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Comments for Different Distances in Kendo

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Jun 16, 2009
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Two Cents
by: Matt

If you are trying to figure out what distance you are in, and adjust it to another one during practice, you are likely thinking about it too much. Relying on the shinai to judge distance is not the best habit to have.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Again, good comment. Thinking too much makes our movements awkward and slows us down. Thinking too less does not make us better kendoists and human. We should be done with thinking before we practice/do jigeiko.
We should think about kendo in our daily life like how we should move our feet/body. Image our kendo movements while we lying down in the bed or meditating in the bathroom ;)

But once we put men on and we should be able to control our body and get into it. This is very hard but ideal.

When we improve, we can think and change our kendo during training. No problems. Until then, we just have to separate those two training. When time comes, try to integrate thinking and training at the same time. Just like driving a car.

Feb 08, 2009
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Some doubts
by: J. Villarán

Thank you for your answer again, I was watching my Kendo Grading DVD and Hidekatsu Inoue?s DVD again and when they said toma the kenshis in both videos put themselves on shokujin no ma. You said shokujin no ma is not toma, so I was thinking they might be closer to fit the camera. What do you think?

If the issoku itto no maai?s All Japan Kendo Federation?s definition cannot be applied always, why they don?t change the definition for a better one?

Your answers are really good. I really appreciate the effort you are doing for the world. Congratulations!

Kenod-Guide.Com: Thank you for your kind words. I am always glad to be a help.

I have to see the video. I do not think it is necessary to change the definition. In kendo, the distance always changes and we don?t always talk about physical distances.

Even though the physical distance does not change, our own distance to strike always changes depending on our opponents.

And also as I said in the previous comment, uchima is a bit closer (deeper) than issoku itto no ma or shokujin no ma. So in the video you talked about above, they probably meant ?they are a bit far to strike (reach)?, when they said ?toh-ma? .

As you improve, you can actually see what they mean by ?you should be in a distance where it is easy for you to reach your opponent but difficult for your opponent to reach you?. This is not only the matter of your physical distance. The video guys probably are talking about such distance.

In the dojo I go to in Japan, we used to (maybe still they do) fight against naginata once a year. Naginata is a weapon that has a blade at the end of a long grip; similar to the European halberd or glaive.

If we fight in naginata no ma (naginata?s distance), it is too far for us to reach by one step forwards. We have to get in to strike naginata fighters.

In this case, naginata no ma is toh-ma for us, even though the blade of the sword and the blade of naginata are touching. We have to get into chika-ma (for naginata fighters) in order to strike them.

It is not called issoku itto no ma for kendo even when the tip of the sword and the tip of the naginata are touching. It is issoku itto no ma for naginata because they can strike us on one step.

This is kendo against other weapons so we cannot apply this to kendo versus kendo situation. But I think it is good to know how distance can change in budo.

We do not really follow the definitions we have in kendo here. However, we perfectly understand each other. I know it is confusing for many and it is not very nice for beginners. But sometimes, you just need more experiences to know what is going on.

Just make sure that you know what issoku itto no ma, chika-ma and toh-ma are. You will be able to know what uchima when you know your own distance. Step by step, you will be able to see what each distance means.

Feb 04, 2009
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I still have some doubts.
by: Anonymous

1: The definition of toh-ma is you cannot reach your opponent and your opponent cannot reach you either. So toh-ma cannot be uchima. Later you wrote that if you can hit from toi maai, it is also uchima (Against the toh-ma definition). If I can hit from toh-ma, it is not toh-ma, issoku itto no ma, right?

2: If I am in shokujin but I cannot reach my opponent with one step, wouldn't this be toi maai?

3: If I am in the #2 situation, and my opponent is taller than me, this would be issoku itto no ma for him, but still toi maai for me?

4: If I am against a giant opponent in my issoku itto no ma, I could hit him with one step but could not evade his cut with one step since my issoku itto no ma is chikama for him. This would mean that there is no issoku itto no ma against big people. Wouldn?t it become uchima?

5: You said Koujin no maai cannot be chikama. Why is in the Koujin no maai group?

If Koujin no maai cannot be chikama or toi maai, Koujin no maai can only be in the issoku itto no ma group. If so, the koujin no maai group is not necessary.

It would helpful for me to understand if these distances are dividend in 2 (physical distances and personal fighting distances).

Answer: There are a lot of discussions in Japanese kendo forums about the definitions of the distances. That means there is no clear cut.

The more I think about it, I don?t think it is necessary to have the Koujin no maai group. It is just confusing. Thank you for pointing that out.

Issoku itto no ma is the point of the dead or alive situation. That is why many senseis, almost all senseis, tell us to strike before we get in to chika-ma.

I would like to answer your questions hoping I can make sense :)

(1) In toh-ma, your sword and your opponent?s sword are not touching. Thus, you cannot reach your opponent and your opponent cannot reach you with one step.

Uchi-ma is YOUR distance to strike your opponent. This is usually issoku itto no ma or closer. You can physically strike your opponent and MUST strike when you come into your uchi-ma.

For those who can strike from toh-ma, toh-ma can be one of their uchi-ma, but by tradition, people probably say, ?I can strike from toh-ma?.

(2) No. Shokujin no maai is the distance where the kensaki of your sword and your opponent sword are touching. In toh-ma, the swords are not touching.

(3) If your sword and your opponent?s are touching, you are not in toh-ma. You just cannot reach him/her.

(4) As long as you are in one of Issoku Itto no ma group, you are not in chika-ma. So issoku itto no ma does exist but you cannot apply its definition because of the physical differences between you and your opponent.

(5) Koujin no maai group is now gone. Koujin no ma is never be toh-ma.

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