Founder of Aikido
Introduction to Aikido
Maai Distance Drills
Maai Gap Drills
The Ki in Aikido
Words of O'Sensei
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Maai - Distance Drills
Learning to control maai requires
sparring with a partner--the random movement and timing of a human
opponent forces you to adjust maai constantly. Here's some drills and
ideas for training that will build your awareness of maai:
- Different-Sized Opponents:
You already spar against different-sized partners in your regular
classes, preparing you for the different-sized assailants you might
have to face outside the dojo. If you're short, it helps to spar
against much taller partners, teaching you to close the gap quickly
and fight where your maai, and not your opponent's, is best.
- Arms vs. Legs: Reach is a big
component of maai, as it can effectively shorten the distance/time
required for someone to strike you, or for you to strike an
opponent. The arms versus legs drill simply pits a person who can
use only arm/elbow/hand techniques against an opponent who can use
only leg/knee/foot techniques. Each has a different maai to work
within because of the reach limitations or advantages of their
allowed techniques. After a few rounds, switch with your partner--if
you've just been using arms, now just use legs.
- Confined Space: By sparring
within a confined space, you no longer have the luxury of distance
to ensure a reactionary gap. Instead, you have to use sensitivity
and awareness to detect attacks that you previously would have seen
coming. Also, you can't run away from a blitzing partner; you have
to sidestep and counter within the real estate you've alloted
- Obstacles: We lay out an
obstacle course of chairs and tables in the cafeteria we work out
in--we then get past/over/through the obstacles and deliver kicks
and strikes to partners holding kicking shields. This drill teaches
you to efficiently close the gap even when your opponent has
thoughtfully placed obstacles in your way.
- Weapons Sparring: Sparring
with weapons is perhaps the best way to learn about maai. Not only
do weapons change your reach, but by varying the reach of weapons
(e.g. pitting kendo shinai vs. naginata, or staff vs. escrima
sticks) you can learn how distance and timing and reach are all
interrelated. For example, a kwan dao (a really heavy Chinese pole
arm) wielder might have an exceptional reach advantage over a
partner armed with a short sword. However, the sword wielder has a
time advantage because of the lighter weight and maneuverability of
Even when the weapons are exactly the
same, partners gain an increased awareness and respect for maai.
Practitioners of the Filipino martial arts like escrima note that
the tip of an escrima stick moves much faster than an open-hand
strike. Coupled with the extended reach of the stick, sparring or
flow drills with sticks impart an intense awareness--so much that
subsequent open-hand sparring feels like a slow motion movie.
Control over maai comes with practice and
experience. Learn to control maai, and you will control combat.
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