Re: Staying soft.
lol. if you want unpredictable resistance then just train with the newbie for a while. just kidding. Chris you have a point about not training for or against resistance, but we train that way so that we can become proficient with the movements. After you know the movement well enough to be able to do it correctly fairly often we DO add resistance. As for sparring, we call that "mulitple attackers" at my dojo. Anything is legal. If you want the best training possible, start training your aikido at a MMA/Cagefighting/Muai Thai/BJJ school. You will get beat up for a while, but if you reallly understand what you are doing soon you will be throwing everyone there. Sparring is an idea I dont like because it uses pads, rules, etc. If you want some really good training then get a job as a bouncer for a while.
Like Chuck said, train outside your normal place, go find other places. Think outside the box.