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Old 07-09-2003, 09:29 AM   #1
jvadakin
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proper distance in action

I have a question that I hope some of you more experienced people could answer for me. It seems like it would be very difficult to limit a fight (bear with me, self defense incident if you please) to the Aikido proper distance for throwing and otherwise contorting uke. I think I remember Bruce Lee writing somewhere that there are 3 ranges of combat (kick, punch, grapple). Aikido seems to operate somewhere in-between the last two categories. How the heck do you limit your adversary to the one distance that works best for Aikido? Do we just concede the other ranges that are not compatible with our techniques? Is that a huge disadvantage? Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 07-09-2003, 11:51 AM   #2
Dave Miller
 
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First off, in my system of Aikido (Tomiki based), we work from at least two different distances with the longer being three steps out. While this is where uke starts, the actual distance where the technique starts is inside Ma'i.

In terms of maintaining ma'i when in a live-fight situation, it's just something you have to work on and practice in order to maintain. You should never let your feet get planted but rather keep moving all the time, controling when uke crosses ma'i. This is where randori becomes very important in terms of practical self-defense training and something that should be practiced regularly with both single and multiple ukes, depending on your skill level.

Hope this helps.

DAVE

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Old 07-09-2003, 12:01 PM   #3
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Maintaining ma-ai just requires practice at it. Don't wait for sensei to have a class on it, start now.

You can be proactive by 'controlling the first move' and encourage your uke to move where you want him/her to go. Smiles, fake a move, raise your arm, etc can be helpful to corral an uke.

Try to think of ways using your whole body/mind/spirit to have uke close the gap when you want it to happen. I like joking with my uke, then give him/her the ol' "come get some" in class. Real life is a bit different.

Finally, I'd suggest the old adage: extend ki, or let your ki extend. I know many instructors whom you can _sense_ coming into a room because their ki flows so well. It's a GREAT way to control the flow of a confrontation.

*Phil

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Old 07-09-2003, 12:02 PM   #4
Carl Simard
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Quote:
Dave Miller wrote:
In terms of maintaining ma'i when in a live-fight situation, it's just something you have to work on and practice in order to maintain. You should never let your feet get planted but rather keep moving all the time, controling when uke crosses ma'i. This is where randori becomes very important in terms of practical self-defense training and something that should be practiced regularly with both single and multiple ukes, depending on your skill level.
Quite agree with Dave. You have to maintain the right distance for you by moving in or out...

This right distance isn't something that can be teach (in the sense "right distance is x feet/meters/steps). You learn it by training, training, and again more training...

By the way, the other will also try to get you at his proper distance... For example, a kicker may like to keep some distance but may become quite inconfortable at close range...

Thus, you take the proper range for the situation...
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Old 07-09-2003, 01:46 PM   #5
jxa127
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This is an interesting question, one that we talked about a bit in class last night.

I prefer to think that there is no "proper" aikido distance, but there is a proper training distance. What we typically call "proper ma-ai" is the best distance for us to train. Being further away makes the reation too easy -- we have plenty of time to see the attack and respond. Being too close means that we should simply move, blend, and throw, as soon as we feel aggresive intent.

In my style, we use a one-step striking distance for our initial ma-ai. The proper distance of connection then varies depending on the technique that we do. For example, with irimi nage, we tend to be very close, ikkyo is often done more at arm's length.

Think of the training ma-ai as the ideal distance, but work with what you have. When we do randori (multiple, simultaneous attackers using any attack), ma-ai can vary considerably. Sometimes everyone is right on top of me, sometimes, I open two or three (or more) steps of space between everyone else and me. When people are too close, I try to open up space, when people are too far away, I try to close the space by entering strongly.

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-Drew

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Old 07-09-2003, 02:20 PM   #6
willy_lee
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Quote:
Drew Ames (jxa127) wrote:
I prefer to think that there is no "proper" aikido distance, but there is a proper training distance.
..snip...
Quote:
Think of the training ma-ai as the ideal distance, but work with what you have.
I like this! I'll try to remember it....

I just finished viewing a video on Shodokan (aka Tomiki) aikido in which they presented a drill that looked like it was designed specifically for maintaining distance (tegatana touching, alternating pressure). When I used to fence we did similar distance drills. Very valuable.

I've read that koryu arts tend to present a lot of distance/engagement info in their kata. The kata starts before the participants are in range.

On the other hand, seems like you should practice situations where you have been unable to maintain ideal distance. In fact, I'd imagine you should practice the worst-case scenario of distance.

I remember reading that the Dog Brothers describe several more categories of distance than the usual close, medium, long. If I remember correctly, they have ground grappling as closer than standup grappling range, and they have a range that is outside of long range (with an evocative name that I cannot remember right now). Interesting reminder that the engagement may occur before you can reach each other, and therefore your response begins then as well... interesting parallel with koryu....

