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They Call it Social Distancing; We Know it by Another Name.

I think it’s interesting how quickly the whole of society is beginning to raise their awareness of space and distance. Those who practice traditional martial arts will of course recognize this concept as “ma-ai.” This refers to the distance of engagement that is set between two (or more) attackers, where space, speed, and line of attack are carefully considered. The ma-ai will adjust accordingly depending on several factors including terrain, whether a combatant is armed, and if so, what type of weapon they are wielding. This concept is well known to the warrior, but in this time of crisis, the entire population is being asked to increase their understanding.

Pictured here is the famous bike path near my home. It gracefully connects three different towns and is used by hundreds of people each day. The path is a simple piece of continuous pavement about 8 ft. wide, which in normal times is plenty of room for travelers to pass by one another with just a few feet between them. This picture is a recent one showing how people are adapting to a new ma-ai. Now the path itself goes untraveled, rather, it has become the buffer zone, or the minimum safe ma-ai, while people instead travel along the grassy patches or roads on either side.

I can’t help but wonder how many will continue to build on this heightened awareness, or at least maintain it, once this crisis has abated. Having practiced this concept for years, I always try to be very conscious of the space around me, and I am always very careful not to enter someone else’s space uninvited. For the warrior, such an intrusion is unacceptable, and now in these times, the whole of society is finding it must also adopt such an attitude to remain safe and healthy.

When all of this has calmed down, we will all need to survey the landscape and decide how best to carefully move forward. Hopefully, people will not simply become comfortable and relax their new heightened awareness, or their newly found understanding of ma-ai, as these concepts can be applied throughout one’s life.

Please stay safe everyone, sharpen your awareness and always pay attention to ma-ai. We’ve all been wondering what we can practice while we are not in the dojo, well, these lessons are certainly among them, and we should all return to the dojo having made good progress.

Many thanks for reading, stay well!

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