Saturday, June 20, 2009

What is Seme?

For the past couple of months, Morikawa sensei has told me that I need to apply more seme to my fighting. He told me that whenever I fight him, he doesn’t feel any pressure coming from me. Throughout that time, I have been trying to apply what he has been telling me, but I still get the same piece of advice. Seeing as I obviously don’t quite get it, I decided to do a little research on what seme is, which should hopefully help me in achieving this goal. My intention was to ask Morikawa sensei for some more info on what he was talking about as well as a small section that explains what seme is in book Kendo Joutatsu Book by Inoue Hidekatsu sensei (剣道上達Book by 井上秀克). I’m not exactly fluent in the Japanese language, so I apologize in any sort of mistranslations that may occur.

The English definition of seme (攻め) is “attack.” The particular application of seme that I am looking for is much deeper than just the literal translation. Sometimes, the word may be used to tell the someone to attack more or be more forceful in tournaments, but the question is, “How is this supposed to be applied?”

After that practice, Morikawa sensei explained to me that I needed to move around, whether it be left, right, front or back. My shinai also has a small role in this by not only getting the center, but moving that around in various ways to see what reaction you can get out of your opponent. I have been trying to implement this recently, but I haven’t been getting the results I like from it. I need to be more prepared to react to anything that I see, which requires better reaction time and more immediate start-up.

After thinking about that for a bit, now it is time to take a look and see what Inoue sensei’s book says to get any additional information or confirm anything that I either heard or thought about. The section on seme starts off by explaining the general flow of events:

  • Semeru – put pressure on the opponent
  • Tameru – hold in your energy to prepare yourself to strike at any moment. Here, you try to feel your opponent’s reactions.
  • Kuzusu – Look for an opening. Once you see an opening, attack!

As explained above, when applying pressure, you need to look out for any reactions your opponent is making. Anyone that has some sort of experience with fighting might be able to look back on some to the common ways that people defend themselves (I know I am guilty of this as well). Sometimes, there might be a slight shift of the shinai or defense of the men by lifting the shinai over your head. Then there are the other times where they might feel forced to attack before they’re ready. Once you see these reactions, it is your job to react to it.

Near the end of the section, the book mentions that a common train of thought is to think that seme only involves trying to fight for the center. My translation skills get a little hazy around this point, unfortunately, but it mentions things about how the opponent will also be fighting for the center and a lot of missed chances. I do understand where he’s going with this though, because I can definitely see it in my Kendo. Only grabbing the center is part of it, but if the opponent is also fully aware of what’s going on and totally unphased, then any attack will be useless and I would be completely unprepared to react to the situation due to a limited field of vision.

From the little research I have done, I feel I have a better grasp of what seme is. It involves more of the entire body and mind than I originally thought since I was one of those people that originally thought that seme was just trying to get the center before you attack. Of course, understanding and doing are two completely different things. While I could ask everyone what seme is, from the looks of it, I really just need to see what works in terms of the opponent I am against and my own disposition. One thing that I do know is that I have felt the effects of seme, so now it is time for me to work on dishing it out.


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