Wednesday 19 July 2023


Sonoba-tsuki: Explanation of basic maai in Budo Karate (Freital, Germany Seminar 2023)

The 間合 (MAAI) in International Karate Shotokan 約束組手 (YAKUSOKU KUMITE) is closer than the other Shotokan groups. The focus is on “…the attacker being in distance to really be able to optimally impact on their respective opponent”. Typically, if you look at yakusoku kumte you will notice that the attacker is placed in a position, which merely means they will reach their respective target. Contrastingly, we require that the attacker positions themselves at a distance where they could literally break a solid board; thus, in IKS, simply reaching is deemed as being incorrect.


Accordingly, if one demonstrates any form of one step yakusoku kumite (and the first step of Gohon Kumite)—irrespective of demonstrating sharp and successful defenses and counters—they will still fail the test if their ‘initial attacking portion of the drill does not have the correct maai’.


Therefore, in regards to defense we more strongly stress unsoku to escape in gohon kumite; drop in kihon ippon kumite; and compress and expand in jiyu ippon kumte/kaeshi ippon kumite. In these regards, the ukewaza literally functions as a cover, secondary to ‘not being there’. Put another way, rather than prioritizing the johanshin (the upper body) the actions of the kahanshin (lower body) is the first line of defense, and this is supported/backed up by the respective ukewaza which is employed.


受け技. (Ukewaza) are therefore primarily covers, checks and parries; thus, as the term translates from Japanese—they are literally ‘reception techniques’. I need to add here that they are often used as kogekiwaza in actuality, and are extremely effective as percussive blows, joint locks, holds and breaks/dislocations; however, in yakusoku kumite they are most commonly practiced as ‘defensive receptions.'


Here I’d like to offer a warning, in regards to being ‘too close of a distance’ when attacking. In old school ‘traditional’ Shotokan training (which IKS follows), the designated defender is permitted to make a pre-empted attack if the designated attacker excessively crams them. In other words, the attacker is committing mubobi. This is especially the case in jiyu ippon kumite and kaeshi ippon kumite. In these regards, when attacking one must launch their waza with the optimal maai, which can cause maximum damage, whilst ideally being out of the range of a pre-emptive thrust from the defender's current position.


Conversely there’s another error in yakusoku-kumite, which must be strictly observed. When attacking, one must not run away from the defender's counterattack. In other words, they are lacking kihaku. Again, in old school ‘traditional’ Shotokan training (again, which we follow), the counterattacking person can then chase the person running away with a secondary attack or attacks. 

Jodan mawashi-geri with correct maai: A knockout, if not controlled, will be achieved.

In sum, in all cases correct maai must be used, otherwise yakusoku kumite training/practice will be counter-productive if 'effective budo technique is the aim'. Incorrect distancing can never optimize the ability to deliver full power blows and, hence, grooves ‘critically bad habits’ into one’s karate.


 © Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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