Kendo Practice 5th and 6th July 2008 – Seme

Kashi no ki dojo was visited by Matsumoto Sensei (GB National Coach) over the weekend of 5th and 6th July.

Sensei’s main topic for the weekend was trying to read your opponent’s seme. TBH I’m still not quite sure what ‘seme’ is at my level. I have the feeling that it’s the pressure and presence that more experienced kendoka give off. Pressure in that I can feel my kensen being moved off the center line, and presence in that they seem to project such an assurance that I feel that anything I try won’t work. How to generate or manipulate seme is still something I unable to understand or do.

Sensei’s exercises were based on trying to read the your opponents intention and trying to project it. Sensei started by pointing out that seme (in jigeiko, shiai or shinsa) starts from rei. So he emphasised the points that the rei should be performed while studying your opponent to gauge their intentions/ability, the 3 steps into sonkyo should be performed with strength (to push your own seme/pressure across) and should carry through the draw and into sonkyo as well.

We began without full armour. First of all just moving in from kensen touching (too-maai) applying pressure/seme while moving into striking distance (issoku-itto-no-maai). The idead being to project our seme, but also to observe our partner and try to read their intent as well.

For the next exercise sensei asked kakarite to move in applying pressure with the idea of striking men or kote, with motodachi trying to guess from the pressure what they were intending. This was very difficult (I managed 3 out of 0). It appears I’m still much reacting to my opponents movement rather than ‘reading’ their pressure/intent.

We then moved in mawari-geiko. Was good as usual to get a chance to fence against people I don’t normally get to fence with. Tried to put some of the lessons into practice, but couldn’t really feel anything happening.

Shinsa practice – with the Stoke grading happening the next week and a number of people attending the seminar going for grades Sensei decided to have practice shinsa to give feedback. Sensei seemed happy with my men cuts, so that’s something working OKish (shodan grading is looming for October)

Day 2

Repeat of above exercises. Would appear that sleeping on it hadn’t really improved anything on my part

Move on to striking men at the correct moment. Build up pressure between the pair and then as motodachi makes a small movement kakarite strikes men.

Then performing debana men. Same as abovebut this time motodachi cuts for men and kakarite responds with debana men.

And then repeated the exercises with kote instead of men.

Jigeiko – Again a good chance to fence with different people. Was advised afterwards by O’Donnel Sensei that I should be attacking more and holding back less.

An interesting seminar, but I do feel some of the concepts are still a bit beyond me. But it’s always good to have these ideas and thoughts tucked away for when they do become useful.

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