Monday, March 02, 2009

Measuring ma-ai

The first, and best way to begin developing a good intuitive sense of ma-ai (space, time, and distance) is to measure ma-ai at the beginning of every repetition of a partner exercise.  The way that we measure ma-ai is to stand palm-to-palm with your partner, both of you standing in shizentai (natural upright posture) with unbendable arms.
Something you have to watch out for, though, is the tendancy to pay attention to uke's hand instead of his center.  Remember, after you measure like this, ma-ai is the distance from uke's center to tori's center - not the distance from uke's hand to tori's center.  I usually teach to measure, then have both partners drop their hands, take a breath and observe how far away your partner is, then uke attacks.
Repetition of this measuring trick will instill a fine intuitive ma-ai sense, and this ma-ai measuring exercise is applicable in aikido, judo, and karate.
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  1. I strongly believe doing a Maai test at every rep is way bad.

    Maai tests should be controlled by...

    a. senior who is trying to demonstrate to junior they are not paying correct attention to maai.

    b. Tori, before attack who feels crowded by uke's space.

    It drives me crazy when I see people testing before every attack. Maai should be so intuitive that by the time someone is a green belt they should be lining up perfectly 90 percent of the time. Over testing maai is BAD!!

    Aikidoka should be lining up near perfectly after 4 months, or something is going wrong in training. Testing should be no more than 1 of 8 reps.

  2. sorry it is my wife's account I types under

    Sensei Strange

  3. Well, I see where you're coming from but I mostly disagree.

    While you can develop a pretty acute sense of ma-ai by green or brown belt (by measuring a lot) it seems that it is too easy to get lazy and start to call ma-ai whatever you want to. Too easy to start casually throwing arms up every so often and getting bad measures (i.e. fingertip-to-fingertip). Too easy to start referencing off of some internal fear or desire and getting bad distance ideas.

    That's why I said measure before every technique. I'm talking about kata.

    randori and embusen are different matters. in randori you are testing (among other things) the ideas of ma-ai that you have built with kata. in embu you are demonstrating those skills. neither embu nor randori are the place to be measuring ma-ai.

    But ma-ai is such a crucial underpinning of aikido, that I do think you should measure before every kata technique repetition (or at least before most)

    (and I figured that MadameStrange was just Strange in disguise ;-)

  4. Measuring ma-ai is a skill you can't become too good at.


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