How the heck do we take the center? Everyone tells you to take the center first but how? I am sure you do it but it doesn't work, does it? So let’s think about what “taking the center” is.
Ken-Zeme is an only one element of seme and it should be used with other types of seme too such as Tai-Zeme and Ki-Zeme. But here I want to focus on what we can do with our shinai to take the center.
The basic idea is to attack and not to get attacked. When your opponent’s kensaki is pointing at your throat or anywhere on the center of your body, and you execute a strike, you will be a kebab. That also means as long as the kensaki is pointing at your opponent, they are not going to or should not execute a strike. Because they will be a kebab.
That is why taking the center is important in kendo and it is a physical advantage of taking the center.
When you can guess it won’t feel good if you become a kabab. Sometimes it hurts especially the shinai gets your throat directly or the collarbone. You quickly learn it’s not a good idea to execute a strike when the kensaki of your opponent’s shinai is right in the middle of your body.
This is a mental advantage. Simply the shinai right in front of you is a fear. So you need to remove the source of your fear, that is the kensaki of our opponent’s shinai.
As many as we can come up with. You need to move your opponent’s shinai so there are several ways that you can do so. Please see the picture below. The yellow circle is your opponent's shinai and the arrows are the directions that your shinai can push, tap or slap your opponent's.
You can push your opponent’s shinai sideways, right to left, or diagonally from the right top to the left bottom and so forth.
You can also slide down your sword on your opponent’s shinai like rolling in. Please see the pictures blow. With the body movement like going to your right or forward can be used with this as well.
Once you take the center, then what? Then you should strike. Well, that is the basic idea. But it’s not that easy, right? That’s when Tai-Zeme and Ki-Zeme come in. Just play around and see what works on your opponent and how they react to your Ken-Zeme.