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Irony
09-03-2003, 02:08 AM
Hi.

I've heard a lot of people say that we should never step backwards. But otherwise how do you keep ma-ai when uke is coming forward, but not yet engaging in attack?

I'm fascinated by ma-ai. I'm actually taking a fencing class tomorrow to try to improve mine. But I know for a fact that fencers step backwards... ;)

Bronson
09-03-2003, 03:31 AM
This'll sound smarmy but it's what I've been taught. We often step backwards (with the foot) but we seldom move backwards (with the center). By move I mean where your center, intent and focus is being directed. Even if you move a foot backwards your intent should remain solidly (if that's even a word) forward :confused:

Bronson

jk
09-03-2003, 04:19 AM
I've heard a lot of people say that we should never step backwards. But otherwise how do you keep ma-ai when uke is coming forward, but not yet engaging in attack?

Then don't try to maintain distance; use pre-emptive atemi to take his balance, which could be something like, say, shooting in for a one or two leg pick... ;)

I've also been taught that one never steps backwards in aikido, so I suppose you could try some lateral movement, as in getting off line, preferably in a direction where uke will have to turn more to bring weapons to bear.

As for what I personally believe, stepping STRAIGHT back is in general a no-no, but a J-stroke movement to the rear helps in maintaining distance. YMMV...

DaveO
09-03-2003, 08:13 AM
My own two cents: If ma-ai meant strictly stepping back it would be useless - the advancing party would simply push the defender back until he tripped over his own feet. :)

I don't understand the concept myself; I've heard a number of opinions on how ma-ai is to be maintained. To me however; it sounds similar to exercises we held during Infantry knife-fighting classes: the fighter constantly trying to push for his opponent's rear. Here's (sorta ;) ) how it worked: Let's call ourselves "A" and our attacker "B". B is holding the knife in a right forehand grip; so A tries to push to his left, B's right; to where he's vulnerable. If B withdraws, A pushes in to B's more vulnerable (weak) right as before; NOT straight ahead into B's most effective defence (strong) area. If B is advancing; A still moves to the right; pushing for B's weak area whilst keeping B in within A's own strong area. He can do this in three directions: (1)To the rear, (a 45-deg. step back). Inadvisable; besides being an unstable movement with uncertain footing, it's tactically unsound. Still; it may be necessary. (2)To the side; a step 90 degrees to the left. A solid movement with fairly stable footing; sacrifices a bit of distance for a potential big gain in position advantage - opening B's exposed side. (Unlikely, but possible.) (3)To the fore; a 45-deg. step foreward. Extremely solid movement; stable footing. 100% loss of distance for decided positional advantage. A classic 'riposte' - virtually guaranteeing an attempted strike from B while giving A a strong chance to deflect and counterstrike. Each movement has its own advantages and disadvantages; while keeping in mind this was only a training drill; the trick is/was to select the best movement for the moment and to act instantly, without hesitation.

Whoops - I'm digressing again. Anyhoo; somewhere in there I suspect there might be something useful in regards to ma-ai. I tend to use the tactics I learned way back then to fairly good effect during Randori; so there might be something worthwhile in all this mish-mash. :)

(At least, I hope so.... ::)

Cheers!

L. Camejo
09-03-2003, 10:16 AM
Interestingly enough Dave, you just described three of the four basic foot movements we do in training at the beginnning of every class.

These are not exactly ma ai exercises that we do, but a structured way of learning basic movements of evasion and entering to obtain a particular position for technique while staying relatively safe.

A ma-ai exercise that we do is called tegatana awase, which involves maintaining the distance of issoku itto (one step to strike) by maintaining the unbendable arm distance with our partner and responding to subtle unplanned movements of entry/retreat/side to side by him/her.

I am not one for the concept of "you should never step backwards" however. As it can often be a good tactic to re-establish the distance you want to work at if someone is closing on you too quickly or unexpectedly (e.g. a grappler). I do believe that we should not step back constantly, which will create the cornering/severe loss of ground situation described earlier.

