Paula Lydon wrote:
~~I've come across this feeling often over the years where intensity during training is interpreted as aggression/violence or just plain makes partner nervous or feel threatened, even when the utmost control is being used and the intensity is just the level of focused concentration being maintained. Any thoughts on this?~~
Knowing how you guys train... you will encounter many places in which your approach will be deemed aggressive / violent. This is especially true here on the West Coast, although you can find this attitude anywhere.
There are a couple reasons for this. First, teachers who themselves practiced very severely in their day who are trying to protect their students from the wear and tear they experienced themselves. Unfortunately, this coddling of students simply waters down the practice and makes the students unable to stand up to any attack which has real intention.
Second, there is a trend in Aikido for some folks, people who feel very strongly that Aikido is the art of Peace and that it is a spiritual practice and not a martial art, to remove anything that has any relevance to the martial side of the art. Actually attempting to strike your partner is considered aggressive and shows that you are not a person of superior moral character. Once again this is very much a West coast thing. Example (said to me by a person who was unable to do a tenkan when i had grabbed her wrist): "You're very resistant! Your energy body is not very sensitive."
My response to all of this is that you are training properly and they are not. Now I don't believe in abuse. I don't injure my partners. I think that any one who has more than a few injured partners over a period of many years is in need of some attitude adujustment. But if you do a shomen uchi, it should have enough uumph that your partner REALLY wants to get out of the way. Many people strike in a way that would nothing more than mildy annoying if they actually hit you. Strength of intention is everything in martial arts. You want to defeat your opponent before you ever physically touch. Ikeda Sensei and Saotome Sensei are masters of this. It was the essence of what Ushiro Sensei talked about at Camp this summer.
When asked by Stan Pranin what he saw as the most important element to address for Aikido people to improve their practice, Ushiro Sensei relied instantly "Make your attacks better". So if you are scaring people and they think you are some kind of aggressive, unspiritual person, you are training just fine in my opinion (unless you are injuring people either physically or psychically; and I don't mean hurting their egos).