The following is a short translation of a couple of famous sensei’s description of SEME.
SEME #3: Nishikawa Kiyonori
“With the extension of your kensen aimed between your opponents throat and chest area keep your kamae in the center. Without hitting or striking the opponents shinai, lightly stick your shinai to theirs. If your opponent tries to take the center, slightly push your shinai back on theirs (and re-take control). If they continue to try and take the centre lower your kensen to around about the height of their solar plexus and check their shinai in place.
When you are driving in for the attack be especially careful of your footwork and hip movement, and ensure that your feeling (of attack) is expressed out through your kensen towards the opponent. When you get into striking distance you must not attack straightaway; rather, keep the driving feeling as it is and watch the opponent. In the instant that they start to move, strike them.”
Nishikawa sensei is the main teacher at Keishicho, the top kendo police institute in the country. He studied under many of the countries leading kenshi, including Morishima Tateo. He has won the All Japan Kendo championships 3 times (+runner-up once, third place 3 times), the 8dan senbatsu championship once, the World Kendo Championships (mens team) twice, the All Japan Police championships (team) 8 times and placed 3rd in the individuals 3 times. He was kyoshi 7dan at the time this article was published; he is now kyoshi 8dan.
Nishikawa sensei as a young 6dan (chudan):
SEME #4: Sueno Eiji
“With your body filled to the brim with ki, kamae in chudan. Keeping the extension of your kamae somewhere between the middle of your opponent’s body and their shoulders, without striking or hitting their shinai, and while moving slightly forward, back, left and right, strongly apply pressure (towards your opponent) with your ki.
If the opponent tries to strike, hit, wind, etc, your shinai keep your hands soft and absorb their interference; however, without letting any time open up, let your kamae return naturally to the center. This is not just about destroying their kamae, but about destroying the internal kamae of their heart/spirit; to do this you must be deliberate in your seme.
Its at this point where the principles (of kendo) come into play: when the opponents spirit or ki stops (due to confusion or doubt), when the opponent is just about to launch a technique, when they step back to retreat, or when an attack is spent, etc etc, it is here that you must strike.”
Sueno Sensei was a kendo tokuren member then kendo teacher at the police academy in Kagoshima before retiring. He trained under famous kenshi including Nakakura Kiyoshi sensei. He won the All Japan kendo championships once (came 2nd once), the All Japan kendo federation 50th anniversary 8dan competition, the world kendo championships (team) once, Todofuken taikai twice, the All Japan police championships (team) twice and individuals once. He was kyoshi 7dan at the time this article was published; he is now hanshi 8dan.
27th All Japan Kendo Championships 1979. Sueno Eiji sensei (6dan, white) vs Seme #1 Furukawa Kazuo (5dan, red).
This small section is part of a much larger series of interviews called “Mei senshu, renma no hibi” (famous competitors and their day-to-day practise) published by Kendo Jidai between 1983-84. The series was compiled into 2 books and published as “Renma no hibi” in 1989. Most of the interviewed sensei were only 7dan at the time and are now renowned 8dan sensei.