Today I was working with Mytchiko on distancing. Mytchi is legally (though not totally) blind due to retinitis pigmentosa so a while back I assigned her some open-ended homework of trying to figure out how to improve her sense of distance. Here's what we came up with. Mytchi carries a 52" cane that happens to be exactly twice her arm length, which means she can use it to measure ma-ai. My suggestion to her was to carry it constantly and play a distance guessing game everywhere she goes. Choose an object and walk to two arm lengths from it (ma-ai) and then measure with the stick. Repeat liberally until your distance sense improves.
Another game that we played was "stab the foot." In which tori holds the cane and focusses on uke's face. Then on each step uke takes tori tries to stab uke in the top of the foot with the cane. The secret is this - during a certain part of the gait cycle the foot has to be directy under the center (under the face). I could stab the foot very often. Mytchi was slightly less accurate, but a little practice will fix that. I also advised her to work on identifying which side of the foot the cane lands on when it misses the foot.
Another thing we worked on... Mytchi complained that in crowds people would occasionally 'accidentally' kick the tip of her cane out from in front of her and it was disorienting. I showed her a jodo technique (#6 seitei kata) in which tori holds one end of the stick with the other end resting on the ground in some indeterminate place off to the left of the body. It really doesnt matter where the other end of the stick is but kata specifies that it slants off to the left. Anyway, during the evasion tori brings the near end of the stick to some predetermined point that is the same every time - like the solar plexus. This puts the rest of the stick into a standardized position so that it can be easily and conveniently grabbed with the free hand. This worked great for Mytchi. As I would kick her cane out from under her she'd smoothly retract it to her shoulder and get control of it with her other hand.
It's pretty cool working with Mytchi because it forces me to reexamine how I define fundamentals like ma-ai. Always working with "sighted" people lets me get into a groove that Mytchi breaks me out of. I also enjoy helping her improve her "OM" skills. That's "Orientation and Mobility" for those that don't speak "low vision." I get a kick out of working with Patrick M. for the same reason - his left arm forces me to rethink what is the core of aikido and what is gravy. And that is a very good thing to know.