The reality of seme

The following is the translation of some notes written by Furuya Fukunosuke hanshi during a kendo lecture at a Yoseikai gasshuku in Nara, 2001*. Furuya hanshi sadly passed away in 2008 but his teachings have been recorded by one of his top students – Uegaki sensei – and published in book format. The book is not on sale to the public but I hope to post other items from it in the future.

I’ll stress that I didn’t attend these lectures. Whats presented here are translations of notes found in the book. As such, I can’t impart any of the verbal teachings behind the words. Apologies in advance.

* 95% of the following is from a gasshuku in 2001, the other 5% are additions from a different gasshuku in 1999 using notes of with a very similar theme.


The reality of seme

* The main components of seme:

  1. Capture the initiative with your spirit (気)… by doing this you can create openings (隙) allowing you to execute various waza;
  2. Control the center (中心)… forcing your opponents sword tip from the your center line, break his center and strike;
  3. Develop your understanding of advantageous spatial distance (Maai 間合い)… by this I mean understanding the spatial distance between you and your opponent and using it to your advantage.

Successful seme depends on your ability to combine 1, 2, and 3, and this – in tandem with your ability to concentrate effectively – is an important factor in being victorious overall. Remember also to:

  • have the courage to attack from a far distance;
  • attack without fearing being struck yourself even if you know that it will happen (sutemi 捨身).

* Breaking your opponents kamae:

  1. Break through the intangible wall of your opponents spirit;
  2. Break through their physical kamae.

By doing this you can create a favourable situation for success.

* The basics:

A. Shikake waza (attacking from oneself without taking into account your opponents feeling)

  1. based on the seme pattern, be able to adapt to the changes that your opponent makes;
  2. renzoku waza (stringing multiple attacks together);
  3. harai waza;
  4. debana/degashira waza;
  5. hiki waza;
  6. other waza (katsugi, maki, katate, etc).

B. Oji waza

  1. nuki;
  2. suriage;
  3. kaeshi.

* Concept:

Theory… with only theory you are blind.
Practise… with only practise you are empty.

In other words, you must seek proficiency in both theory and practise to make your kendo whole.


Sources

範士八段古谷福之助先生:「ご指導緑」。平成二十一年発行。上垣功。非売品。

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George

I'm the founder and chief editor of kenshi247.net. Amongst other things I am a high school kendo club coach, an avid practitioner of classical swordsmanship, a history student, and a vegetarian.

7 thoughts on “The reality of seme”

  1. Excellent article, and I think the last lines are most important. Kendo is a experiential study. One must go through the process to learn, then digest and incorporate into your being to grow. Thank you as always for making these important insights available to us non-Japanese. -J

  2. Jim, cheers! If the truth be told, this website was started mainly for my own research purposes. I realised soon after that there are folks out there that would like to see some of this information published (in English), and also that there are already people out their with access to vast amounts of information (either hiding in their heads or on their book shelves) and experience that I would like to tap. Even though a lot of the content is niche, why not get it out there and share it with the larger community? It seems a shame not to.

    When I started kendo the only information available in English was Ozawa’s “Kendo” and Sasamori/Warner’s “This is kendo.” Although this situation has improved a lot over the last 20 years or so, I still believe that the quality of kendo literature in English is – to put it *kindly* – poor (for the most part).

    As you noted in the comment above: “I think the last lines are most important.”

    I agree with this 100%. Unfortunately, as far as my experience goes, that while the world outside of Japan is becoming stronger at the “practise” element of the equation above, the “theory” part – it seems – is still in the stone age.

    I don’t think this site alone can address this, but I hope that it shows that the kendo/budo world is a lot deeper than what they read in English language books, and that it spurs people on to do their own individual research.

    Oops, this comment is too long!

  3. I think kata helps. “Looking at a Far Mountain” by Paul Budden has helped me. The author is a from Chesham, England and a member of the Great Britain team. ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3245-8. I found it on Amazon.

    The All Japan Kendo Federation (全日本剣道連盟) publish 日本剣道形解説書 and a translation “Nippon Kendo Kata”, but it is a translation, with all that is implied (I’m grateful to have it, but it’s bt ropey in places). Try this
    http://zenkenren-shop.com/index_en.html in english.

  4. Hey kerero,

    There is only one kata book I would recommend that is available in English. Its called “Kendo Kata: Essence and Application” by Inoue Yoshihiko and translated by Alex Bennet. No other kata book (or kendo book with a kata section) even comes close to it, including the ZNKR (All japan kendo federation) produced books. You can get it on Amazon (looks to be unavailable at the moment) or from kendo-world.com.

  5. I’ve only read bits of Inoue Sensei’s book. I can’t seem to find the whole book anywhere. Is it still in print?

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