Since the usual line is that "There are no counters to Aikido" nobody ever really feels the need to work on their technique, as long as it's good enough to pass the grading they assume it's going to work out in the real world.
First off, before I respond to an earlier request,
WHERE or IN WHAT DOJO is that "the usual line?" (I'd like to know, so I can avoid visiting there.) In 20 years of Aikido, I've never heard it said. Countering a poor technique is the simplest way to show the nage that they are doing ineffective aikido, in my experience. Every technique has a counter
-- if you're willing to pay the price (as uke). Why else learn and teach henkawaza and kaeshiwaza?
Second, anyone who assumes "good enough to pass" means "this works for me in the real world" is dangerously deluded. We all should realize that a gokyu-level test is not likely to demonstrate dan-level aikido. Passing the test means you have a certain level of understanding of the technique -- it may
be real-world effective at Ikkyu; at Yonkyu it might not. (Remember what "assume" stands for?)
Could you elaborate upon what was incredible with Yamada's visit and also how it is related to a notion of "excellence." - please/thanks.
Yamada brought the "martial" back into what are thought of as "basic" techniques, by teaching them in a dramatic but wholly aiki way. And he didn't just demonstrate them and pray that people were watching closely -- he taught, observed whether or not it was being absorbed, worked with individuals as needed, and stopped the class to demonstrate fine points that were being consistently missed.
Here's an example:
Yamada-san was teaching a variant of iriminage from gyaku-hanmi katatedori in a series of lessons... Style: he would demonstrate, then we'd break off into pairs, and he'd roam and individually correct us. (Note that this was the extra Friday night class before the Yudansha-only seminar, so the mat was full of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Dans from all over the US, but some lowly Kyu ranks like myself were present.) Each successive technique in this series built on the ones before it:
First: practice the entrance - get into a very close, deep irimi-tenkan entrance that shifted uke's weight forward, out and down
Second: practice the choke-hold available at that position (!) to control uke's head and off-balance them - make it an effective choke
Third: progress from the choke-hold to a hip-shifting, head-taking, center-destroying iriminage.
Fourth: Yokomenuchi strike, countered by the same style of iriminage (if I remember correctly).
Yamada-san was careful to emphasize the roles of both nage, and uke in the technique -- both are active, with uke actively resisting the choke, which enables and powers the iriminage. And that took most of the first hour, giving us plenty of time to practice at each point and improve.
Thats what I mean about an excellent seminar - excellent teaching of excellent martial arts, not just a "show and try - this works for me" aikido variety show.
An excellent seminar is one that helps you "polish the mirror."