In traditional Martial Arts, Ma-ai is the distance between you and your
opponent. Maai is an integration of distance, timing, rhythm and reach. The
optimum distance for the Ma-ai is obviously different for each fighter; however,
there must be space enough for unrestricted defense or offense. When you're
exposed to many styles of martial arts you begin to understand that maai is one of those
universal elements that are common to all styles.
Maai is also used in a more limited sense to indicate the distance at which it
is easiest to counter your opponent's moves and launch attacks.
Maai is not just the distance of physical space between you and your opponent.
It's also timing: to see who can close that distance first and strike before the other
can block successfully. Reach, either because of one's limbs and height,
or through possession of a long weapon, changes maai.
Distancing and timing are undivided factors. Distancing is relatively easier to
accomplish than timing by simply moving closer or further from your opponent.
If the distance is correct for an attack but the start of the attack is late,
this means the timing is off.
When it comes to maai there are 8 ranges of combat:
1. The safety range. Both fighters can
just touch each other's fingers. The fighters can launch effective attacks
if they make a small step. This range changes when one of the fighters is
2. The kicking range. Both fighters can kick each other. Low kicks in
particular are very effective in this zone.
3 The punching range. Both fighters can deliver
attacks and low kicks or axe kicks are still a danger.
4. The blind spot range. One of the
fighters has managed to get behind his opponent. For a second he has an
advantage. Karate practitioners are very good at this.
5. The trapping range. Wing Tsun
practitioners are the most effective fighters in this range. It is also used
effectively in wrestling.
6. The wrestling range. If you think that your punches and kicks are
strong enough to stop a wrestler from entering your range, will be very surprised!
Wrestlers usually initiate false moves with their arms and legs. This way
they distract you and enter your wrestling range.