=wl
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Old 07-09-2003, 06:45 PM   #7
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Willy;

Tegatana is a great exercise for ma ai - now try it with your eyes closed.

Your comment about kata is also right on - what many people who are not used to kata training fail to realize is that everything is involved, not just a series of moves.

Drew - you misunderstand ma ai. Ma ai is combative distance - nothing to do with training except you train for combat. Your training should encompass the same feeling of ma ai as you would in a real situation - if not what is the use.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-09-2003, 08:20 PM   #8
Largo
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Firstly- it's not easy. If it was, we wouldn't need dojos, would we?

Secondly- distancing is about reading and controlling your opponent. Don't get trapped into continually backing up. Learn how to put him into the position you want. You can use atemi directly, or use them to make him dodge (thusly setting him up for another technique).
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Old 07-09-2003, 10:43 PM   #9
jxa127
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
Drew - you misunderstand ma ai. Ma ai is combative distance - nothing to do with training except you train for combat. Your training should encompass the same feeling of ma ai as you would in a real situation - if not what is the use.
Peter,

That's a rather sweeping statement to make -- especially as you've never trained with me.

In any event. Ma-ai literally means (as I understand it) the "distance of connection." There are several distances that we work from: (1) at the beginning of the technique, we'll be at one distance -- usually a one step striking distance. (2) During the technique, we'll have different distances from uke depending on the technique. These are all ma-ai. (3) During a dynamic practice like jiyu waza or randori, nage often has to deal with ukes either farther away, or close than, the one-step striking distance.

This is my training, and it does encompass what I'd expect in a dynamic situation outside the dojo.

Proper ma-ai at the beginning of a technique varies if one is using a jo, bokken, or empty hand. It's still, in my dojo, a one-step striking distance, but the physical space is different.

The original question seemed to be asking: "What do you do when somebody is either farther away, or closer than, the proper starting ma-ai?" My answer is that you do aikido. If the space is too big, you take it up. If the space is too small, then you create space -- often by simply throwing or striking uke without waiting for his attack.

Regards,

-Drew

Last edited by jxa127 : 07-09-2003 at 10:48 PM.

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Old 07-09-2003, 11:21 PM   #10
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Drew - you are right we haven't trained togeather so all I can base my opinions on is what you write.

The statement I took exception to was
Quote:
What we typically call "proper ma-ai" is the best distance for us to train.
Which implies that ma ai in a training environment should somehow be different.

I also don't think that you could describe the distance between any two combatants at any time as ma ai either. Ma ai is an ideal point which varies depending on a number of factors. These include size, weapons and type of combat. For example, all other things being equal, both Judo and Aikido have different ma ai. If you are too far away you are not in ma ai - too close same problem.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-10-2003, 12:25 AM   #11
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: proper distance in action

Quote:
James Vadakin (jvadakin) wrote:
I have a question that I hope some of you more experienced people could answer for me. It seems like it would be very difficult to limit a fight (bear with me, self defense incident if you please) to the Aikido proper distance for throwing and otherwise contorting uke. I think I remember Bruce Lee writing somewhere that there are 3 ranges of combat (kick, punch, grapple). Aikido seems to operate somewhere in-between the last two categories. How the heck do you limit your adversary to the one distance that works best for Aikido? Do we just concede the other ranges that are not compatible with our techniques? Is that a huge disadvantage? Thanks in advance for your help!
Actually, there is a fourth range placed between punching and grappling and that's "trapping". That's the distance at which you use close quarters striking techniques like knees, elbows, head butts etc. and it is also the distance at which you can trap limbs for locking etc. This is the main distance at which Aikido techniques take place. So even if the attacker initiates with strikes at punching or kicking range we enter and attempt to get to what the Jeet Kun Do folks would consider "trapping" range. There are some techniques in Aikido, like koshinage for instance which are done at grappling range but for the most part Aikido folks strive to resolve the conflict before the fight gets to grappling range. Aikido Kihon Waza is largely initiated at punching range (grabs such as katate-tori or kosa-dori are at punching range even though you might not see any punching).

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-10-2003, 01:32 AM   #12
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Many folks believe that ma ai is a fixed distance, it is not. It is the "correct distance" between you and your partner at any time during your interaction, therefore it will change through the course of a technique."

Of course your ma ai can be wrong, i.e. you can be standing too close or too far at a certain point or time. However, if you execute your technique correctly (not for one minute stating that I ever do ), there should always be ma ai between you and your partner, whether this is two sword lengths at the start (example), a few millimetres as you sweep them up during an iriminage, or arms length as you are pinning them on the ground.