I have often used stepping backwards or alluding to stepping backwards as a way of making uke overextend the attack, helping me to shoot in for technique (like shomen ate), with uke actually helping me to close distance by his overextension. It works the opposite way too.

Just my 2 cents.

L.C.:ai::ki:

Arieru
09-03-2003, 10:19 AM
i've seen maiai done this way. when the uke isone the floor just after the nage has completed their technique, then the nage initiates maiai. in randori, the nage is establishing maiai up until they must engage the uke. at that point the nage ceases steping back, establishes their center, and completes a technique.

opherdonchin
09-03-2003, 11:30 AM
There's always the option of responding to a step forward with a direct irimi.

DaveO
09-04-2003, 10:15 AM
Something bugs me a bit:

People always seem to talk about ma-ai as a technique - as in doing ma-ai or "Nage ma-ai's" in response to something, etc.

Please correct me if I'm wrong; but isn't ma-ai more of a concept rather than a technique? "Concept" isn't the right word; perhaps "constant consideration" would be better. Let me explain my thoughts on this: Aikiweb's aikido dictionary defines ma-ai as "Proper distancing or timing with respect to one's partner." From that; I take it to mean choosing the best distance/positioning in relation to uke in order to accomplish your objective.

So; I'm looking at ma-ai as more of a constant than as something you 'do' at a particular time; you're either always in a state of ma-ai or you're not.

I realize the difference in wording may be slight; indeed most who put in that they 'do' ma-ai at a specific time may simply be falling prey to the vagaries of the English language; but I can't help but feel the difference between "doing" ma-ai and "maintaining a state of" ma-ai is somehow extremely important. :)

Comments?

Cheers! :)

mengsin
09-04-2003, 12:26 PM
I agreed with Larry. We can always maintain ma ai at any directions. This allows us to keep the distance against your attacker. Having trained in karate and shaolin, we must able able to move in any directions to have a advantage position to apply techniques.

Free your mind and don't set rules

Ron Tisdale
09-04-2003, 12:26 PM
I liked the way you put that Dave.

Ron

twilliams423
09-04-2003, 02:35 PM
I think of maai in the realm of strategy. I wouldn't say that one is always either in maai or not. Shifts in maai will affect specific tactics.

As to how you move your body in relation to your partner, I think of it as tai sabaki. In the Aikido training I've had, there are relatively few different tai sabakis we use, but lots of different qualities of maai.

Yo-Jimbo
09-04-2003, 04:29 PM
In the ASU kumitachi, number 5, one of the momentary defences on an upstroke of the other person's blade is to shuffle back and lift the hands and sword above the head. (It could be noted that this defender ends up losing the kata, but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water just yet.) Ma-ai as a concept should be controlled, not just maintained by the aikidoka. Breaking ma-ai and determining the moment of de-ai is the other side of that coin. It is a dangerous crutch to step back reflexively. So avoid it in training until one can truly decide to do it instead of entering. It is just as dangerous to run in as away if there is no knowledge behind the action. Don't become attached to either with ones ego. If one prefers to enter, practice both. If one prefers to withdraw, practice both.

ian
09-05-2003, 10:13 AM
Sorry if I repeat other people - no time to read at the mo'! I know some people say you should never move backwards, but I think it is a bit like sword-work; you do move backwards but you should always have the feeling of going forwards (weight forwards ready to break in to any opening). Also, I think it can be a bad habit to constantly go backwards.

Ueshiba had this saying of 5+5 =10, 1+9 = 10. i.e. blending requires appropriate movement! I have seen Ueshiba move backwards many times (even whilst doing an irimi tenchi-nage). In this case it seemed he was moving backwards but (relatively) entering uke's space to cause a reaction, and thus threw him.

Timing and distance fasinates me also - I think it is the heart of aikido.

Ian

ian
09-05-2003, 10:14 AM
P.S. good luck with the fencing - I have a student which fences and he is very fast on his feet and has a great ability to view the whole body (though he can't get used to stepping backward with his right leg during weapon work!)

