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:

  • Quotes on “What is Seme?”  (According to Various Teachers)
  • Quotes on Ways to Apply Seme
    • According to Various Teachers
    • Sensei from Kendo Chuudoku
    • Sensei from the Seiyukan Dojo
    • Oya Minoru (Kyoshi 7 dan)
    • Noma Hisashi and
    • Koda Kunihide (Kyoshi 8 dan)
    • Miyato Nobuyuki (Kyoshi 8 dan)
    • Ito Harufumi (Hanshi 8 dan)
    • Ishihara Kazuyuiki (Kyoshi 8 dan)
    • Yagizawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan)
    • Hyakusyu
  • Quotes on How to Seme

Updates:  Oct 5, 2022 – Added quotes from Yagizawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan) [Kendojidai_Yagisawa].  Aug 7, 2022 – Added quotes from Ishihara Kazuyuki (Koshi 8 dan) [Kendojidai_Ishihara] and Ito Harufumi (Hanshi 8 dan) [Kendojidai_ItoHarufumi].  July 6, 2022 – Added a pointer to an excellent article [Kenshi247_Seme5Arimitsu].  May 8, 2022 – Added quotes from [Hyakusyu_SemeKata].  Apr. 8, 2022 – Added quotes from Onda Kouji and MIyato Nobuyuki Sensei’s and reorganized the sections.  Mar. 20, 2022 – Added quote from Nabeyama Takahiro (Kyoshi 8th Dan).  Dec. 6, 2021 – Added a quote from Yagisawa 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.

Quotes on “What is Seme?” (According to 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”. – Yagizawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [Kendojidai_Yagisawa].
  • 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

  • (T) he most important thing is whether the Seme is felt.  Seme as I see it, is whether your opponent feels like you are going to strike. – Nabeyama Takahiro (Kyoshi 8th Dan) [KendoJidai_PerfectMen]
  • 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]
  • 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]
  • Seme is a battle for the center. – Miyato Nobuyuki (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [KendoJidai_Miyato]
  • 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.

On Ways to Apply Seme

According to Various Teachers

  • 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]
  • I believe that pointing my kensen at my opponent is connected to creating seme. If your kensen is constantly pointed at your opponent, your opponent will feel pressured. – Onda Kouji (Kyoshi 8 dan) [KendoJidai_Onda]
  • (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]

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]:

  • 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.

Miyato Nobuyuki (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [KendoJidai_Miyato]

  • The basis of my Seme is to get the initiative. I always try to be relaxed in a natural posture, so I don’t impose any restrictions on myself such as avoiding retracting my left foot before striking.
  •  I don’t want to strike too fast or from too far away, but I try to apply Seme with a natural posture.

Ishihara Kazuyuki (Koshi 8 dan) from [Kendojidai_Ishihara]

  • I try to be conscious of sensing them (the cues of the opponent’s mind and technique) while closing the distance during Seme.
  • Specifically, I apply Seme from far away, from where blades touch to where blades cross, and finally in Issoku Itto.  What I practice at this point is to attack the opponent’s Tsuba-area.  I check the opponent’s strength and reaction from the touching blades to the crossing blades, sensing the opponent’s strength and reaction. And when I close the distance to Issoku-Itto, I apply Seme from below with the Shinai in a low position.
    • (Editor’s Note:  Ishihara Sensei goes on to explain the advantages of applying Seme from below)

Ito Harufumi (Hanshi 8 dan) from [Kendojidai_ItoHarufumi]

  • If you “hit the opponent when he moves,” without considering Seme, it is simply a game of speed.
  • If the opponent is a person of an equal level of ability, the way you would deal with the situation is generally what they will think about as well.
    • First think of a situation in which you’d think “I have to hit or want to hit”. 
    • “What kind of Seme would make you attack?”  If you can imagine that, you will gradually learn to move your opponent.
    • (Editor’s Note:  I think that this is brilliant.)
  • In order to attack and utilize an opening, you need to make a prediction.
    • Prediction is like a gamble in a sense that you don’t know whether it will come or not, but you can increase the probability of predicting right by sensing your opponent’s tendencies and way of thinking in the course of pressuring each other.

Yagizawa Makoto (Kyoshi 8 dan) from [Kendojidai_Yagisawa]

Editor’s note:  I highly recommend reading the full article and viewing the figure entitled “Structure of catching opportunity” summarizing and making sense of the various opportunities to strike.

