Win the Battle with Effective Seme

As you advance to certain level in kendo, you find that your strikes are not working. Simply you cannot strike your opponent at all. 

Podcast Available: Effective Seme to Enjoy Kendo More

During the fast paced battle, you need to find a chance to strike or create an opportunity to strike. When you see a chance/opportunity, you must not wait. You should execute your technique. So before we get into seme in detail, there is one thing we need to do.

Get Ready to Execute Anytime

Your opponent is also trying to execute techniques on you. They won’t let you do what you want to do and neither will you. Offense and defense change rapidly. During this rapid changes, you must keep one thing; be ready to execute your technique.

You must execute your strike when you think you should. Period. You can get an answer only after you executed your technique. You will never know if your strike would work before you strike. That is the only way you can find out if what you have been doing actually worked or not.

After your strike, review your strike. 

  • Was it too quick? 
  • Was it too late? 
  • Were your opponent in the state of kyo? 
  • Was your technique the right one? 

If it worked, think why it worked. If you cannot get a clear answer why it worked on your own, ask your training partner why it worked and how he/she felt. 

If it didn’t work, think why it didn’t work. If you cannot get a clear answer why it worked on your own, ask your training partner why it worked and how he/she felt. 

Try different things; combine the same techniques with different opportunities. 

  1. Once you learn something, study it thoroughly. 
  2. Try it in jigeiko. 
  3. Study it again. 
  4. Keep trying so you can make it your favourite technique. 

Develop Your Techniques on Certain Patterns

If you keep studying and analyzing, you will be able to see certain patterns in your opponents. You need to develop certain techniques that would work for certain types of opponents and certain types of behavioural patterns of your opponents.

The more techniques you have on certain patterns, the more confident you will become. 

If you are confident, you can be in control of the battle. You can start making your opponent move as you want. You can set it up so you can evoke certain response you want from your opponent. 

We all want to do this. If you know how, then you don’t need to read from this on.

This article is for those who don’t know how to do it or don’t know where to start. 

What Happens if Your Seme Works?

Have you never wonder the followings?

  • How do you know you are executing a good seme? 
  • Are you just trying to execute seme without knowing if it’s really working? 
  • How can you win over the seme battle?

First of all, if your seme works, what do you think would happen? This is the start. Do you know what you want from your opponent from your seme?

You are looking for an opening. What do you consider as an opening? Here they are...

  • When your opponent blocks
  • When your opponent is frozen (mentally and physically)
  • When your opponent retreats 
  • When your opponent comes forward to attack
  • When your opponent is done with their strikes

These are considered to be good time to strike. But let me explain them a little more.

  • When your opponent blocks:
    Your opponent takes a blocking position because he/she thought you are coming or your opponent actually blocks your strike. When they block, some other targets are open. When they block their men, their kote or do are quite likely to be open.
  • When your opponent is frozen (mentally and physically):
    Literally your opponent cannot move, either they were surprised or couldn’t see you coming. When your brain cannot process the situation due to the state of your mind, you are quite likely not to react to anything temporarily.
  • When your opponent retreats:
    Your opponent doesn’t like to stay where he/she is. They want to keep their distance from you. It could be because they are afraid of you or they don’t like that distance like you’re occupying their personal space.
  • When your opponent comes forward to attack:
    They come forward because they think they have to. If they don’t strike they feel like you will get them. When this happens, it is a chance for debana-waza and kaeshi-waza. 
  • When your opponent is done with their strikes:
    They are done so they tend to relax. Their zanshin is incomplete.

Understanding the State of Your Opponent’s Mind

There are two states of mind you should pay attention to; Kyo and Jitsu

5 opportunities mentioned above to strike are easy to tell. You can see what your opponent is doing; blocking, staying, retreating and so force. But if your opponent is in the state of jitsu, you shouldn’t execute your strike because they are well-prepared for any situation.