David Yap
09-29-2003, 09:43 PM
Something bugs me a bit:

People always seem to talk about ma-ai as a technique - as in doing ma-ai or "Nage ma-ai's" in response to something, etc.

Please correct me if I'm wrong; but isn't ma-ai more of a concept rather than a technique? "Concept" isn't the right word; perhaps "constant consideration" would be better. (snipped>
Dave,

Totally agree with that "Ma-ai" is more of a concept. I would say that it also a "technique". Most Westerners perceive that ma-ai is all about distancing and hence timing - as one judges how fast a strike or a kick will arrive from the position of the attacker. In the orient, ma-ai is also about proportion - as in calligraphy, an artist makes a mental plot of the various characters required to be place on a place of paper and he will then write the characters to the size that he has mentally mapped out. The concept of ma-ai in MA is about JUDGMENT - as you would judge the distance between the attacker and the defender (to ascertain timing), you judge the height and physical build of the attacker (to ascertain the footwork required or the force required to off-balance the attacker). Hence, a martial artist who has learned ma-ai (the technique) will learn calmness and learn to economize his energy.

Just my two sen.

Regards

David Y

Bussho
09-30-2003, 01:43 AM
So; I'm looking at ma-ai as more of a constant than as something you 'do' at a particular time; you're either always in a state of ma-ai or you're not.

Comments?

Cheers! :)
I see ma-ai as the area between two people that is needed for you to hold the balance in the situation.

That's my blah-blah....

What I'm trying to say is that ma-ai depends on the size of each person, and also agility, and which contact range one expects it to be. So ma-ai would be a constant changing thing, depending on the situation. In the end it would look like it was just the area between "two" people.

/Bussho

kensparrow
10-02-2003, 12:18 PM
I have seen Ueshiba move backwards many times (even whilst doing an irimi tenchi-nage). In this case it seemed he was moving backwards but (relatively) entering uke's space to cause a reaction, and thus threw him.

Ian
Wow! I never thought about that possibility before. Moving away but allowing the distance to close and therefore entering. Thanks Ian, you've given me something really interesting to think about! BTW, where did you see O Sensei doing this?

twilliams423
10-02-2003, 12:30 PM
Since motion is relative, if your partner is moving towards you faster than you are moving back, to a 3rd person with no other frame of reference it could appear that you are entering towards your partner.

Ron Tisdale
10-02-2003, 12:35 PM
If you check out some of the films after aiki-budo, you'll see this backward movement. I believe there is a clip on AJ that shows an excellent example of this. There is also a clip of Peter Goldsbury doing an almost exact copy of the same set of techniques on AJ. He also did this at last years expo.

Matsuoka Sensei also uses a lot of backward movement in his freestyle. It looks strange to someone with my background (yoshinkan, we do mostly forward movement) but it seems to work for them.

Ron

cguzik
10-02-2003, 04:31 PM
I attended Tony Alvarez's workshop at Aiki Expo, the theme of which was partially focused on maai. One of the points that was raised during the workshop is that maai exists. That is to say, given two individuals who are engaged with one another, maai is not created, performed, etc. by either individual. It exists as a characteristic of the distance and timing of motion between the two.

For this reason, it can be influenced by either party (by how they move), and how one influences maai could be a technique. But to say that maai *is* a technique is sort of like saying that the road is a vehicle.

Chris

cguzik
10-02-2003, 04:41 PM
The other theme of Tony's workshop was seme. Seme was described by Tony as "combative pressure".

My understanding of why people say "don't move backwards" is that it is very hard to step or move backwards without losing your application of seme. I understand that the core teaching of "not stepping back" is to maintain forward focus. To teach one how to maintain and apply seme. Once a person gets good at this, stepping back may be okay. I think of this as the difference between a learning tool and then maybe eventually not needing the tool anymore, once the learning has been realized.

