Re: What Makes a Technique an "Aikido" Technique?
What helps me to identify an aikido technique is a consideration of suki or openings. Mugamae or no-stance is related to this.
If I am calm and aware, I am not focused on anything in particular, I am able perceive any attack within my awareness as it occurs.
If I once begin to focus on a desired defense, instead of simply responding to the attack in the manner it is given, that concentration creates its inevitable complement, a blind spot. Through this blind spot or suki, an attack may be made more effectively. Everyone who has had sempai tap him or her in the chest in the middle of the attempted ikkyo, knows what I am talking about.
The desire for a particular outcome or technique thus creates its own suki, by interfering with the processes of awareness. Responding without particular intention and applying technique naturally as the opponent's attack dictates does not create this opportunity for my opponent.
Similarly, if I concentrate on attacking, I disturb my awareness. Atemi are best employed naturally as they may or may not be presented as a technique progresses. If you determine in advance to attack you concentrate and create the same blind spot. If I concentrate energy to attack, that concentration lessens my general awareness elsewhere, again producing a suki for my opponent. The defender exploits this opening. Aikido fully exploits this basic principle and the opportunities it presents with irimi-tenkan.
If I sense an intention to attack, I default to an initiatory ikkyo (who does not?) and likewise try respond naturally to the intention perceived.
If I was wrong and misperceived an innocent gesture, I end up waving a slightly embarassed "hello" (perhaps a BIT too close for social comfort) or stroking my hair back like some fifties teen idol. (which I look nothing like). If I was right, the attacker responds to ikkyo with his slightly preempted attack (now defending) and technique proceeds, ... wherever.
While I strive yet to meet this ideal in all circumstances, this to me is what distinguishes techniques applied in aikido: removing the openings created by desire to attack an opponent, or the desire for a particular defense to an attack on me.