  • Also, in relation to Kamae, it is clear that the opportunity to strike is created by the tactics of Maai, so Maai must be utilized as an important element of Seme.
    • In Shiai and Keiko, it is important to know when you can strike and when you cannot, and when your opponent will strike and when he will not.
  • … in the process from Seme to striking, there is a psychological element of “catching the opportunity”.  This is about perceiving the change in Kamae caused by various physical and mental movements and disruptions as openings and recognizing it as an opportunity that leads to strike.
    • However, since the opponent’s changes are extremely fluid and instantaneous, it is not enough to simply observe the opponent’s situation. It is necessary to use your ability to discern, read, and predict the opponent’s movements, while at the same time keeping in mind that you must be able to see and respond to the opponent’s situation at a moment’s notice.
  • When you enter Issoku-itto no Maai, you may mistakenly think that you have applied Seme or that you have an opportunity to strike, and you may easily launch a technique. I’ve experienced this first hand. 
    • This is a way of executing a technique that can only be seen as rushing, being drawn out, or losing the exchange of Seme.

Hyakusyu from [Hyakusyu_SemeKata].

Editor’s note:  A very insightful video.  Though the audio is in Japanese, the closed captions are in English.   The author describes clearly with ample examples:

  • Three ways of applying pressure from the 7:05 min. mark.
    • Seme from omote (by taking the center from the right).
    • Seme from ura (by taking the center from the left).
    • Seme from below (by lowering the kensaki and pressuring the opponent’s kote for an ura kote strike).  This is expanded in another video [Hyakusyu_SemeForMen].
  • The importance of trying different approaches from the 5:56 min mark:
    • If seme from omote doesn’t work, then seme from ura.  If seme from ura doesn’t work, then seme from below.  Change it up when applying seme.
    • And if your opponent still doesn’t budget, don’t just seme.  Add in harai.  Harai from below or above.  Keep adding changes and your opponent will react.
  • Three reasons why one’s seme may be ineffective and how to rectify that from the 3:40 min. mark:
    • The left hand may not be in the center.  Make sure to keep the left hand in the center.
    • Wide arms (with the elbows sticking out).  Close in the arms.
    • You may be trying to take the center by using only your hands.
      • Imagine applying pressure by pressing forward with one step (by using the body and legs instead)
  • Take the center line by using the legs.  足を使って中心線を取る。(7:18 min mark)

Quotes on How to Seme

  • I highly recommend reading the writings of Arimitsu Masaaki Sensei in this Kenshi247 article: [Kenshi247_Seme5Arimitsu]!
    • Arimitsu Sensei appears to peel its layers to down to the core of tanden breathing.  “In order to achieve this you must always sink your spirit into your lower abdomen (tanden)…. so much so that your abdomen feels tight against your obi and tare.”
  • Move the opponent by taking a step in. – Usunaga Sensei in the context of what judges tend to look for in kodansha shinsa.
    • 一歩入って相手を出させるように。。。


[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).

[Hyakusyu_SemeKata] 【剣道 Kendo】 攻め方 種類とコツ The types of Seme【百秀武道具店 Hyakusyu Kendo】(7:55 mins)

[Hyakusyu_SemeForMen] 【剣道 Kendo】必ず当たる面打ち!攻め方のコツ 【百秀武道具店 Hyakusyu Kendo】(4:58 mins).

[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_Ishihara] Ishihara Kazuyuki “Read the movements in your opponent’s body and mind (Ishihara Kazuyuki)”, Kendojidai, July 1, 2022.

[Kendojidai_ItoHarufumi] Ito Harufumi, “Read the movements in your opponent’s body and mind (Ito Harufumi),” KendoJidai, June 20, 2022. 

[KendoJidai_Miyato] Miyato Nobuyuki, “The role of legs in Yūkōdatotsu,” KendoJidai, May 18, 2020.

[KendoJidai_Onda] Kouji Onda, “The essence of kamae that leads to seme and tame,” KendoJidai, Feb. 1, 2019.

[KendoJidai_PerfectMen] Nabeyama Takahiro (Kyoshi 8 dan) “How to Hit the Perfect Men,” KendoJidai, July 1, 2018.

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

[Kendojidai_Yagisawa] Yagisawa 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.

[Kenshi247_Seme5Arimitsu] George McCall, “SEME #5:  Arimitsu Masaaki”, kenshi247.net, Oct 28, 2013.

[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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