Seme #2: Sakudo Masao
Already well known in Japan, Osaka sports universities Sakudo sensei is becoming more and more well known outside of the country nowadays, so I thought I’d dig out a piece of kendo literature by him to share with kenshi247 readers. Here is a translation of a short description of ‘seme’ that was originally published in a Kendo Jidai article series called “Mei senshu, renma no hibi” (originally serialised in 1983-84). The series was published in a two book format called “renma no hibi” in 1989. At the time Sakudo sensei was still only kyoshi 7dan (now he is hanshi 8dan).
See Seme #1 published in 2008.
You must face your opponent with the feeling that ‘ki’ is crystalized in and emitted from your body. Your hands must be soft. The softness of the inside of your right hand is especially important. Lightly touch the tip of your sword against your opponents sword; don’t especially strike or push their shinai in any way. During this time your body should be soft and flexible and your heart/spirit firm. To get the knack of this you must constantly think about this ‘firmness.’
While keeping this ‘fullness’ of feeling in your body you must project the feeling of ‘come and strike me!’ at your opponent, and – at the same time – while abandoning yourself to their strike, slowly close distance. Depending on your opponents movements you may sometimes close in relatively quickly and largely, but in any case the most important aspect you must keep in mind is your breathing as you move: it is essential that you unify your body movement and your breathing. That is to say, you must not move as you breathe out in a large/long blow, but execute movement as you are breathing out rhythmically in short, slow blows. This is so that your opponent cannot read your intentions easily.
While you are moving your body in this manner, the tip of your shinai should be soft and flexible. If your shinai tip is stiff then in the instant where an attacking movement occurs it will not be able to stay in the center, and all your strikes will be incomplete. Please be careful about this point.
To conclude, keeping this ‘fullness’ of feeling in your body and spirit you must begin to ‘seme’ and – whilst this is happening – you must study from where the intention of your opponent appears: is it from their shinai top? their right hand? their eyes? When your opponent doesn’t begin to move/react to your pressure but you see an opening and attack, then this is called ‘kakari no sen’ and if they move because of your pressure and you strike them this is called ‘go no sen.’ When you strike, do so straight from your kamae.
About the author
Sakudo Masao hanshi is a professor at Osaka sports university (specialising in Budo) and the leader of the kendo club. He is a graduate of Tokyo University of Education, earlier called Tokyo-shihan-gakko, the school that was home to Takano Sasaburo. There he was taught kendo by such famed sensei as Nakano Yasoji hanshi and Yuno Masanori hanshi. Upon moving to Osaka he did kendo under various sensei including Ikeda Yuji hanshi. He had competition success at university level and has taken part in the 8dan taikai. Outside of university life he holds several kendo related posts both in Japan and abroad.