Well... I am still a beginner at this... then again I will always be a beginner for the rest of my life. Truly understanding Aikido priciples will take my lifetime.
I just wrote what I've experienced... maybe I have expressed it wrongly. And if it raised some eyebrows... I do apologize.
In my experience, in trying to just redirect an attack is damn hard (especially if the uke is of one mind and body... heheheh right Ran-chan?).
After training a few times with people from ki no kenkyukai... it struck me. When I try to do the technique that I've learned, nothing happened. They look relaxed, but they're actually strong.
Wanting to throw the attacker, wanting to hurt
the attacker, wanting to redirect the attacker, wanting to defeat the attacker, or basically trying to force our will into the attacker will end up in the exertion of physical power and our ki can't flow.
You must throw those negative wills away. There is ki in the attack, weak for the untrained, but when trained well, the ki could be very strong. Trying to redirect a flowing ki is very tiring, takes a lot of energy to do it, even physical power at times (when I get frustrated).
From what little I've learned and understand is that letting the attack run its course and let it deplete itself of energy then doing whatever technique it is that wants to be done is really energy saving and I could go on and on without getting tired for quite a while.
But if we see the attack is really dangerous to us and the surrounding, we could stop it by depleting the energy of the attack first and then we could do whatever technique we want. This is what was meant by the vacuum and the lightning rod. The attacker's ki becoming empty and we could fill it with our own ki or the ki of the universe if we wishes.
It's quite a difficult concept for me to understand, but I could only feel it not think it. I feel redirecting alone creates conflict.
When one has the determination to reach a destination, redirecting will take some force. But when one has nowhere to go to, redirecting will take the least necessary force.
When the attacker becomes empty because the attack has run its course or we deplete it of its ki, the attacker is in need of a direction. We'll just give it to him, by using techniques or otherwise.
This was the point that I've tried to reach with the vacuum (space) and the lightning rod analogy.
Boy this is a long post...
I agree that "responding with fire" is not "striking with fire". I believe in "responding with fire" means one must believe in oneself and very determined to end the conflict. No physical contact need to occur unless it is necessary. Fire is often used to describe determination in eastern culture.
One does response softly and relaxingly to a strong attack in aikido. But that doesn't mean vice versa. Be careful of the soft and relaxing attack that is actually the strongest type of attack you could encounter. Unless of course if the attacker is just lazy or weak.
And you don't have to slap anybody to initiate any movement. A person that just stands not of one mind and body could be easily thrown of balance (right Ran-chan? heheheheh). But if that person is of one mind and body, you have to be soft and relaxed to let the ki flow in order to be able to enter that person.
I am still a beginner in this subject matter, I only write what I've experienced (which is not much I tell you). I hope I haven't offended anyone by this. If I did, then please accept my apology.