When you are in the state of jitsu, you are focused, well-prepared and fully awared of what’s going on. You don’t react to your opponent’s movements easily. You are filled up with ki energy. When your opponent is in this state of mind, you shouldn’t execute your strike until the state of mind changes into kyo.

Kyo is opposite of jitsu. In other words, you have developed one or more of 4 sicknesses; surprise, fear, doubt, hesitation. 

From your seme, your opponent must get surprised, feel fear, or develop doubt or hesitation. Then these above mentioned opportunities will be truly your opportunity to strike. 

How can you tell that your opponent is in the state of kyo?

  • Your opponent looks tense:
    Your opponent’s right arm/shoulder and feet/legs are getting stiff. Your opponent look like that he/she is getting ready to do something either executing a strike or block.
  • Your opponent’s shinai moves up and down big and more often:
    This is another sign of becoming tensed up and getting ready to block
  • Your opponent looks jumpy. 
  • Your opponent doesn’t react to your physical seme (not knowing what to do)
  • Your opponent looks hesitate to execute strikes on you
  • Your opponent looks puzzled and keep stepping backward

These are the hints of kyo. You should carefully observe your opponent’s movements to judge your opponent's state of mind and execute your strike on these opportunities. 

How do You Create the State of Kyo?

This is actually how to do seme. Seme has two types. Physical seme and mental seme. Mental seme can safely be translated as pressure. You feel some pressure from your opponent, especially when you are against someone a lot higher than you. You feel like you cannot do anything. You are already beaten psychologically. But let’s talk about something easier; physical seme.

  1. Two steps forward one step backward:
    The steps need to be very small. Make them sharp. And you also have to mean it like you are going to strike your opponent. So pressing your opponent’s shinai with yours as you step forward will put more pressure on your opponent. Just going forward and backward doesn’t put any pressure on your opponent. 
  2. Keep your opponent’s shinai away from the center:
    Push it down, slap it sideways, knock it down, tap it down, flip it up and down. You can do what you can think of to keep your opponent’s shinai away from the center. You have to disable your opponent’s shinai. And this leads you to the next step.This is called “Ken wo Korosu (To kill the sword)”. 
  3. Stop your opponent from executing their techniques: Keep your opponent's shinai away from the center is the first thing. Especially when your opponent is ready to strike and you slap your opponent's shinai away, he/she cannot execute his/her technique. 
  4. In the book of Takano Sasaburo sensei, Kendo, he explains “Attack your opponent fiercely. Even if you miss a target, without regret and hesitation, get close to your opponent and execute foot sweep and pin him down. Or crush into your opponent (taiatari). This way, your opponent spends time to blocking and don’t time to attack you”. This is called “Waza wo Korosu (to kill the techniques)”. You opponent doesn’t even have time to attack you.
  5. Your opponent chickens out: Your opponent is overwhelmed by your vigourous ki energy and feel like they cannot beat you. This is a fear. Now your opponent has developed doubt in himself/herself and hesitation. This is called “Ki wo Korosu (Kill the Ki)”.

Keep striking fiercely is one of the ways to kill your opponent’s techniques but there is another way. You make your opponent feel like you are a lot better than you. This includes

  • Looking strong (you put on your gear very nicely):
    If you look messy, your opponent don’t feel like you are strong.
  • Looking confident
  • Your kamae is strong. Your opponent feels that they cannot do anything because of your kamae.
  • High ki level

The impression is very important. Needless to say,  you need to be as good as you look.

The Tame: One Last Pressure

This is a concept that hard to grasp. Tame is more like to put your technique on hold. For example, you know your striking distance. So when you get into that distance you should strike. Of course, you have to do things like the above mentioned three killings so a possibility that your technique works increases.

Now you are in your striking range but you don’t execute your strike there. You hold it for a second or you take a teeny-tiny step forward. In other words, put some more pressure at the very last moment. 

The concept of seme is very hard to comprehend and even harder to perform. But I hope now you know where to start and where you should be going. 

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