Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?
Personally, I think we have to allow for various means to spontaneity. This seems to me to be a product or a consequence of how important a role Upaya is going to play - for any teacher. Still, there is a Zen saying that comes to mind: "Don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." I think there are great things to consider in what Charles is saying, and to be sure much of it overlaps with things that I myself have come to experience, but here's this saying, always in the back of my mind - "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror." Sometimes, when I hear the position that forms training in and of itself can lead to spontaneity - there's that saying, "don't polish a brick and expect to get a mirror."
I don't want to say that form's training is void of moments of spontaneity. However, these moments really don't come to the forefront in form's training but for the person that has already reconciled form and non-form. The rest of us are attached to too many things, are plagued by too many delusions, are being lured by too many distractions, are suffering from too much temptation to universalize our own subjectivity, etc. In short, once you are spontaneous, you can bring spontaneity back into your forms training. However, trying to go the other way, trying to go from forms to spontaneity is like trying to polish a brick and expect it to become a mirror.
For me, and for the means we are developing to cultivate spontaneity in the members of our dojo, we have rejected this position. We don't rely simply on forms to bring about a reconciliation of form and non-form. We employ many other types of practice and training that we feel are vital to such a transformation of the Self. Without these things, with just forms alone, we feel the cultivation of spontaneity is impossible or at least improbable. However, we are just one way of many - one way of an infinite amount of ways I imagine that are possible.
The ultimate proof, or the ultimate test for the validity of one's own methods of cultivating spontaneity is going to be in quality of that spontaneity (i.e. how closely it manifests the ideals of Aiki) and in the number of deshi one has managed to bring to such a level of cultivation.