Seme #1: Furukawa Kazuo


– 古川和男、剣道時代の「名選手、錬磨の日々」(1983ー84)からの抜粋です。「錬磨の日々」の本は1989発行。


Taking your kamae from a little bit outside issoku-itto-no-ma, lightly feel out your opponents shinai on both sides, all the time testing and looking at his KOKORO (心) and KI (気). From there, strongly press both sides of your opponents shinai and – whilst taking control of the center line – enter into issoku-itto-no-ma, pushing his shinai out of the way. In particular try slightly thrusting your kensaki or quickly adjusting moving your kamae down. Whilst moving in strongly, observe your opponents hands closely. During this time, use FUKUMI-ASHI (含み足). “Fukumi-ashi” is when you use the toes in your feet to slowly creep forward, slowly and bit-by-bit taking ground and moving into a good distance. SEME like this many times and – while continually observing your opponents feeling (気分) and kensaki – think about the method of SEME and what technique(s) you can use to defeat them.

– Furukawa Kazuo, from the Kendo Jidai article series called “Mei senshu, renma no hibi” that was originally published in 1983-84. The series was published in a two book format called “renma no hibi” in 1989.

This is the first in a serious of short translations about kendo concepts from renowned sensei. I am not an expert in Japanese nor in translation, so I have left the original Japanese in place for the Japanese readers out there. If you have comments on the translation, please get in touch.

The Same Path 師弟同行

In this months kendo nippon I read a short article by a 8 dan I occasionally have the pleasure to fence. In the article he mentions a phrase “師弟同行” (shitei doko), and its this that I wish to examine briefly here.

There are two separate words here, so lets look at their definition:

師弟 (shitei) – teacher and student (the relationship between them).
同行 (doko/dokyo) – accompanying; travelling together; fellow pilgrim.

I think by looking at the above you’ve already got a good idea of the meaning. It basically means that both the teacher and the student are travelling the same path together. I say “teacher and student” but we can easily use it to describe other budo relationships such as “sempai and kohai” and “motodachi and kakarite.” The article talks about this relationship and how the more experienced person should act in a jigeiko situation.

He talks about how both people must do jigeiko with the idea of learning/studying kendo, not just the junior of the pair. As the senior grade, you can easily slip into just standing there and allowing yourself to receive blows, or to spent your time mostly teaching. In this way, you are not studying yourself, he says, and that it becomes hard to pull the most out from the junior of the pair.

Instead of this, raise your spirit to match – or even exceed – your opponent. Its your job to fight above their level. While you are fighting them look at their kendo and if you can find an area that is lacking, help to pull this up. Explain in words if necessary.

The junior of the pairs job is to attack with full spirit without worrying about getting hit. Look for chances and take them without hesitation, using any and all waza at your disposal.

If both the senior and junior person approach jigeiko in this manner, both sides will learn from the experience, and jigeiko should become more fulfilling and worthwhile.

If follows, of-course, that sometimes you are the senior, and sometimes you are the junior. This holds true for everyone, even 8 dans. We are, after all, on the same path.

Kyoto taikai (extended)

Ok, so everyone knows about thelegendary Kyoto (Embu) Taikai. Founded way-back-when, this year was the 104th time. The embukai takes place in the Butokuden, which was completed in 1899 in Kyoto (next to Heian Jingu) and it served as the hombu dojo for the now defunct Butokukai (a new organisation exists with the same name however).

Anyway, the embukai goes over 4 days: the first day is koryu embu from various schools, followed by loads of naginata, some jodo, and an unbelievable amount of iaido. The second->fifth days are for kendo only, with people demonstrating from lowest grade/youngest age to highest grade/oldest age. The minimum requirement is 6 dan renshi, which makes the youngest possible age of around 32. The most senior people are often in their 90s, and the odd 9dan makes an appearance.

The format is a 2 point match over 3 minutes. If undecided its hikiwake. There is no competition perse, just your 3 minutes.

I called this post Kyoto Taikai EXTENDED for a reason. While the Kyoto Taikai is on (2nd-5th of May every year) this are other budo-related events happening in Kyoto on-and-around the same time: All Japan Iaido federations own embukai, 2 different koryu embukais (one at Shimogamo-jinja), plus Yabusame demonstrations. There is also the kendo-iaido-jodo 8 dan gradings, plus a morning kendo practise each day as well.

i.e. for the discerning budo tourist there is an unbelievable amount you can see in a week. There is also a healthy amount of supply-getting-chances as well, but thats another post….