Re: Brawling with a friend
Well, I'll throw out a bit of a contrarian opinion here. So, if you really buy into the "aikido is non confrontational" idea, ponder this, your someplace and there is an obnoxious person bothering you. You want to just leave, but he is blocking your way but he is not yet touching you or striking you. You try talking your way out of the sitution, but it is clear that this is going to escalate into a physical situation. What do you do? If you believe aikido is non-confrontational then you would likely wait until attacked. That might be fine or not.
Aikido is not just about techniques. Aikido is also about creating openings and it is about controlling the opponents intentions.
Think about kata menuchi. Here is an example that speaks to creating openings and controlling the situation. At least in the way we practice it, uke grabs your lapel and then YOU strike to his face. Either uke doesn't block and gets clocked or they react to your strike, which is what you want them to do. You now control the situation and can (at least theoretically execute a technique). Was aikido non confrontational in this case? My answer is no. What you do after you execute the technique determines if you adhere to O'Sensei's desire to not be violent. If you trash the person, then perhaps not.
Randori and jyu waza somewhat teach unhearsed responses.
But it is the kata (and after all, the techniques are practiced as kata) teach you to internalize the movements and then later to see the openings. But it doesn't come fast. And consequently many people focus on the techniques as techniques and don't see the openings or the ways to control the opponent's intentions.
For instance, (and this is from a real example) in iriminage, what you may find from a real angry opponent is that if you try the kihon pivot around and throw will be that the opponent may pull away, or attempt to. A real opening however is to pivot in and apply a choke. At least the time I found myself in this situation, the choke stopped the confrontation immediately. But I never practiced that before I did it.
One last comment about fighting to learn to fight, yeah, perhaps to some extent, but at least with aikido, I would say don't do that until you have a lot experience. Understand the techniques, know some of the openings, understand leading the opponent. If you try "brawling with a friend" after a few months or a year or so, you will probably find that it doesn't work.