Here’s some quotes on seme by various authors, Oya Minoru (Kyoshi 7 dan), Noma Hisashi and Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan). The set will likely grow as I discover more.
Updates: Dec 17, 2018 – Added quotes from Koda sensei.
- Move the shadow (of the other) 「陰（かげ）を動かす。」 – Miyamoto Musashi from the Book of Five Rings.
- 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.
[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)