Re: intuition vs. speed
I train a lot with a six-year-old who has forced me to think about this technique differently. He has the fastest punch in the West and consistently hits me. If I increase ma'ai to a "safe" distance for my reaction speed, he feels too far away and wanders off. (Hey, he's six....) The only comfort is, I'm not the only one who has this problem--it was funny watching our top-ranking teenager tangle with this kid.
The only way I can succeed with him, at his chosen ma'ai, is if I am moving as soon as he is moving, which means I have to *know* when he is going to move.
To me that's the time-critical part of the technique. Once I have my hands on him, I have plenty of time--I don't need to do the no-step version (we teach that, too) to save time over the three-step version, because by that point I have some control. When I screw up, it's much earlier, before contact. That's the part where I need to shorten my reaction time.