the opponent, one can secure a strike while the opponent is still, at degarashi (as the opponent moves in to strike) or at aimen. At the instant of striking, it is better not to raise the right foot high to extend the (fumikomi) distance. It may seem that raising the right foot high would allow one to jump further out. However, when the raised foot returns to the ground, it returns to a position only a little further out. I confirmed this by testing it out. Ideally, extend the right knee forward where the lower the height (that it is raised), the greater the (fumikomi) distance. Rather than advancing with the foot, advance with the knee as if entering with the hips.
Rather than pushing the body forward quickly and strongly with the left leg, the sensation is a slight push where the extended right leg (at the instant it lands) pulls the body’s center of gravity forward.* The point is, rather than jumping to strike at the instant to strike, the feeling is as if the right leg pulls the body forward. With this approach, the Achilles tendon is unburdened. I believe it is the ideal way to strike. Like a “ssssss-Tong” (sound effect).
The next important point is the heart (mind). If one intends to attack and seme-komu, one can be taken in. The mindset of “Please strike my men” and to “give” one’s men is important. The following may be the most difficult point. Before striking, please “die”. If one “dies”, there is no fear. It is only a bamboo stick that simply strikes the surface of thick bogu. Next, please believe in yourself. Your unconscious instincts should protect you.
From about the time I committed to memory this way of striking, the sole of my left foot no longer has cracks. Nowadays, my sole has been completely clear with no beans (bumps). Though I do not know whether this is good or bad, I believe this has happened because the movement of my body has become smooth.
* I revised this sentence on Jun 5, 2019 for a more accurate translation.