Janet Rosen
10-02-2003, 05:39 PM
Since motion is relative, if your partner is moving towards you faster than you are moving back, to a 3rd person with no other frame of reference it could appear that you are entering towards your partner.
Yes!

We sometimes train to respond to a strongly entering/pushing uke by stepping backwards while extending forwards; done well, uke is drawn in to his own balance point with no effort on your part.

Well, except the effort of practicing moving backwards while extending forward....over and over because its counterintuitive....but when it does work, oh my!

kironin
10-02-2003, 08:34 PM
Yes!

Well, except the effort of practicing moving backwards while extending forward....over and over because its counterintuitive....but when it does work, oh my!
One of Koichi Tohei Sensei's standard aikido exercises is zenshin-koshin,

moving backward while extending Ki forward.

we use it in technique pretty often.

Craig

Vincent Munoz
10-03-2003, 12:15 AM
for me, u can step back ro turn around to maintain ma-ai. how can one maintain his/her ma-ai if he'll stay in one place. and if u have more than one ukes, all of them might attack together in the same square where you're standing. so it's important to stay out of that square. imagine you're a knight in a chess square, u dont know who's threatening u.

sempai bong

villrg0a
10-04-2003, 06:06 AM
we are also discouraged by our sensei to step back when attacked, he encourages us to enter or turn instead.

my 2 cents - on unexpected attacks i feel much safer stepping back and keeping out of range (while analyzing attackers movement), once analysis is completed i lounge in for the take (similar to fencing steps).

Contrary to popular belief, aikido is not only limited to entering and tenkans and blending. You blend to take the opponents balance, same with tenkan and normally catch him off guard on irimis. What is not being practiced is the head on taking the opponent's balance. This one is normally done before the attack, you still cath him by surprise.

Kensho Furuya
10-05-2003, 01:01 AM
I hope this may help- this is how I was taught mai-ai early on in my training. In very traditional Aikido, one respected Aikido teacher taught that ma-ai is the distance in which you can see your opponent straight on but still see his feet and arms (lowered at his sides) in your peripheral vision. If you are standing slightly too close to your opponent, his feet disappear from your vision - or his hands. Of course, if you are slightly too far from your opponent, it is possible to see his whole body easily, but then you are at a distance in which he is not compelled or inclined to attack and you cannot effectively apply your technique. At this precise distance or mai-ai in this case, the opponent does feel inclined to attack. . . . In addition to this, this teacher also taught that one takes kamae in such a way as to very subtlely control how he may attack you. Or briefly, positioning one's self so that he is inclined to attack you with his right as opposed to his left hand, etc. This is also a part of ma-ai, according to him.

Another teacher taught that ma-ai is the special spacing or 'angle" in which you can strike at your opponent but he cannot strike you. Or, the spacing in which you are protected against your opponent's immediate counter attack while still maintaining a position to easily apply your own technique.

Another teacher taught that ma-ai is the spacing in which the technique can be executed at its optimum level. If you are too close to your opponent, you are open to his counter attack or the possibility of his jamming your technique. Of course, if you are too far away from your opponent, the technique cannot be applied properly at all.

Another Aikido great taught that the ma-ai must constantly be adjusted to neutralize or adjust the speed and strength of the opponent's attack by closing in or creating more distance between one's self and the opponent.

I consider all of this in my study, practice and execution of all all techniques. . . .

This is an interesting story about ma-ai and the above question of stepping back in your technique. My Zen master, the late Bishop Kenko Yamashita, practiced Kendo with Nakayama Hakudo, one of the Kendo greats and the patriarch of modern Iaido. My teacher said that in all the times they practiced over the years, he felt that he never was able to even once touch Nakayama Sensei or take a point. My Zen master was a Kendo 5th Dan before the war at this time. He said that Nakayama Sensei stood in a very relaxed kamae that looked open from any attack and this is what encouraged everyone to attack him. But at the very moment of attack, he seemed to "fade" back a few inches so the blow would miss and at the same time move in and easily take his own blow. My teacher said that it was the most amazing thing to witness because he was always sure he could strike Nakayama Sensei. . . . .

