Quotes on Seme (攻め)

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

  • Various Teachers
  • Sensei from Kendo Chuudoku
  • Sensei from the Seiyukan Dojo
  • Oya Minoru (Kyoshi 7 dan)
  • Noma Hisashi and
  • Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan).

Updates:  Dec. 6, 2021 – Added a quote from Yakisawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan).  June 26, 2020 – Added translations from the Seiyukan dojo sensei and KendoChuudoku.  Aug. 16, 2019 – Added quote from Maruccho sensei and re-ordered the qujotes.  Dec 17, 2018 – Added quotes from Koda sensei.

Various Teachers

  • It is very difficult to describe Seme in a few words, but for the sake of convenience, I will define it as “an action to create an opportunity to set up the conditions for an effective strike, or an action to create an opening by disrupting the opponent’s mental or physical balance through spirit, Shinai manipulation, or body movement for an opportunity to strike”. – Yakizawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [Kendojidai_Yakisawa].
  • Seme is to make your job easy.  You want to make the opponent move the way you want (the opponent to move) – like in hikidashi – or be scared, panicked, 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。」
  • Do not just wait for your opponent to strike.  There’s a big difference between your opponent being “able” to strike, and being “made” to strike. – Shigematsu Kimiaki (Kyoshi 8-dan) [Shudokai_2016]
  • Apply seme with your legs and strike with your legs. – Arima Mitsuo (Hanshi 8 dan) according to Miyato Nobuyuki (Kyoshi 8th Dan) in [KendoJidai_RoleLegs]
  • 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]

Sensei from the Kendo-Chuudoku (Kendo-Addiction) Website:

  • Seme above and strike below.  Seme below and strike above [Chuudoku_Feint].
    • 「上を攻めて下を打つ、下を攻めて上を打つ」
  • Seme the “kyo” and strike the “jitsu” [Chuudoku_SemeTame].
    • The terms kyo and jitsu are explained in more detail in [KendoNotes KyoJitsu].
    • 虚を攻めて実を打つ

Sensei from the Seiyukan Dojo [Seiyukan_seme]

  • When I explain seme to children,
    • I sayYou become the main character.  In order to strike your opponent, you think ‘If I do this, then the opponent will do this.’  So, you do that and then strike.
      • 私は子供達に「攻め」を説明するときに、「自分が主人公になって相手を打つために、僕がこうしたら相手はこうするから、こうやって打つ。ということを考えてすることだよ。」と説明しています。
    • “So, seme is not:  If the opponent does ‘something’, then I’ll strike this way.  Think of your starting things off with: if I do this, then…”
      • 「だから、相手が○○したらこう打つなんていうのは攻めじゃないよ。自分がこうしたら、からスタートして考えるよ。」
  • One of the purposes of seme is to cause (one of) the four sicknesses (shikai) to arise in your opponent.
    • 「攻め」の目的の一つは相手に「四戒」を起こさせることです.
  • Another purpose (of seme) is to create the state of “kyo” in the opponent.  Cause “kyo” to arise in the opponent and then strike with “jitsu”.  “kyo” is the state where the body reacts automatically (unconsciously) – even though the head has not sent any (conscious) commands to the various parts of the body.
    • Editor’s notes:
    • もう一つの目的は、相手に「虚」の状態を創ることです。相手に「虚」の状態を起こさせ、それに対し「実」で打ちます。「虚」とは、頭では自分の体の各部に命令していないのに、体が勝手に反応している状態です。

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.


[Chuudoku_Feint] 剣道でフェイント技はダメってホント?対策も一緒に考えよう!剣道中毒. (Really?  That the feint in kendo is bad! Let’s think of the counter-attack together. Kendo-Chuudoku (addiction))

[Chuudoku_SemeTame] 剣道の攻めと溜め!永遠のテーマを追求しよう! (Seme and Tame in Kendo!  Let’s pursue this never-ending theme – Kendo-Chuudoku(addiction).

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

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

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

[KendoJidai_RoleLegs] Nobuyuki Miyato, “The role of legs in Yūkōdatotsu, Kendo Jidai International, May 18, 2020.

[Kendojidai_Yakisawa] Yakisawa Makoto, “The Complete Shinai Manipulation Guide,” Kendo Jidai International, Mar. 8, 2021

[KendoNotes_KyoJitsu] “Kyo (虚) and Jitsu (実) in Seme – Quotes and Resources” KendoNotes.com, June 27, 2020.

[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)

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

[Seiyukan_seme] 剣道 最近の自分の稽古10 小手の打ち方2, 誠裕館道場 (An article in a series on keiko and kote striking which describes seme)

[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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