My tuppence worth

Bryan

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Old 07-10-2003, 02:39 AM   #13
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Good point about the ma ai not being fixed Bryan but I am still not sure that one could say that you are still in ma ai during the execution of let's say irimi.

Ma ai as I understand it in both the kendo and aikido context is the point where you have to take a step to use your weapon (sword and handsword (tegatana), respectively) and of course your opponent must do the same. In ma ai we have the opprotunity to practice aiki - that sensitivity to your opponents every move since as you point out the situation remains fluid. A slight shift in posture changes ma ai.

Tonight its Judo night - I really wonder how one defines correct ma ai in this context.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-10-2003, 05:39 AM   #14
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Peter,

I can understand why you think that, but I still believe that ma ai exists at every point. If we use the irimi example:

Uke attacks with any technique, we irimi into his blind side, my ma ai has decreased significantly to the point that I may actually be in body to body contact. This would still be ma ai for me in order to move to the next part of my technique i.e. I still need to move to continue with a technique, and assuming my ma ai is correct, uke will also need to move again in order to attack again.

Ma ai is usually defined as "correct distance", how about describing it as safe distance (not a literal translation of course)? Many people consider Ma ai to be the starting point, as you mentioned above, the point at which one or other has to take a step to initiate an attack, therefore it can also be considered safe distance. If uke attacks and I do irimi to the blind side, I have moved up close and personal to uke, but, at that point in time it is a safe distance because he couldn't hit me without moving. Just a thought.

Bryan

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Old 07-10-2003, 07:16 AM   #15
jxa127
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Peter,

Bryan is saying it better than I am. I think you're talking about the proper starting ma-ai. To my mind, that is the ideal distance for technique. But, once we start technique, we should still have proper distance compared to uke, and that will vary depending on what we're doing.

I do think that we can make general observations on the distance at which we work. Ellis Amdur called aikido something like "jujitsu at arm's length." In other words, we can say that, generally, aikido works at a more open ma-ai than jujitsu.

Regards,

-Drew

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Old 07-10-2003, 08:04 AM   #16
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IMHO, "proper" distance is the one that allows you to execute your technique properly, as in effectively and efficiently whether its at kicking, punching, trapping, or grappling range. The use of weapons modifies the distance factor.

Training is the only way to find the "proper" distance for you personally. It varies based on your size, your uke's size, and the technique. The "proper" distance may be more subjective than objective. You may have to move yourself in order to establish the "proper" distance. The dynamic interchange of taking and becoming the center of the technqiue will establish the "proper" distance.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 07-10-2003, 12:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
Bryan Bateman (batemanb) wrote:
Ma ai is usually defined as "correct distance", how about describing it as safe distance (not a literal translation of course)? Many people consider Ma ai to be the starting point, as you mentioned above, the point at which one or other has to take a step to initiate an attack, therefore it can also be considered safe distance. If uke attacks and I do irimi to the blind side, I have moved up close and personal to uke, but, at that point in time it is a safe distance because he couldn't hit me without moving. Just a thought.
I would certainly not called it "safe distance". If you just want to keep a "safe distance", you just stay out of range of your opponent... You may not be able to do any technique, but you will be at the "safest distance" posssible...

Applying a technique to an opponent always have a part of risk... Everything may go OK, but you may also do it wrong and get your *ss kicked...

So, no, I will not define ma ai as "safe distance".
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Old 07-10-2003, 12:50 PM   #18
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Quote:
Carl Simard wrote:
I would certainly not called it "safe distance". If you just want to keep a "safe distance", you just stay out of range of your opponent... You may not be able to do any technique, but you will be at the "safest distance" posssible...

Applying a technique to an opponent always have a part of risk... Everything may go OK, but you may also do it wrong and get your *ss kicked...

So, no, I will not define ma ai as "safe distance".
I agree 100%. By the time you have entered ma'i, you are within the effective range of uke. Of course, uke is also within your effective range. This is in no way a "safe" place to be but it is the place where combat occurs.

DAVE

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Old 07-10-2003, 02:30 PM   #19
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I also thought ma-ai a combination of nage+uke+echnique+distance+surroundings+others. For two people of different sizes, one may be in "proper" ma-ai for their size and tech, while the other may not.

I think to be in proper ma-ai means to be able to adapt to the situation, finding the distance at which technique is possible.

if I'm at punching range, koshinage is clearly the wrong technique for that ma-ai, but it usually is more subtle than that no?

i guess ma-ai is one of those other all-encompasing terms..

Last edited by Alfonso : 07-10-2003 at 02:36 PM.

