Re: That it works, don't make it good.
I can only refer to the demonstrations -- as that was the only thing viewable on the DVDs. However, based upon what I did see in the demonstrations, I would be very surprised if such reasoning and practice did not also support what was taught in some of the classes.
I would like to make it clear that I am not out to raise the old debate of "compliant uke vs. non-compliant uke," or even to raise the issue over what a demonstration is and/or is not, etc. This is not to say that these things are not relevant, only that I was trying to refer to a very specific thing: when a drill is presented and/or practiced beyond its constructs due to an ignorance surrounding the hows and whys of that drill and/or whatever practice or application it may be presented under.
In particular, I was referring to the obvious blending exercises that were being "stretched" in order to fulfill a given practice and thus an assumed application. In my opinion, the thing with drills is that they are set to cultivate one or a few particular attributes. This a drill will do at all costs, such that a drill will reject its inevitable conclusion for the sake of recommencing itself repeatedly. A drill does this because the attribute being cultivated is held up to be of more importance then the conclusion of the drill itself. As a result, because the conclusion of the drill is not of significance, those things that are relative to such a conclusion are also deemed as low priority or even as totally irrelevant. What we see in many of the demonstrations is an unawareness of this process. That is to say, what we see is a misapplication of the drill's tendencies to forgo conclusions (plus all that is related to a conclusion) for the sake of achieving an action and/or application that could not have taken place otherwise. Thus, we see moves that are conclusions but that are full of openings and/or that are dependent upon the "drills" tendency to make such openings irrelevant.
Here is one example: Many of the connection and/or blending drills in Aikido make use of both leading and following. Usually, Nage leads, and Uke follows. Through leading and following, via this drill, the dynamics of connection and leading, which are viable martial concepts, are both analyzed and embodied (over time). However, when such a drill is stretched beyond its intended capacity, due to a theoretical ignorance, one has a tendency to wrongly take martial concepts like leading and connection into practice and/or application while remaining hugely dependent upon (uke) following (which can only be relative to the drill and not to application). Following is one of those elements particular to the drill's intention of repeating itself and not concluding. When this is not understood, you start to see tactical architectures and/or suggested geometries that could not produce their suggested outcome (e.g. a front breakfall or a radical redirection of motion, etc.) outside of the contrived "reality' in which it is being demonstrated (i.e. an environment where following is practiced but no longer seen as that element particular to a connection drill repeating itself/not ending). More than wanting to talk about Uke that just go flying for no reason and/or that jump in the air as high as they can for more added affect, I am referring to tactical architectures that fail even within their own assumptions. For example: The body does not flip over itself because you have a stick in front of it and swing down; the body does not reverse direction because you guide it thusly by the wrist; the body does not fall backwards because you attack the back of the legs with the jo; etc. These things only happen when Uke is "following." These reactions, I would suggest, seem to "work" because one is not investigating them theoretically -- such that the culture that is supporting them as "working" does not come into question and/or is not exposed for the misapplication of a drill that it is. What I am referring to is that odd blindness that comes to us via our tactical architectures when we go with what "worked" and leave theoretical validation and/or investigation to the wayside.
Anyways, that is some of what I have been thinking.
I would love to hear more of your take as well Ron. Please/thanks.