All martial arts and all combat systems accurately study the concepts of distance and space.
Just as we did for kuzushi (unbalancing), also in this case, we start from the Japanese ideogram “ma”, 間.
In this kanji its two components can be identified: in the center, enclosed by the stylization of a door (門, kado), we can find the ideogram of the Sun (日 hi).
Translating a such deep ideogram with space or distance is rather reductive. In the original perspective, it has simultaneously spatial, temporal, mental, relational values …
In the study of the harmonization of the reciprocal spaces, or 間 合 い ma-ai, therefore, parts with different granularity rise.
At a macroscopic level, all the infinite combinations of attack, response and defense will play strategically on three levels of distance:
- Toi-ma (or too-ma 遠 い 間), when the long-distance in the couple is such that any form of defense is perfectly useless because it is not possible to be reached by any attack;
- Issoku itto no ma (一 足 一刀 の 間), literally, the distance of one step, one sword. It is the moment when the couple is close to attack, when the step of one of the two is enough to invade the comfort zone of the other;
- Chikai-ma (近 い 間), which is the close distance.
Such terminologies refer to the tradition of the Japanese sword schools and have a universal value.
At a finer level, there are aspects that emerge also from the experience of these days in which mutual distance is perceived as a potential threat or, at the same time, a way to preserve mutual safety.
Above all, the variable density of space and time according to the situation. In the dilated distance of the too-ma the couple is anything but passive. It is already tied together (musubi) by the intention to accept the conflict situation in order to overcome it.
It is a rather common experience to have felt as submerged by someone’s intention sphere, on the tatami and outside. Sometimes we were leading, feeling how important the management of long distances can be (and how manipulative it can be).
In these times when newspapers and media dissert about droplet distance with a worried hysteria, wondering if a meter, a meter and eighty-two, four and a half meters away from a person is not enough to not be infected, it is worth remembering that…
…Space/time is that place where you can close the Sun in a room.
Which, in the end, reminds us of the great power we have: we can close every window and even deny the existence of sunlight.
Or we can allow light to instantly invade any environment, as soon as we have the courage to accept the distance between us and what surrounds us.
Because the most difficult aspect, in conclusion, is not trying to understand how the Sun can stay in a room, but knowing how to decline this fact with that little kanji 合, ai, which reminds us that harmony requires the humble ability of balance -and we are not used to be humble.
And where we feel compelled to stay at home for a while to preserve ourselves and others, our anarchist spirit nullifies years of so many good talks about “preserving the adversary”; just as “stay locked at home” may become the convenient excuse to justify our inability to live our space and time even in normal conditions.