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Old 07-10-2003, 02:35 PM   #20
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Quote:
Alfonso Adriasola (Alfonso) wrote:
I also thought ma-ai is in combination of nage+uke+echnique. For two people of different sizes, one may be in "proper" ma-ai for their size and tech, while the other may not.
I've always been taught to think of ma'i as the "nage+uke" distance, the point from which uke could simply take a step and attack quickly. I don't think of different techniques have different ma'i's. I base my technique selection mainly on the type and force of attack with which I'm faced. However, as I type this, it seems that I may be actually agreeing with you more than I originally thought.

DAVE

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Old 07-10-2003, 02:43 PM   #21
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I always feel handicapped discussing Jpn because I don't read it and the KANJI are so critical to understanding the language.

That disclaimer made, my "feeling" then, is that "MA" is better translated as "interval" than "distance" in order to introduce the concept of sequence/time over and against the static feeling/implication of something fixed.

FWIW, Draeger wrote of close MA AI as requiring more courage than that maintained farther away. (Not directly pertinent to this discussion, but interesting to me anyway, he also noted that the greater the MA AI, the less taxing was the art on the body, it following that the sword is tougher than the naginata; aikido tougher than kendo, judo tougher than aikido. Naturally, YMMV. )

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Old 07-10-2003, 06:34 PM   #22
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Quote:
Drew Ames (jxa127) wrote:
Bryan is saying it better than I am. I think you're talking about the proper starting ma-ai. To my mind, that is the ideal distance for technique. But, once we start technique, we should still have proper distance compared to uke, and that will vary depending on what we're doing.
After talking to some Japanese kendo people, some of who saw the thread, I'll stay with my definition. Haven't talked to more senior Aikido people yet but I doubt that would change things.

Both Dave and I come from a similar Aikido background (Kenji Tomiki) so its no surprise that our view is close. Kenji Tomiki held stratospheric dan ranks in Judo, Aikido and Kendo so his definitions tend to encompass the whole range rather than be particular to one art. Maybe that's the problem.

In our system there is an exercise called Tegatana Awase where ma ai is maintianed during very dynamic movement. This can be done unarmed or with weapons. For me especially - terms like starting ma ai just don't make sense. Sorry.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 07-11-2003, 01:02 AM   #23
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Quote:
Carl Simard wrote:
I would certainly not called it "safe distance". If you just want to keep a "safe distance", you just stay out of range of your opponent... You may not be able to do any technique, but you will be at the "safest distance" posssible...
That's just what ma ai is isn't it? Both Peter and I stated that above, the point at which uke has to initiate a move in order to atack, i.e. just out of his range.

With regards to safe distance, I was just speculating on some thoughts that came to me as I was writing my perspective of ma ai, not necessarily trying to redefine the definition . To maintain ma ai between you and uke at all times, you will be moving in harmony with him, i.e. he moves, you move (not necessarily in the same direction or at the same speed). If you keep this up, he will be unable to land an attack, therefore ma ai is effectively safe (if only for that moment in time).

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Old 07-11-2003, 01:14 AM   #24
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Quote:
Dave Miller wrote:
By the time you have entered ma'i, you are within the effective range of uke.
Are you?

My perspective is that ma ai is flexible, adaptable and changeable. It is my ma ai that I am concerned about, not uke's, I don't care if his ma ai is wrong, as long as I maintain mine. If I enter uke's ma ai, which I am intending to do with my irimi as uke moves, my ma ai changes relevant to my new positioning, but I still have ma ai. It doesn't mean that uke has entered my ma ai, despite the fact that there may be a lot less distance between us than at the "start", therefore I am not necessarily in his "range".

Caveat:

Whilst I may have these ideas on the subject, I am no where near achieving them in my Aiki, it's just somewhere that I'd like to aspire to



Bryan

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Old 07-11-2003, 01:28 AM   #25
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Quote:
Peter Rehse (PeterR) wrote:
After talking to some Japanese kendo people, some of who saw the thread, I'll stay with my definition. Haven't talked to more senior Aikido people yet but I doubt that would change things.
When I was in Japan, we had a Sensei who came to teach once a month. Along with his Aiki, he is a 7th Dan in Kendo, and focused his teaching almost entirley on ma ai/ ri ai in every lesson. Many of my compadres at the dojo used to roll their eyes when he came because he almost always only taught tai no henka and ikkyo, often spending the whole lesson on just one of the techniques. I had a long chat with him in the locker room after class one evening (followed up over a few beers in a local izakaya immediately after). I remember vividly the large grin, vociferous nodding of the head and lit up face when I asked him about my perspective on mai ai (not about safe distance, that is just something that I was thinking on yesterday). From then on, he always spent a lot of time with me in his classes.

I still think I'm on the right path with this, but there's still a lot of undergrowth to cut away, and I may have to change direction many more times yet.

Bryan

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