In our training sessions we often come across the term 'seme' which means to extert physical or mental pressure towards the opponent.
However, it's more complicated than that and we recently had a training session at our Durham Dojo which illustrated this point beautifully.
We were looking at a range of Seitei Kata in quick succession to establish common learning points which could be applied to all kata. Seme was one of those common points but probably the hardest to implement (at least it is currently the hardest on my own learning journey).
'Kenseme' which means keeping pressure on the opponent using the sword.
'Taiseme' which means keeping pressure on the opponent using the body.
'Kiseme' in which we attempt to hold our opponent back purely through the use of intent or spirit.
I believe that all 3 kinds of seme are used to varying degrees (plus a fourth which is used consistently in all our kata called Miseme which means pressure from the eyes - alternatively referred to as Metsuke) in all our kata but it was interesting to see the three definitions of seme in direct comparison like that in a training session. It was equally interesting to see which kata were particularly useful as a training tool to work on specific forms of seme which could then be implemented in the rest of our training.
Thank you very much to Peter West Sensei who helped me with teh correct use of the above Japanese terms.
Also thank you to Dave Draper for taking fabulous photos of the club members which I have made use of here.
For years we Budokan students have been taught to improve our kata through the use of hara.
'In the Japanese medical tradition and in Japanese martial arts traditions, the word Hara is used as a technical term for a specific area (physical/anatomical) or energy field (physiological/energetic) of the body. In the medical tradition in Japan, hara refers to the soft belly, i.e. the area defined vertically by the lower edge of the sternum and the upper edge of the pubis and laterally by the lower border of the ribcage and the anterior iliac crest respectively. It corresponds with that area of the peritoneum, which is not obscured by the ribcage, and thus more or less coincides with the viscera covered by the greater omentum.' (source Wikipedia) I have also seen it refered to as an 'ocean of energy'.
For several months I have believed I was using my hara albeit sporadically in my limited 2nd and then 3rd Dan capability.
I was wrong!
I was doing it aaaallllllll wrong! and making life so much harder than it needed to be.
I understood the theoretical concept of how hara should work ... and I understood theoretically which muscles I should be using (but wasn't!) ... until I came across it by accident, sigh!
I am aware that I still have a lot of learning to do just on the use of hara let alone everything else Iaido has to teach me, but I love those moments when something I've spent months trying to do suddenly becomes easy and 'natural' as our Japanese sensei say.
I now have a renewed respect for all our teachers, those who teach us week in week out as well as those who travel hundreds of miles to share their knowledge. Teaching the technicalities of Iaido, which foot to put where, which angle to hold the sword, is comparatively easy. This alone can be information overload and can take many years to even attempt to do correctly but then add in the impossible task of teaching the unexplainable. Trying to explain how to use muscles you have never consciously used before in a movement not replicated anwhere else in life with no basis of comparison. Trying to explain concepts of the movement of energy or intent that you can't see or touch or adjust in the same way that you can adjust an elbow or the line of the hips.
The level of frustration and patience our teachers must have to deal with while trying to convey everything they want to share with us must be immense! Equally the level of happiness when they see a student have a light bulb moment must make up for all the hours of repetition! At least I hope they do, lol.
Here's to many more years of learning and light bulb moments on our collective Iaido journey!
Well after selection onto the British Squad it wasn't long before Andrew Armstrong from our neighbouring Dojo Ojika and myself (Jon Meikle) had to pack our bags and jump on a plane over to Andorra to compete against the best Europe has to offer.
The British squad met up at two airports, Luton and Gatwick, on the morning of 5th October, with great excitement/apprehension in order to catch the flight to Barcelona. Probably more apprehension on Andrew's behalf as this was his first time on a plane! Of course plenty of jibes thus followed about the likelihood of wings/engines falling off during the flight just to reassure him :-p.
A few months ago I received a call from a woman calling herself Christine enquiring about Iaido. After several years (well it felt like that) on the phone I gleaned that Christine and a few of her fellow Ju Jitsu colleagues had had some Iai training but felt they needed more.
So at my peril, I invited Chris down to Durham to have a chat and the rest, as they say, is history.
Stevenage Summer Seminar August 2011
Owen Wilson - 1st Dan - Finalist
Danni Jorgenson - 1st Dan - Finalist
Jack James - 2nd Dan - Gold
Jon Meikle - 3rd Dan - Finalist
Eddie Hodgson - 1st Dan
Danni Jorgenson - 2nd Dan
Owne Wilson - 2nd Dan
Jack James - 3rd Dan