Tuesday, 21. September 2010
One of the most important practices of martial engagement is that of distancing, or “Ma ai” in Japanese. Anything used in an engagement has an optimal distance to be used from ranging from Grappling, Knees and Elbows (Extremely close to close), Hands and feet (Close to mid ranged), and varying weaponry (Anywhere from close to long ranged.)
Typically the ideal spacing is the one that the tool can be used to strike effectively and still retain as much distance as possible. Too far away and the attack will miss entirely, leaving the attacker very vulnerable to a counter. Too close and you are failing to utilize the characteristics of whatever tool you intend to use, the tools reach. Being able to strike your opponent due to reach and have them unable to counter without some serious movement is an ideal situation to be in.
Beyond striking with the ideal surfaces of the body or weapon, there is another practical reason to maintain proper distancing. The human body can only respond to external stimulus so quickly (an incoming punch, kick or weapon.) This is know as the “reactionary gap” and for most people is somewhere around .25 to .30 seconds. This gap will preserve you or get you killed as quickly as anything.
In the case of a percussive engagement, striking and checking (Blocking) is going to most likely occur at the same time. This is a necessary trade off due to the length of limbs.. and due to the reactionary gap, you are most likely going to get hit unless you can end an engagement as soon as it starts. Getting hit with fists and feet is OK though (a necessary evil perhaps,) they are mostly survive-able as long as one doesn’t take too much of a beating.
When a weapon is brought into play however; the game changes dramatically. One well placed strike is either lethal or debilitating enough to lead to one’s demise. Even a poorly placed strike can have similar effects depending on pain tolerance and the strikes location. In this case maintaining the proper distance means you’ll ideally be able to connect with minimal exposure to yourself (The attacker has the same gap as the defender) or be able respond and counter, ending the engagement in your favor.
Mae is something that some people are far better at than others (I’m probably in the middle of the group.) but fortunately it is a refine-able talent with practice. Knowing your distances will definitely save you some pain, and it might just save your life.