Ron Tisdale
10-06-2003, 03:35 PM
Sounds like he had the first kata in the kendo no kata down cold!

RT

Kensho Furuya
10-06-2003, 04:02 PM
I hope so - he is one among several other masters who created it and first performed it in front of Emperor Showa many years ago. I think there is an old video of it somewhere which has clips of both O'Sensei and Nakayama Hakudo Sensei. As a sidenote, I was able to find the Nakayama Sensei's sword he used in another part of that video. It is made by Yoshichika and inscribed with Hakudo's name on the tang and a record of his test cutting. It is just under 33' in blade length. Although he was a very slight man, he uses it like a feather in the video clip, Even my strongest student cannot use this massive sword for more than a 15-20 miniutes before tiring a little.

Abasan
10-06-2003, 11:44 PM
Kensho, is there anyway for me to see this clip you're talking about?

ian
10-07-2003, 12:44 PM
I think the big danger with stepping back is tripping over something or suddenly realising that you can't (because there is a wall or person behind you). However I cannot see a way around this. I don't understand how we can always move forwards, even if we do tenkan. Maybe good zanshin is required whenever we step back?

Ian

Ron Tisdale
10-07-2003, 01:02 PM
From a post of mine on E-Budo:

dSPD-8605 Tatsujin no Hijutsu to Kensei no Kokoro

$49.95

Newly released, this video contains approximately 15 minutes of rare footage of Nakayama Hakudo, the father of Muso Shinden Ryu, and 15 minutes of Aikido founder Ueshiba Morihei. The footage of Nakayama Sensei is mostly from the pre-war period and includes him doing tameshigiri, Shinto Muso Ryu jojutsu (tachi side), various shoden and chuden kata, and demonstrating the Kendo No Kata before the Japanese Emperor in 1940 with 10th dan Takano Sasaburo. The footage of Ueshiba Sensei includes the Asahi dojo film, some footage from his own dojo, and some from his final demonstration at the age of 86.

32 minutes. All Region NTSC DVD. Japanese language.

You can go here to get it:

http://budogu.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page46.html

Furuya-san, that was indeed a great video!

Best Regards,

Ron

Abasan
10-08-2003, 03:02 AM
thanks ron.

George S. Ledyard
10-08-2003, 11:18 AM
Hi.

I've heard a lot of people say that we should never step backwards. But otherwise how do you keep ma-ai when uke is coming forward, but not yet engaging in attack?

I'm fascinated by ma-ai. I'm actually taking a fencing class tomorrow to try to improve mine. But I know for a fact that fencers step backwards... ;)
It is important to make the distinction between what is happening with the Body and what is happening with the Mind. When teachers harp on not stepping back, they are usually trying to get the student not to "retreat". This is more of an energetic issue which has to do with the Mind wanting to avoid an attack. Moving away from an attack as an avoidance response will not allow execution of technique and leads to eventual defeat.

There is a difference between this and what the Jeet Kun Do folks would call "zoning out". Zoning out simply means that you are increasing the ma-ai in order to create more time (since time and distance are interchangeable) or to cause the attacker to accelerate his movement. There are a whole range of techniques which use a movement away from the attacker in order to create a "draw" rather than an irimi or tenkan. In sword there are movements which move the body away from the attacker as the sword cuts the space one has just vacated. If the attacker was sucked in by the movement away he is cut.

The difference between this and a retreat is that the Mind keeps its forward orientation even though the Body might be increasing the distance. It is not an avoidance response in any way.

Matsuoka Sensei was mentioned as an example of this. The Randori he did at the Aiki Expo was one of the finest ones you could ever see. He made extensive use of the "draw" in his randori to cause attackers to accelerate and to position them relative to one another so he could deal with them as he wished.

It takes practice to be able to step back but still keep ones forward orientation. Since most beginner / intermediate folks still tend to retreat at times when pressed I think this accounts for why teachers instruct them not to back up at all.