Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?
In answer to your question, yes sometimes with senior students close to ikkyu or shodan I will crank up the intensity, but mostly that tests their physical stamina, resilience, no quitting type attitude. However I don't think that Aikido is about fighting, there are more direct rapid means to learn to fight if thats your goal. When I was a lot younger I took part in Kyukushinkai and Chinese Boxing competitions, and I've got the injuries to prove it 30 years later ;-)
No, I believe that Aikido is exactly what O Sensei called it, but the meaning of blending, non-resistance, minimal damage to your "enemy", etc., these ideas seem to get changed somewhat.
P.S. Mark, you're right,but when it rains I like to have an umbrella.