Posted by: B Gourley | December 22, 2011

Seigan no Kamae: The Eyes Have It

Kamae, one’s physical and mental posture, is the core of one’s defense. Ideally, the posture of the mind and the posture of the body should work in conjunction to communicate a consistent message to the opponent. The message may be a deceptive one as with kamae that seem to offer vulnerabilities or openings, or the message may be nothing whatsoever as in a kamae like munen musō that gives the opponent nothing to read and thus makes it seem like he or she is cutting nothing such that they do, in fact, end up cutting nothing. Alternatively, the kamae may convey an unambiguous message such as “no matter how you adjust, I will cleave you in half” or “you cannot mount a successful attack without sacrificing your life.”

While, at first, attention is often paid only to getting the physical posture correct and later this may be augmented by consideration of where, if anywhere, one’s mind should reside, it is easy to overlook the tremendous importance that the eyes play in kamae. For both the aggressor and the defender, there are important considerations regarding the eyes. Is it in one’s interest to maintain eye contact with the opponent or should one  center one’s vision on their forehead or chest? While too narrow a focus is always risky, there are times when seeing into the opponent’s eyes may yield a benefit and other times when one may offer up an advantage to the opponent by doing so. There are kamae that seek to irritate or distract the attacker by putting a moving weapon into their field of vision. Attacks to the eyes can be particularly effective because these organs are relatively fragile and even putting them out of commission for an instant can produce an insurmountable vulnerability.

Seigan no kamae (“True Eye” posture) can vary considerably across ryū-ha, but, I believe, most of these kamae take advantage of the unique vulnerability of the eyes to influence the attacker’s behavior, adversely affect the opponent’s field of vision, or both of the aforementioned. No one charges face first into a weapon, so inserting a weapon in the path of the opponent can make them reluctant to attack and withdrawing it can have the opposite effect.

Below are some variants of Seigan no kamae with which I am familiar.

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