View Full Version : Ma-ai

paul browne
4th May 2006, 15:00
A few years ago a high ranking Sensei in the art I practice (Shorinji kempo) who was of very short stature , about 5' 2" (158cms?) and a fair degree of real life experience commented that when facing a taller opponent it is neccesary to close to a Ma-ai that enables you to land attacks even though this places you in range of their strikes. Whilst in basic training the distance is usually set by the taller persons longer limbs he felt that this forced the shorter person into a totally defensive position and basically you could only wait to be hit. I've pretty much found this to be true in sparring.
However in looking at various Koryu arts, through books and video footage, I wondered whether this held true for the weapon arts, specifically where the weapons differ ie Katana or kodachi against Naginata/yari/Bo. Obviously the idea of taking a blow to deliver a more devastating one cannot exhist where life threatening weapons are involved and I don't suppose these mismatches occur much in Gendai Budo except perhaps Tanken v. Jukendo.
I would be interested to know what the strategy (in general terms of course) is in the koryu to deal with these distancing problems.
Many thanks

5th May 2006, 07:06
At first I believe the moderators should transport this topic in the Aikijujutsu general forum. I take the opportunity to say that after all these years, and since anyway the "Seishinkai" organization is no more since at least 4 years (now is Daitokai), the moderators or Nathan himself should consider closing this "Seishinkai" part of the forum, since it has sense no more.

Having said that,

In Daitoryu Aikijujutsu, we usually start we the maai of the sword. When we do the rei, it is always at least the distance of two swords in line. Also before beginning katageiko or aikinage training.

When we do excersises in big numbers of people, at the beginning of the lesson (aikitaiso), we also try, if possible due to the dimension of the dojo, to mantain a minimum safe distance between each other, principle that is always kept during all the lesson.

During Kata, starting distance is always the necessary to make the attack, and to make the counter. Extreme importance is given to checking continuosly distance in all directions and in Zanshin.

You can say in Daitoryu maai is a fundamental principle and that it was mainly adapted from the one derived from Kenjutsu.

Nathan Scott
9th May 2006, 20:04
Mr. Browne,

I moved your thread to what appears to be a more appropriate forum for your thread.

If I understand what you are saying, your point is that if you are shorter (shorter reach), you have to stay in contact range (since the opponent has a longer reach than you) in order to access your opponent. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, as the best solution I know of for that is for the shorter person to improve their ashisabaki so that they can move a larger distance in and out of contact range. Faster/larger movements in and out of range with the body can compensate for distances in reach.

This is also true for weapon work, though the length of the weapon is usually more of an issue than the height of the opponent. Also, in weapon work, the tactic of attacking the opponent's weapon or close hand/wrist is also more common than in empty hand arts. This is also a good tactic for getting around the problem of an opponent with longer reach/longer weapon. Kill their weapon first, then work your way in towards their vitals.

An art like Shorinji Kempo has quite a bit of throwing/controlling techniques too. In that case, I would think that the taller person would get more out of the striking techniques, while the smaller person would gain more from throwing techniques (or attaking the opponent's arms/legs as opposed to trying to rush in for body/head shots every time).

Obviously, the ma-ai for the various weapons differs, and even within the same weapon class, understanding how to adjust your distancing for each opponent and weapon length is a crucial skill to survival. This understanding of different ma-ai is a big reason why I began studying naginata. I already knew empty hand ma-ai, and sword ma-ai, but had not experience with long weapon ranges.


Bruce Mitchell
10th May 2006, 21:19
Each koryu has it's own unique strategy for controlling ma-ai, so I don't see how your question can really be answered easily in this sort of a forum. But I am comfortable saying that the foundation of controlling ma-ai in most koryu is paired kata pratice. The kata are often structured to teach the principles, or heiho of the ryu, rather than just being a series of techniques to learn. You learn to understand the ma-ai through your direct experiences. That said, I think that you can watch different arts and see techinques that are examples of their heiho (that is of course, if the kata are designed to allow an outsider to see these things, many are not).

Weapons are the great equalizer, when employed effectively they can minimize the advatages of height, weight, or strength. Many longer weapons have there sharp and pointy bits at the end, so the tactic for the swordsman facing them is to get "inside" of the ma-ai of the person using the longer weapon, but then again, many koryu schools have ways of dealing with this. I am reminded here of videos I have see of Owari-kan Ryu So-jutsu, and the remarkable speed at which they are able to thrust, and then pull the spear back. In the art I study, if the swordsman gets too far inside of your ma-ai to use the naginata, you throw it down and pull out your kodachi/tanto/kaiken and do your best to survive the encounter.

Hope this was helpful.