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Posts Tagged ‘seme-geiko’

Brussels seminarI wrote this in preparation for the Seniors Seminar in Belgium which was held over this weekend,with the indulgence of the ABKF. This seminar was based on a number of posts that I have written over the years with thoughts about how we can continue enjoy kendo into old age.

Although I have a long way to go to get my keiko to the desired level, and hopefully have a few more years before I hang up my bogu, I have developed some fairly strong views on what we need do to get the most from our keiko. Some of these may appear contradictory, but please indulge me. It goes without saying that none of this work is my own. All of these ideas are borrowed from  senior Japanese sensei. The points to consider are as follows:

  • Work on your cutting action so that it is smooth and relaxed – do not use unnecessary energy by being stiff.
  • Develop strong kihaku but keep your upper body relaxed. – Learn to put your opponent under pressure and train to push power down from your shoulders to your abdomen.
  • Continue to strive to go forward with maximum speed when you make shikake waza, but work on your footwork so that you do not waste energy by lifting your right foot unnecessarily high.
  • Work on seme – making the opportunity is like baking the cake, the strike that follows is the icing.
  • Train your breathing – work on holding breath in your abdomen when holding “tame”; explode when you strike.
  • Control your footwork to take advantage of your opponent’s forward movement when you make oji waza – use hikidasu to draw him or her into your space.
  • Try kote, it take less energy than men

How can we train to achieve this?

  • Stick with the basics – practice suburi and kiri-kaeshi. Work on big correct waza, pay attention to cutting action, hasuji and tenouchi.
  • Practice oji waza drills until you own each technique, experiment with managing footwork distance to reach the target, taking the forward movement of your opponent into consideration.
  • Don’t stop kakarigeiko – do it bigger and slower with strong spirit.
  • Try seme- geiko – develop your ability to make the opportunity.
  • Sweat the small stuff – be aware of the correctness of your posture, bow and sonkyo – aim at developing kigurai, remember that each keiko starts with the first rei.

Obviously age decreases speed and physical strength. We need to continue to strive for correct technique and kiai so that we can control the keiko to our own advantage

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SemeThis blog is becoming increasingly request driven. Morgan Hooper of Enshinkan Dojo in New York asked for clarification on a previous post on seme-geiko and some  the finer points of maai and footwork in seme .

As I mentioned when I last wrote about seme- geiko, I was introduced to the practice by the late Furuya sensei at morning keiko in Sakai. Subsequently I practiced it a few times with his student Uegaki Isao sensei. All of these sessions were with senior ranked kenshi and it was taken as read that everyone knew the mechanics of seme, so no detailed instruction was given. Seme-geiko is effectively kakarigeiko for seniors, but with emphasis on creating the correct opportunity to strike.  Each partner spends a short time pressurizing their opponent and creating chances to make 4 or 5 clean attacks. These are made going forwards in a straight line so waza are limited to men, kote and kote men.

I realise that I haven’t come close to answering Morgan’s question, but let me try to make a few points on seme generally and leave you to transcribe them into seme geiko.

To make effective seme from chudan kamae you must:

  • Step deeply enough into your opponents space to break his composure
  • Move to your uchi ma, a distance that suits you rather than him
  • Keep the centre at all times
  • Move in with only one step
  • Move from your feet and keep correct posture. Do not just push your hands forward
  • Usually you step in with the right foot and smartly bring your left foot up to follow so you can move effectively into the attack as soon as his concentration is broken
  • Breathe in before you enter distance and retain your breath in your tanden during the process of making seme, releasing it in kiai as you make the attack
  • Strike in the timing of one
  • Do not raise or lower the tip of your shinai as you move in, as this this will alert your opponent to your intention
  • If your seme does not have the required effect retain the centre and move back out to safe distance.

These points only apply to moving forward for shikake waza. Hikidasu, or drawing your opponent in is another post in its own right.

Morgan also asked about how to impose mental dominance when making seme. The answer to that one is similar to the old musicians’ joke – How do you get to Carnegie Hall? – Practice.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring a visit to Japan some years ago I was taken to morning practice in Sakai, near Osaka by Uegaki Isao sensei. The session was led by his teacher, the late Furuya sensei and attended by numerous 8th and 7th dan members, many of whom were at least in their 60s. Much of the session was devoted to seme-geiko, which for me was a new experience. The idea was to work together in pairs in a mawari geiko format, taking turns as motodachi, whose job was to retain a strong chudan kamae. Kakarite had to break through motodachi’s defence to take centre and execute men, kote or kote-men attacks.  The practice reminded me of kakarigeiko for seniors, where no targets were offered, but we had to use the strength of our seme to make opportunities.

I have since introduced seme-geiko to a number of keiko sessions back home in the UK and found generally that the more experienced kendoka tend to get the most out of this practice.

This week in my local dojo where we have a mix of mainly first to third dan kenshi, I had a request to look at ways of improving seme, so seme-geiko seemed an obvious choice. Rather than jump straight in, we started by working together in pairs maintaining an even distance between the points of our shinai as we moved backwards and forwards. Each partner took turns as motodachi and controlled the practice by varying the sequence of steps in each direction. We then looked at our breathing and how we could exert more force by retaining our breath once we engaged in fighting distance. Finally we made a concerted effort to keep “mind contact” with our opponent as went through the drill.

From this exercise we moved on to hikibana men, pushing in to take centre and then following with a men strike as motodachi stepped back.  We then tried debana men, aiming to pull our partners in with hikidashi and taking the initiative as they started to attack.

From these basic drills we moved on to seme-geiko, trying to execute 3 or four strong techniques in thirty or forty seconds. Whereas Furuya sensei took the practice on to kaeshi-seme-geiko, where motodachi responds to some of kakarite’s attacks with oji waza, we kept to the basic attacking practice before moving into a short jigeiko session.

When I asked people at the end of the session if they found it useful, several made the point that it was much more tiring than more physical training methods and that trying to maintain mental contact with an opponent for even a short period was exhausting.

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