Short, concise lessons and concepts helpful to students
Keeping Your Distance
By Terry Bryan
A central principle in most martial arts is the concept of distance.
The Japanese word for this notion is “ma-ai,” which more
precisely translates as “space” or “fit.”
The proper spacing that "fits" the situation is a crucial
element in combat, especially if you add timing to this concept. This
concept has been used in combat as long as we have recorded history.
Let’s discuss this concept from a martial point of view and how
it applies to other areas of our lives.
Each person develops a specific distance from which he or she feels
the most comfortable when engaging in conflict with an opponent. This
distance is developed due to a number of elements, including body type,
attitude and tactics or styles of training. A larger person may feel
more comfortable at grappling range, while a smaller person may be more
inclined to use a hit and run type of tactic.
In America today, most martial arts programs are very pragmatic and
teach a variety of techniques from different ranges, but in general pure
arts tend to specialize at a certain distance. For example, a Tae Kwon
Do practitioner would prefer a kicking range, while a judo person would
feel much more comfortable at grappling range. The modern warrior has
to develop the ability instantly to identify the strengths of his opponents
and developing a strategic response based on his attributes, which can
neutralize those strengths.
Taking the opponent out of his natural range, or modifying the timing
of techniques, may be the key principles in this tactic. Your opponent
may not notice this change, but will find that all their techniques are
suddenly off a little. Also he or she won’t feel entirely comfortable.
This can give you an advantage.
About the Author:
Terry Bryan is the former General Secretary for the USA-NKF (National
Karate Federation), the official governing body for the sport of karate
with the US Olympic Committee. He currently is the Executive Director
for the American Black Belt Academy, a 501c3 non-profit organization
located in Colorado Springs. His column, Simple Lessons, regularly appears