kendo lessons of Iwashita Tomohisa

Take the Initiative and Win (Iwashita Tomohisa)



Photography: Sasai Takamasa
Composition: Tsuchiya Tomohiro
Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard

When we analyze the Seme that is necessary to take the initiative, it can be broadly divided into pressuring with your Shinai, your feet, and your body. If you can successfully take the advantage, you can be ready faster than your opponent, which is an advantage. In this article, Iwashita Sensei talks about creating effective Seme and using it to win.

Iwashita Tomohisa (Kyoshi 7th Dan)

Born in Kumamoto prefecture in 1978. Went to Kyushu Gakuin High School and Hosei University. After graduation, he joined the Kumamoto Prefectural Police. His achievements include placing 3rd at the All Japan Championship, placing 2nd at the All Japan Invitational 7th Dan Tournament, placing 2nd at the All Japan Interprefecture Tournament, winning the Kokutai, and participating in the All Japan Tozai Taiko Tournament. Currently, Kendo teacher at the Chiba Prefectural Police.

Seme with the Shinai, feet, and body are prerequisites

Today’s theme is “taking the initiative and creating opportunities.” I would like to start by describing what I focus on when it comes to Seme.

I classify Seme in three categories: Seme using the Shinai, Seme using the feet, and Seme using the body.

Let’s start with the Shinai. Seme appears at the Kensen. The basic rule is that the Kensen should not deviate from the centerline, but you should vary the height by aiming at the opponent’s eye, throat, or solar plexus, and try pressuring the opponent’s Kensen from both the Ura and Omote side, as if drawing a half circle. By doing this, you might see a change in your opponent and draw them in. 

Next are the feet. I place the most importance on this. There is a saying that goes “Ichigan, Nisoku, Santan, Shiriki”, which means, eyes first, feet second, courage third, strength fourth. This is very important, and the ideal footwork would allow you to always pressure your opponent or strike. The right foot moves as if sliding on ice, and the left foot is the axis, always ready to strike. I use a mixture of small, medium, and large foot movements. In addition to forward and backward, I also use sideways and diagonal footwork. As with Shinai movement, I move my legs in a circular motion, with the opponent in the center. Sometimes I face my opponent from the side, and sometimes I use varied footwork to face my opponent head-on. By doing this, I prevent my opponent from building up sufficient Seme and stop their will to strike. I am not particularly tall or fast, so I have to compensate for this with my footwork.

I feel that only after pressuring the opponent with our Shinai and footwork can we use the whole body to apply Seme. If your Seme is too strong, your opponent will be wary, so I try to use small movements to greatly move my opponent. If I use large movements, it may be easier for me to strike, but it also increases the risk of being struck.

Seize chances by taking the initiative

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