Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 119–132 | Cite as

“Maai”: The Art of Distancing in Karate-Do Mutual Attunement in Close Encounters

  • Domenico Masciotra
  • Edith Ackermann
  • Wolff-Michael Roth


Human development implies an evolution of the individual's physical spielraum (room to maneuver) as an adaptively changing dialectical Self-Other relationship, which is achieved through appropriate distancing. In the Japanese culture, distancing is maai (ma, spatiotemporal interval + ai, harmony). Maai integrates space, time, and rhythm, dimensions of being that are deeply rooted in all human actions and relations. Maai is the art of relating and communicating within constructed space-time intervals in and through which people interact.

The purpose of the present study is to elaborate a phenomenological and genetic understanding of highly developed forms of distancing, that is, of our understanding of mastery in maai. Although there exist several good descriptions of distancing in everyday life, little is known about how it operates in experts. As a case in point, we analyze maai in the martial arts (karate), where distancing is taught, mastered, and conceptualized to various degrees by teachers and students, and therefore rises to the level of consciousness.

distance maai personal space spielraum do self-development action relation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Domenico Masciotra
    • 1
  • Edith Ackermann
    • 2
  • Wolff-Michael Roth
    • 3
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalUSA
  2. 2.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMitsubishi Electric Research LaboratoryUSA
  3. 3.University of VictoriaCanada

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