Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

Please take a look at my bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Please take a look at my Notable Quotes

Hey, Attention on Deck!

Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!

When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:

I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn

Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung


The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books. Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

“What you are reading right now is a blog. It’s written and posted by me, because I want to. I get no financial remuneration for writing it. I don’t have to meet anyone’s criteria in order to post it. Not only I don’t have an employer or publisher, but I’m not even constrained by having to please an audience. If people won’t like it, they won’t read it, but I won’t lose anything by it. Provided I don’t break any laws (libel, incitement to violence, etc.), I can post whatever I want. This means that I can write openly and honestly, however controversial my opinions may be. It also means that I could write total bullshit; there is no quality control. I could be biased. I could be insane. I could be trolling. … not all sources are equivalent, and all sources have their pros and cons. These needs to be taken into account when evaluating information, and all information should be evaluated. - God’s Bastard, Sourcing Sources

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"Ma (Mah)"

Ma, a blank time in space; empty spaces; periods of time when everything stops. It is filled with meaning that is determined by the situation, the moment. It is that interval that allows one to define and understand real intentions of the other party through "feeling the climate created by the words."

In a karate-jutsu sense the word "ma" is used in "ma-ai." Ma-ai (mah-eye) in the jutsu sense is distancing; the distance/time that separates two opponents, allowing them to judge the overall timing and distance necessary for each to carry out there intentions; The distance when engagement commences; as the ma-ai is shortened to courage and skill increases.

Ma-ai as is "Ma" is that which must be taught, trained and practiced until it becomes an integral, instinctive, part of the arsenal enacted in a time of crises. Ma itself is that which the samurai of the feudal era in Japan culled from the practice of Zen Buddhism. Ma as to empty silence for the samurai came from the training that to remain silent was better than speaking. Silence was considered far more powerful than words for it too gave moments for parties to define and understand real intentions. The practice of silence was called "mokusatsu (moh-kuu-sot-sue), which is translated as "killing with silence."

Sometimes ma-ai is used in the context that whomever controls the distance controls the fight. It is that distance that one optimizes in their favor to conquer the attacker. It reminds me of line from the fundamentals of martial systems, "lengthening the line." Both allude to the control of distance where one is actual space,  distance or interval between your physical presence and  that of your attacker. The other is that space, distance or interval lengthened as to your skills and proficiency in direct relation to the person who attacks you.

If you also take into consideration other factors such as the size of each person as it might relate to my ma-ai being different from an attacker who may be shorter, taller, etc. which also relates to the length and distance one can cover with their legs and arms to reach a vital point, etc. Even if both of us is at the constant distance of one foot or three feet or six feet those differences provide some differences in regards to ma-ai which we must control to effectively deploy our arsenal, our hands, feet, etc.

I would also add that ma-ai is that distance between conversation, argument and blows. The way one uses silence, a lack of words, can achieve greater avoidance than opening the mouth and allowing the words, often guided by the monkey, to achieve deflection or aggression and blows. If my lack of words and my body language through silence allows an aggressor the same interval, space and time to let of steam it could result in deescalation, deflation and a peaceful, relatively, resolution to a hot situation.

Lets not forget two more factors in ma-ai, timing and speed, those things that either shorten or lengthen your line thus changing the dynamics of your ma-ai. This also can relate to the explanation of the fundamental principles of martial system, i.e. economic motion whereby your tension and other mechanics of the body and mind determine the speed and your timing. Silence, ma, or the empty space relates to the condition of the mind. Is it fogged up and restricted by thoughts, thoughts of "am I going to die now" or "can I really beat this guy" and thereby causing stress resulting in muscular tension and slower speed of hands and feet along with a slow and sluggish mind.

Can one find space, ma, in the defenses of the opponent? Can the opponent find space in mine and how can either one be exploited which changes similar to the intervals, spaces and emptiness one considers as to physical distancing, etc.?

I find that in most instances when someone attempts to explain ma or ma-ai they tend to be stuck on that distance between them and the opponent. They tend to make assumptions the drive defense and counter offense. When it does not work sometimes they also assume it is that something other than what is truly behind the missed opportunity and that is training and practice to know, understand and apply all these different principles as well as the other principles that support and change the ones in this post, ma (Mah) and ma-ai (Mah-ah-ee).

p.s. reading an article on ma-ai I finally came to realize the true value of kobudo. The various weaponry with the varying lengths allow one to switch between various ma-ai as dictated by the weapon and its length when coupled/added to the more static ma-ai dictated by the individual body types and sizes. The big issue here is safely drilling with another person while utilizing those various weapons. Interesting to say the least and enlightening.

p.s.s. then again, in most self-protective situations the ma-ai is in your face, smell the bad breath and body oder, distance that weapons just won't help you with judging ma-ai ..... then again, it is still good, solid training.


SueC said...

A fascinating and informative article Charles, thank you. The concept of maai is indeed a difficult one to grasp and an even more difficult one to incorporate into one's practice.

I'm starting to get to grips with controlling maai in a close in situation but find it more difficult at kicking distance - strange for a karateka eh?

SueC said...

Thinking about it, I think my problem with long range defence is due to my lack of height. When an opponent is on the limits of my maai I am still only at mid-distance for him so I remain within his maai whilst he can easily move outside of mine. When fighting close in the differences in our heights are essentially negated (as far as maai is concerned). What do you think?

Charles James said...

I think that you should "forget" about your height. If your strategy is to move in close and fast, destabilize and damage then forget about it. Figure out what you have to do as a holistic body to get the strategy done with appropriate tactics for each person.

Assume the biggest, strongest and most aggressive body is your challenge.

You are right that your heights are not a factor close in and you are wrong in that you have to know how to use your height, weight and tactics to destabilize and damage an attacker regardless of his or her stature.

Make sense?