Quotes on Seme (攻め)

Here’s some quotes on seme that will likely grow as I discover more.  It is organized as follows:

  • Various Teachers
  • Oya Minoru (Kyoshi 7 dan)
  • Noma Hisashi and
  • Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan).

Updates:  Aug. 16, 2019 – Added quote from Maruccho sensei and re-ordered the qujotes.  Dec 17, 2018 – Added quotes from Koda sensei.

Various Teachers

  • Seme is to make your job easy.  You want to make the opponent move the way you want (the opponent to move).  Like hikidashi, or be scared, be panicked, be confused – those shikai.  So how you can make your opponent act the way you want (is seme).Kiyoshi Hao (7 Dan),
    • Over coffee after a 6:30am practice on January 8, 2019.  Thank you Hao sensei!
  • The key point of an effective seme is to show your willingness to strike.  The opponent (O) reacts because O thinks O may be hit.  Let’s try to consciously do a keiko where I convey to O the sense that “I’m going to strike!”.  If O reacts to your actions, it is evidence that your seme has worked. Maruccho sensei, [Maruccho_Seme]
    • 相手に攻めを効かせるポイントは、自分が打とうとする気持ちを見せることです。相手は、打たれると思うから反応するわけです。「打つぞ!!」という気持ちが相手に伝わるような稽古を意識してみましょうね。自分の行動によって相手が反応したのであれば、それは攻めが効いた証拠になります。まるっちょ

  • Move the shadow (of the other) 「陰(かげ)を動かす。」 – Miyamoto Musashi from the Book of Five Rings.
    • As explained in [Hakudoh_Seme], the “shadow” here refers to the unconscious or subconscious part of the opponent’s mind.
    • For example, It is necessary to enter in such a way as to move the other’s heart (the subconscious). – Hakudoh.com [Hakudoh_Seme]
      • 「相手の心(潜在意識)を動かすような入り込み方が必要です。」
  • In kendo we talk about shikai, the four sicknesses of surprise, fear, doubt and hesitation. It is to prompt one of these conditions that we make seme. – Geoff Salmon sensei [Kendoinfo_Bigger]
  • (Chiba sensei’s) main thoughts on seme were that you should keep a relaxed and natural posture and use seme to force your opponent to react to make the chance for debana or oji waza. – Summary of Masashi Chiba sensei’s comments by Geoff Salmon sensei [Kendoinfo_Chiba]
  • The state in which an unrelenting, determined position of advantage is maintained on the opponent. – Lorenzo Zago [Zago_SemeTame]
  • Seme is like water, a fluid that penetrates into a material permeating it, till it changes its consistency. K. Hasegawa Sensei as quoted by Lorenzo Zago in [Zago_Seme Tame]

Oya Minoru [Oya_Seme]:

  • Put plainly, seme is the process of searching for a means to break the deadlock of kamae in order to put yourself in the advantageous situation where an opportunity to execute a valid strike presents itself.
  • Passively watching for an opponent’s shortcomings or movements is not enough, but rather seme is an active, progressive process of creating openings and striking opportunities.
  • If the opponent’s kamae is steadfast and strong without any openings, then executing an attack will be futile. 
  • The opponent’s kamae must first be broken or unsettled, creating the opening for attack.  In other words, the opponent must be beaten before being struck.

Noma Hisashi from [Noma, pp. 54-55]

  • While attacking one also watches and waits, and  while  waiting  and  watching  one  is  on  the  verge  of  attacking.  When  this  is achieved it is known as Ken-Tai-Ichi (attack and defence as one).
    • The  words  Ken  and  Tai  mean  literally  to  attack  and  wait,  but  they  are  more  readily understandable as attack and defence.
  • …the  aim  is  to  induce the opponent to make the first move and defeat him.
  • Quoting Itto-ryu Densho:
    • In nature, a one sidedness of either Yang or Yin does not exist. At the extreme of Yang, there emerges Yin.  … attacking is one of Yang and stopping is one of Yin. … When I am trying to strike the opponent I watch the colour of his sword and react accordingly, not merely trying to initiate the first blow is to take a position called tai.  Induce  the  opponent  to  make  the  first  move  and  react  accordingly.  When  you  advance in trying to make the initial attack in a one sided attitude of Yang and without the aid on Yin, you will find great difficulty in opposing a strong opponent. Therefore try to combine the attitudes of  Yang and Yin during combat.

  • There should be an extreme of neither Ken nor Tai.

Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [Koda_ShinsaDVD, Episodes 13, 14]

These are loose translations of his words in Japanese.

  • Even though ki-ken-tai-ichi is fundamental in kendo, you really need “ki-ken-tai-ichi plus seme-kata” for shiai, shinsa to strike an opponent.
  • If you try to start seme from a close distance, you and/or the other will start flinching and trying to block.  Instead, start from a further distance apart with a sense of spaciousness (yoyuu) rather than tightness.
  • Though there are occasions of a clean separation of seme and then the strike, typically the two are done together, not separately.  If you apply seme and then later strike, there is a gap where an opponent may potentially strike you.
  • The point is to use not only your hands but also your legs when applying seme.


[Hakudoh_Seme] Seme in Kendo (剣道の攻め, はくどー庵) (in Japanese).

[Oya_Seme] Oya Minoru, “The Act of Seme” (PDF, 1 page).

[Kendoinfo_Chiba] Geoff Salmon, “Pearls from Chiba sensei!” Kendoinfo.net, July 6, 2007.

[Kendoinfo_Bigger] Geoff Salmon, “Getting Bigger,” Kendoinfo.net, April 18, 2016.

[Koda_ShinsaDVD] Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan), “Kendo Promotion Shinsa – Program” (剣道昇段審査・対策プログラム【教士八段 香田郡秀監修】) (in Japanese with no subtitles)

[Maruccho_Seme] まるっちょ, “剣道の攻め方のパターンは基本の3つを覚えておこう,” Maruccho.com, 2018年12月10日

[Noma] Noma Hisashi (1910-1939), The Kendo Reader (PDF, 55 pages)

[Zago_SemeTame] Lorenzo Zago (Renshi 7th Dan), “About the meaning of Seme and Tame – Seme? Tame?,” (Translated by Emmanuele Levi).





2 thoughts on “Quotes on Seme (攻め)

  1. Erich Bennett December 16, 2018 / 12:28 am

    Thank you Sensei for this forum, I now feel a better understanding of seme and will try to apply it with my next keiko Arrigato


    • kiai December 17, 2018 / 7:13 am

      Glad to hear that. Welcome and thank you for your comment Erich!


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