Re: Regrading grabs in Aikido...
I think a lot of arts don't use scenario-based training - especially traditional arts that are not seeking to ingrain habit but rather attempting to address the problematic of spontaneity via the cultivation of an unfettered body/mind. I think the idea of ingraining habit has always been around, but what is new is that so very few folks are out to cultivated unfettered body/minds nowadays. As a result, it looks to many of us moderns that the only way to spontaneity then is to develop habit - making it look like if we aren't doing scenario-based training that we aren't training for real, etc. In my opinion, this is directly at odds (in many ways) with the traditionally prominent model - which tended to see ingrained habit as part of the problem and by no means a solution.
I came across this quote by karateka Kenji Ushiro - he says:
"I personally have found it best to view kata not simply as forms to be learned, but rather as "tools" for studying how to deal with critical situations, and more specifically how to keep myself out of harm's way in those situations. This is how I think about kata, and this is also how kata are viewed within the Shindo-ryu tradition. What it means is that learning and studying kata is not necessarily such a cut-and-dry process, and in fact in some ways is outside the bounds of logic and reason....
In other words, our bujutsu training is not so much about learning techniques as it is about learning how to use the techniques inherent in the kata we practice, and more importantly whether or not we have "usability" of those techniques."
I think he's speaking right to the issue at hand on how to understand things like kata-dori.
On the other point, I get the history and the origins, etc., concerning weapons and Aikido, but the logic just doesn't pan out so I think there is a lot of Aikido leftover even when one wants to talk about origins, etc.
In other words, for example, how do we go from "an art that was for armed men, wanting the supreme advantage, etc.," TO, "let me grab his wrists from the back because sneaking up and konking him is a no-no?" Or, how do we go from, "let me grab his wrist because sneaking up and konking him is a no-no," to, "let me grab his shoulders from the back, leaving his hands free to grab his weapon?" Etc.
In my opinion, the history of any martial art is much more complicated that it appears - history is rarely so cause and effect. In contrast to the view of "this came from that," I would propose that the art has many periods of emphasizing either technique or principle in its past. In my opinion, it is via this waxing and waning between the two orientation that one today comes to see both examples of direct application and examples of something that could be anything but a direct application. As a result, by the time something gets to us, even those examples of direct application that came from the past, because of how many times they themselves have waned during moments of principle being emphasized, are not all that practical and/or applicable.
That said, and this though we emphasize weapons at our dojo, I would never go so far as to say that one needs weapons to understand Aikido (empty hand) - especially in light of how some folks practice with weapons nowadays. When something is coming from the past, all mixed up, in my opinion, one better be able to grab the principle behind the things that are arriving in the present. The worst thing a person could do is to go after things in a literal manner.