Ma Ai refers to the distance between partners. Aikido is not fighting so Nage keeps a distance that is too great to fight. That is a distance where the weapons will not touch. Fighting distance in pugilistic arts is much closer where Nage's body is just out of reach of Uke's weapon. When Uke tries to close on Nage, Nage either steps back to keep the distance or enters right against Uke's body. This enables Nage to determine the exact instant Uke's attack must occur. Uke must attack the instant that Nage is at the correct range because after that Nage will cut Uke down. In Aikido Nage is either too far away to fight or touching Uke.