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.

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Kendo is…

Sawaki Kodo (沢木興道, 1880-1965) is considered by some to be the most important Japanese Zen master of the 20th century. His parents died early and he grew up being adopted by a gambler and an ex-prostitute. When he was 16, he ran away from home to become a monk at Eiheiji, one of the two main temples of Soto Zen. At first unsuccessful, he was finally ordained as a monk and began his Zen studies.

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The concept of kendo in action

The following is a translation of an extremely interesting hand written note given to Jim Gucciardo (NYC kendo club) by Nishino Goro hanshi in 1998.

Nishino Goro hanshi was born in 1923 in Kochi prefecture. After graduating from Tokyo Normal Higher School he became a school teacher in Hokkaido. After the war he returned to his home prefecture and worked as a high school teacher. He has taken part in the Senshuken Taikai (“All Japans”), the kyoshokuin taikai (All Japan teachers championshop), kokutai, etc. He is the honourary kendo teacher of Kochi Prefectures Medical University.

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Sinister Swordsmanship

Tensetsu-ransetsuIt’s a not uncommon sight on sword-related forums these days. An aspiring student of the Japanese sword arts, left-handed, joins the forum and asks about studying ken (be it kendo, iaido, or aiki-ken) with a left-handed grip. He is quickly informed that no, Japanese swordsmanship is a right-handed affair, that all Japanese swordsman were right-handed, saya were worn on the right and saya-ate avoided at all costs, and trying to learn it left-handed would be weird at best, uncouth and disrespectful at worst. Veteran lefties give him “Ganbare! I’ve been there, too!” encouragement. Righties tell him about all the things he’ll find easier because he’s lefty. Sometimes the lefty responds with resignation, and sometimes he rages against the system. The left-handed grip is natural for them! This adherence to right-handed grip only is outmoded, discriminatory, and stupid! This, predictably, turns just about everyone against him, lefty and righty alike. Continue reading Sinister Swordsmanship

So you want to research traditional ryuha?


“I am doing some research on Iroha ryu and I am wondering if anyone can recommend any good books or websites….” Anyone who has spent some time on the various forums and mailing lists involved in traditional Japanese martial arts has seen comments such as these. Such requests are not surprising given the fact that traditional Japanese martial arts come from an outside culture where we have often little to no point of reference on which to base our initial assumptions (let’s not get into the whole Hollywood movie argument now). The desire to learn more about the activity we are putting so much time and effort into is natural and of course I would encourage all practitioners to find out as much as they can, especially concerning the ryu in which they are actively involved. One thing we can never have too much of is knowledge after all.

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