Describe Three Types of Ma-ai
Ma-ai refers to the distance between the kendoka and his/her opponent.
Issoku itto-no-maai (middle distance)
This refers to the distance whereby a kendoka can strike his/her opponent with one step. When two kendoka are standing in chudan-no-kamae this is often indicated by having the shinais crossing within the region of the mono-uchi. This is considered the optimum distance for a strike.
Toma (long distance)
This refers to the situation whereby the kendokas are at a distance beyond issoku itto-no-maai- often marked by the kendokas’ shinais being at or beyond tip-to-tip when the opponents are standing in chudan-no-kamae. While a successful strike is still possible, the opponent is given an extra measure of time to react to the strike. Sometimes strikes from toma can catch an opponent off-guard as he/she may not expect a strike at this distance.
Chikama (short distance)
This refers to when the kendokas are at a distance closer than issoku itto-no-maai. This is often indicated by the kendokas’ shinais crossing closer than the region of the mono-uchi. This short distance gives both kendoka very little time to react to strikes. However at this distance it is easy for an observant opponent to deflect an oncoming strike by simply turning the shinai counter-clockwise at the instant the opponent’s strike is initiated.
Furthermore, because of the smaller distance between opponents, the footwork needed to execute the strike tends to be shorter and therefore the overall form of the strike may appear to be smaller. To compensate for this the strike should be performed with additional emphasis on fumikomi and kiai. Note also however that if the kendokas are too close to one another when a strike is attempted it may not be possible to execute a proper strike using the mono-uchi region of the shinai.
Transitions between Ma-ai
Often in shiai ma-ai begins at toma. If toma is very far (requiring many footsteps,) then ayumi-ashi can be used to bridge the distance. However once the shinai are close to tip-to-tip, okuri-ashi footsteps should be assumed. The kendoka can then cautiously approach issoku itto-no-maai with small okuri-ashi while seeking opportunities to strike. The kendoka can also gradually approach chikama as a means to apply pressure to one’s opponent. At this point tension will grow as time margins for reacting to strikes decreases.