This is the fourth part in a five-part series that translates a lecture made by Morishima Tateo. To see the rest of the published series plus a bio on Morishima sensei, please click here.
Pursing the spirit and modern kendo
3. Mai (間合) and ma (間)
MAI is the physical space between yourself and your opponent when you are in kamae. MA is everything involved when you confront an opponent – physical distance, time, KYOJITSU (“truth and falsehood” 虚実. If you are open to attack or have a loss of concentration this is 虚; the reverse is 実) – i.e. the current “state.” When this state is good for you when “you are far from your opponent, yet your opponent is within reach of you.” Scientifically speaking this is of-course impossible. This is a spiritual problem. If your spirit is calm but your opponents is overwhelming, he will seem closer to you; in the reverse situation he will seem further away – this is MA at work.
We can explain how to come to this “advantageous state” through 6 factors:
1. Kamae. Utilisation of the natural posture of chudan no kamae you can respond and adapt to the your opponents actions.
2. Mai. “Issoku itto no mai” is the distance where you can reach out and strike your opponent in a single step. However, people have different bodies, abilities, kendo is done by different genders, etc various things change this distance. As you get older you naturally can’t strike from a far distance, so your Mai becomes shorter. The same “issoku itto no mai” is a lot longer for younger people. That is, the distance changes on the individuals circumstance. Working to strike from the best distance and time is called “MATZUMORI” (間積り).
3. The principles of attack and defense as one (攻防の理合). Important For the purpose of achieving Matzumori are the Sansappo (“three killing methods” 三殺法) and Kyojitsu. Depending on the way you use your shinai and they way you move forward and back, left and right, you can make the best distance and time to attack.
4, 5, and 6. Kiai, Waza, and Movement of the Spirit. These three factors are an important element in creating the desired “advantageous state.” Movement of the spirit refers to MUSHIN. If you are thinking about some sort of ideal or worldly thoughts then you can’t move freely. If your spirit is like a mirror you will be able to respond to your opponents movements and execute techniques freely.
If we combine all of these factors, comparing yourself with your opponent you should feel closer to them than they do to you. In kendo terms this is called *NORU (乗る). There are many different explanations of this “noru.” There are no mistakes in them but the real “noru” is what I explained above. When you are in a more advantageous position than your opponent you can then be said to be “overwhelming” them.
* I would translate this not literally from the dictionary, but as “Overwhelm”
Continued in the last part…