Sunday 12 January 2014


Maai (meeting distance), in traditional Karate-Do, is where you get yourself into a position where you can optimally impact on your opponent with the respective technique you’re employing; but also, (with this point in mind “as your priority”) a position which enables you to do this whilst making it “…most difficult for your opponent to attack you”.

Maai: from long to close range: At first, and throughout one’s training, the base of this practice is the long-range oi-waza; however, (with this as an ‘optimal position’ and ‘point of reference’) “…one must move on to also practice delivering effective close range blows”. I am not so much talking about close range techniques (i.e. empi-uchi, atama-uchi, hiza-geri etcetera); but rather, I am referring to any technique from a tight distance.

Maai for hangeki-waza: In countering one must automatically respond with the right technique instantly, depending on the maai. Kihon ippon kumite (Fundamental one-step sparring) and Jiyu ippon kumite (Free one-step sparring) form the base of this practice. For example, in close, immediately counter with mawashi-zuki, mae empi-uchi, ura-zuki. Middle distance, launch the seiken gyaku-zuki, teisho or nukite; further back, plant a kick. Of course, there are numerous methods of ashi-hakobi/unsoku which can allow one to deliver a great range of ‘first-seemingly inappropriate techniques’ (i.e. – switching legs in midrange to land a kizami-geri, keri-nuke or tobi konde empi-uchi); however, irrespective of this, for the most part—keep things simple and razor sharp. This is the beauty of traditional Shotokan-ryu.

The potential to achieve ichigeki-hissatsu: Every technique one throws in training must be effective, not just a visually fast and sharp move. Techniques must maximize the chances (that if you did not control your blow) it would seriously maim your training partner. For this reason, achieving ichigeki-hissatsu must be foremost in one’s mind—whilst adhering to the principles that underpin sun-dome.

Conclusion: Always remember that karate is not about practicing non-contact techniques: “…karate-waza are full contact techniques (with the maai distance to cause serious damage), which are controlled when practiced against a partner”. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).

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