Defensive Distance – Medio de Proporcion

on April 24, 2012 in Destreza Theory

Other Martial Traditions

In Aikido the term “Ma-ai” refers to the distance (or interval) between two adversaries.  Distance in Aikido is set by your adversary’s ability to strike you.  If the adversary holds a weapon like a knife, Ma-ai distance is increased to account for the greater range of the threat.

By contrast, in the Italian fencing tradition distance is typically understood as the distance your attack must travel to strike the adversary.

  • Close Distance or Narrow Measure: Without moving the feet the adversary may be struck by extending the weapon arm.
  • Correct Distance or Wide Measure: The adversary may be struck with a lunge.
  • Out of Distance: The adversary cannot be struck without moving forward.

The key difference between the Japanese measure and the Italian one is the emphasis it places on the conflict.  The practitioner of Aikido evaluates the distance needed to defend oneself and the Italian evaluates his own ability to strike.  Each martial artist will evaluate offensive and defensive measure, but the measure which is codified provides us an indication of the focus of the art.

The Spanish break distance down into two separate categories using both the concepts of defensive distance used in Aikido and offensive distance used in Italian fencing.  Like the Aikido practitioner, the first measure of concern to a Spanish fencer will be the defensive distance.

The Measure of Proportion (Defensive Distance or Place)

(En español – Medio de Proporcion )

This is the closest distance to the adversary in which you may still effectively observe and react to possible threats.  The Measure of Proportion should consider the weapon being used by the adversary and their physical stature.  It is very unlikely that two opponents will have exactly the same Measure of Proportion.

When Pacheco defined the Measure of Proportion he used the relationship between the two weapons as his guide.  He advocates setting the distance so that when the adversary extends his arm at full reach, the point of his weapon reaches no further than the cross of your own weapon.  If two opponents have equal bodies and equal swords, they will share the same Measure of Proportion.

Setting the Measure of Proportion for two swords of equal length

"Measure of proportion when the swords are of equal length - very important" - Pacheco

If the opponent has a longer weapon, how you set your own distance should change and your goal becomes to prevent the adversary from closing the distance so that their threat passes the cross of your weapon.  The physical size of the adversary is also considered when setting the distance.  For example, an opponent with long legs will have a long lunge and the Measure of Proportion will change to compensate.

Setting the Measure of Proportion against a weapon of greater length

"Measure of proportion for a shorter sword against a longer sword." - Pacheco

When your weapon is longer than the adversary’s your goal in setting distance is to close measure enough to maintain your own Measure of Proportion while violating the defensive distance of your adversary and continually keeping them threatened.

"Measure of proportion for a longer sword versus a shorter sword" - Pacehco

"Measure of proportion for a longer sword versus a shorter sword" - Pacehco

A Better Way to Set Distance

Rather than set a firm rule Ettenhard later provides a more nuanced description of this distance which is based on a principle rather than setting defensive measure based on the cross of the sword.

To choose the Measure of Proportion is to determine a proportionate and convenient distance from which the Swordsman can recognize the movements of his opponent, since for whatever determination of his, there should proceed, of body like of arm and Sword: Of body, by means of footwork: and of Sword, by means of the formation of the Technique.

Restated, the Measure of Proportion must be chosen so that the fencer can recognize a threat from the adversary.  You can anticipate the adversary’s actions if you provide yourself enough distance (and therefore time) to recognize motions of the sword or body.

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