Re: Aikido: The learning of natural movement
But can the child replicate the principals of aiki at will, against resistance, in a stressful conflict, with consistency? That is the crux of the argument for me.
Children may manifest aiki movement spontaneously on occasion. So do first night white belts, football players(some great aiki in receivers, they just flow with the go), heck one of my cats has a wicked kitty-koshi nage. So I believe it is possible for anyone to do it right, on shear chance, because relaxed movement is effective movement. But, while relaxed movement definitely improves aiki, it is not all of aiki, as Chris mentions above.
We train to be able to consistently and predictably manifest these abilities in stressful situations with consistent and predictable results. The goal is control of the opponent and disruption of his balance, as soon as possible(preferably on contact). To be able to manifest those skills requires deliberate practice, experimentation, and a willingness to grow through failure. I am just not convinced that children can do that.
The goal of this training is to coordinate our bodies in ways that affect the opponents structure. That requires some tension, some stability, some relaxation, which will all be dependent on the situation. The body needs to be able to change and adapt as the situation changes and adapts so that you remain in control of the opponent. Again, relaxation is not all of it. I think some aikido people tend to fall back on "Relax" as a blanket correction for when we can't really tell what isn't working in the technique(I know I do more often then not), and that has lead some of us to a misunderstanding of what is really going on in the body.
Aspects of David's theory, such as the mental attitude of curiosity children have, and the relaxed strength of a baby's grip, are very valid, but by implying that children just manifest aiki spontaneously is skirting dangerously close to the edge of "idiot-savant aikido" where some folks just get it and can't pass it on or explain how they do it.
I do believe that introducing your child to martial arts at a young age will provide them with a useful skill set, and prevent them from acquiring some bad habits in regards to posture and movement. It can even lay the foundation for acquisition of more advanced skills as the child matures. However, I must part ways with the idea that we all had aiki when we were wee toddlers and just happened to lose it as we got older.