The classical translation of the Japanese term Ai is harmony.
The legendary politeness of the Japanese is one of the representations of this additional element of Japanese culture. It is very important for the Japanese to read, understand and feel the state of mind of their interlocutors. A discussion, an exchange, the realisation of a project, etc., always depend on the general mood (not simply of the people). They would consider acting, talking or behaving in an abrupt fashion as extremely egotistical and destructive, contrary to the general flow.
(Such an attitude is often the beginning of a real conflict.)
Harmony is also a fundamental element of the Japanese arts: the vision of a garden will convince any reader. There are no abrupt passages from one element to another, as different as they may be. Entering a Japanese house is a journey, implying a gentle progression from one universe to another.
This represents precisely the notion of Ma-Ai: the passage from one element to another, from one place to another, from one state to another, in a natural and harmonious fashion.
In Aïkido, for example, the study of Ma-Ai takes place as much through the distance between the partners as through the quality of transitions like contact, unbalance, immobilisation or projection.A good distance is this unique Ma between two partners where they can interact both to protect themselves and in order to attack. A good Ma-Ai, in the realisation of a series or an action, is fundamental in convincing the opponent that resistance is futile.
The Kinbaku of a Nawashi is also improved through the study of this notion. To put it very simply, the quality of its flow, its speed, its ability to remain coherent throughout the movement are directly linked to this notion.
Developing harmonious gestures for the passage of the ropes or the direction of the model is a tool that is as useful for representing Kinbaku as for making it felt, just as the control of the speed of the Nawashi depends on the capacity to follow the forms of its realisation naturally.
The harmony both between the ropes and the model’s body, between the different parts of the Kinbaku and between the different states of movement is a fundamental element in Japanese bondage.
Behind the notion of Ma-Ai is the Buddhist concept of continuous transformation or of „impermanence“. This is why Kinbaku, following/according to the quality of the Ma-Ai of the Nawashi and the ability of the model to receive, can be perceived as the Zen of the movement (in considering the Asiatic notion of the void, does a Zen or ZaZen other than movement exist?)
However, we could consider that the greatest representation and mastering of the Ma-Ai in Kinbaku is the „space between“ the model and the Nawashi. With a progression, which departs from its physical representation to its spiritual reality, passing obviously through physical and emotional states that depend on the comprehension, the listening capacity and the exchange of each of the protagonists.
Here again, it is a question of the state – that is to say of the discontinuous space, where the notions of time, reasons, emotions, etc. are unique. Essence itself.