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Old 09-03-2003, 01:08 AM   #1
Irony
Dojo: Aikido Center of Atlanta
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Ma-ai

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...

Chris Pasley
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Old 09-03-2003, 02:31 AM   #2
Bronson
 
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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

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 09-03-2003, 03:19 AM   #3
jk
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Re: Ma-ai

Quote:
Chris Pasley (Irony) wrote:
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...

Last edited by jk : 09-03-2003 at 03:21 AM.
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Old 09-03-2003, 07:13 AM   #4
DaveO
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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!

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Old 09-03-2003, 09:16 AM   #5
L. Camejo
 
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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.

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Old 09-03-2003, 09:19 AM   #6
Arieru
 
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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.
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Old 09-03-2003, 10:30 AM   #7
opherdonchin
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There's always the option of responding to a step forward with a direct irimi.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-04-2003, 09:15 AM   #8
DaveO
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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!

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Old 09-04-2003, 11:26 AM   #9
mengsin
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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

mengsin
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Old 09-04-2003, 11:26 AM   #10
Ron Tisdale
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I liked the way you put that Dave.

Ron

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Old 09-04-2003, 01:35 PM   #11
twilliams423
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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.
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Old 09-04-2003, 03:29 PM   #12
Yo-Jimbo
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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.

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 09-05-2003, 09:13 AM   #13
ian
 
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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

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Old 09-05-2003, 09:14 AM   #14
ian
 
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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!)

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 09-29-2003, 08:43 PM   #15
David Yap
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Quote:
Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
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
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Old 09-30-2003, 12:43 AM   #16
Bussho
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Quote:
Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
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
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Old 10-02-2003, 11:18 AM   #17
kensparrow
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Quote:
Ian Dodkins (ian) wrote:
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?
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Old 10-02-2003, 11:30 AM   #18
twilliams423
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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.
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Old 10-02-2003, 11:35 AM   #19
Ron Tisdale
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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

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Old 10-02-2003, 03:31 PM   #20
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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
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Old 10-02-2003, 03:41 PM   #21
cguzik
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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.
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Old 10-02-2003, 04:39 PM   #22
Janet Rosen
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Quote:
Tom Williams (twilliams423) wrote:
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!

Janet Rosen
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Old 10-02-2003, 07:34 PM   #23
kironin
 
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Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
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
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Old 10-02-2003, 11:15 PM   #24
Vincent Munoz
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ma-ai

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
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Old 10-04-2003, 05:06 AM   #25
villrg0a
 
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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.


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