Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Interactions: Posture and ma-ai

Photo courtesy of Postaletrice
I've mentioned before that posture affects ma-ai. Specifically, a wrestler's stance seems to draw the conflict in towards you, as opposed to a more upright stance, which seems to facilitate disengagement better. Here's another way of thinking about the same phenomenon.
Get a partner and stand facing each other in natural, upright postures. Measure ma-ai (however you like to do it) - basically both people reach forward and stand so that your fingertips barely touch your partner's extended fingertips. Now, everyone keeps feet in the same place and hunkers down toward jigotai or toward a wrestler's stance. Measure again and you will see that you are well inside of ma-ai. It's likely that from this posture, uke can reach your wrists or forearms without moving his feet. Without moving your feet, you and your partner have broken ma-ai!
This demonstration can be startling for some folks the first time you see it - it seems to mean that ma-ai is a fuzzy thing instead of an absolute thing. But when you think about it a bit, it's not so amazing. It just means that you can reach farther forward when you bend over at the knee and waist, using your butt as a counterbalance. But this does tell us a couple of important things about ma-ai.
  • Ma-ai is not a spherical boundary around your center. Instead, it is sort of ellipsoidal or egg-shaped. Try this experiment - stand with your feet side-by-side and measure how far you can reach forward before you have to move your feet. Now measure how far you can reach to the side before you move your feet. Ma-ai is slightly larger to your front than it is to your sides and rear.
  • Don't let uke crouch at ma-ai in preparation to attack. If you think that uke is just barely outside of ma-ai but you allow him to crouch in preparation, he's actually closer than ma-ai and he can spring across ma-ai before you can move. If you are watching for uke to move across that line before you react, you'd better react if he steps on the line and crouches! That counts as breaking ma-ai.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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