Tag Archives: kendo maai
The space or distance between opponents in a kendo match is called maai. There are three distinct maai or distances as measured with both opponents in chudan kamae: chika-ma (close distance), issoku-itto-no-maai (one step distance), and to-ma (far distance). These defined distances are fixed and the same for both opponents. The preferred distance is the classic issoku-itto-no-maai (one step distance), in application a short persons step is shorter than a taller persons step making the one step maai or distance different for each opponent, often this distance may over lap just short, or a little longer with how close the opponent prefers to strike in one step. The preferred distance each opponent seeks to strike in one step is a constant battle to maintain. Besides the transitional maai, the preferred ma-ai does not just happen it is most often the distance both opponents nonverbally agree to strike each other in one step, or a distance forced by one of the opponents. A master swordsman will manipulate this distance to their advantage, keeping just far enough that opponent is not able to land a strike yet close enough that they are able to easily strike, never allowing the opponent to dictate what maai to use. Awareness of your opponents preferred ma-ai should never be over looked. Learning to force your opponent to accept your preferred maai while not allowing your opponent to dictate the maai is a subtle but essential lesson in kendo. Keeping track of your opponents preferred ma-ai will give you a masterful advantage to defeat your opponent.
The translation of maai is: space. The definition of Maai: Proper distancing or timing with respect to one’s partner in a kendo match. In kendo there are three distance catagories: Chikama or close distance, Issoku itto no maai or one step distance and toma or far distance. Issoku Itto no maai or one step distance is the preferred distance because you can see the opponents whole body easily. Toma distance is the generally to far to strike from and few kendoka are able to hit from toma in one step. With practice you will find your comfort hitting distance which may be the same or different for your oppenents. Maai is not a static distance it is always changing from moment to moment, often it is a transition from far to close and back again. Maintaining a maai position is an advanced level kendo so it takes time to develop. Practice maai so that it is second nature and not a conscious effort to dominate your opponent by keeping just out of reach of your opponents strikes yet within easy reach of your strikes. Another dimension of maai is to control “space.” Controlling Space around you is very important when fighting multiple opponents, keeping the space to your advantage. Controlling Space also infers the ability to read and control time (reaction distance from opponent) time in the fractions of a second it takes an opponent to strike from what ever distance (maai) he is at any given moment. A faster opponent will travel the same maai striking distance faster than a slow opponent covering the same maai striking distance. Adjust for slower and faster opponents, avoiding the faster opponents maai striking distance until you are ready to strike and or shorten your kokoro no maai when in striking distance. Kokoro no maai is the term used to describe a distance in which both opponents can easily strike from, yet the opponent can not strike because of an awareness lapse. The term kokoro means heart or spirit, in this context describes an opponent that has a spirit at rest or sleeping. An awareness lapse can be used to your advantage (giving you time and suki) sensing the opponents state of mind, sensing the awareness or lack of awareness of your opponent.