The following is a short translation of a famous sensei’s description of SEME.
Seme #5: SEME #5: Arimitsu Masaaki
“Kamae with the centre line (the extension of your shinai) being around the area between your opponents chest and throat, all the while energetically pressuring your opponent. However, don’t intentional show this spirit at the end of your shinai; as much as you can, keep your outward composure at all times. For example, if the opponent does something like strikes down your shinai etc, quietly and unhurriedly allow your shinai to go back to the centre line.
However, at the instant when your partner threatens to step in and strike, without a moments delay face them enthusiastically and ensure that your pressure is projected out through the tip of your shinai towards your opponent with the feeling of “If you are going to attack, come on then!!!”
To do this, you must relax your shoulders, soften your hands, and kamae in the centre utilising your spirit to face the oncoming attack. 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.
Depending on your ability to do this, your shoulders will become relaxed, your hands soft and flexible, and your kamae will look bigger and more impressive.
If you can achieve this then during a fierce bout then you will be able to read even the smallest behavior in the disposition or movement of your opponent, and you will be able to strike wholeheartedly with abandon using all the resources available to you. This ability to read your opponent is connected to one’s belief and therefore ability to throw themselves into an attack wholeheartedly (sutemi).
During keiko, especially of your partner is more senior to you, its common that you find yourself being constantly pressured strongly by the tip of their shinai. At this time its important that you fight with the feeling of receiving that shinai on your throat, and that when you step in and attack, to do so with the aim of getting past that shinai tip. This is the first stage in the study of true kendo.”
Arima sensei was the winner of the All Japan police individual championship 3 times and the team championships once (2nd place once as well). He has also taken part and placed highly in the All Japan Championships, Kokutai, and the Meiji mura taikai amongst other competitions. At the time of writing this piece he was a police kendo teacher in Kagoshima police HQ and kyoshi 8dan. He is currently the vice-director of Kagoshima kendo renmei and a director of the All Japan kendo association. He is now hanshi 8dan.
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.