Tim Fong wrote:
What would it take to prove your theory wrong? Can it be falsified? Is there any experiment that could prove it wrong? I'm curious.
I don't know what could prove it wrong. Aikido is a human art, developed from the qualities of human beings. Children are humans. The nervous system they have remains with us until death. Many of the reflexes they possess remain the most basic responses to situations in adulthood and training cannot replace them.
What training can do (as far as reflexes) is make us tend to over-ride some basic nature, as long as we continue to condition those other responses. But with any living creature (such as Pavlov's dogs), the response will fade away once the conditioning is stopped. And then what will you have? The creature will revert to the natural responses it had before training.
Also, there are multiple levels to the nervous system. The higher levels can be conditioned, but the lowest levels cannot. And those levels communicate with the brain via pathways with greater speed of transmission than the higher levels. If there is time to decide on a response, we can substitute conditioned responses for the primitive response. But if the stimulus is sudden and intense enough, the primitive response signals will reach the brain first and its reply will reach the muscles before there is any opportunity to respond differently.
If you slip on a banana peel, you will likely be able to catch yourself without falling, or fall in such a way that you aren't seriously hurt, all before you can think to respond in some other way. That is a reflex response. But if you consciously try to do something else while slipping, you will likely be injured. You might be so highly conditioned that you respond in a different way, but only if you have time for those conditioned reflexes to communicate with the brain and get a response.
Children are working very close to the innate level. They have not yet learned to over-ride impulses and they have not yet been conditioned to respond differently. When a child pulls, pushes, twists and turns, he is acting according to nature's directives inscribed in his most primitive nervous system. Not all of those responses are "aiki". Not all of them are necessarily "good". But all of the "aiki" responses are there as soon as the child learns to stand and walk. They are simply there in root form that can only be seen if you know where and how to look and if you look very carefully and constantly.
I grew up and trained in aikido for twenty years without ever imagining that aiki was directly based on child movement, so I was effectively convinced of that for most of my life. In the past ten years, I've only seen evidence that it is true and I've seen many examples that it is consistently true for all but the most damaged children.
On the other hand, there are experiments and tests that can be devised that can prove all but the most powerful aiki men incapable of expressing and using aiki, regardless of how long they've been training.
I am always open to anyone who can give me reasons and examples as to why this might not be true, but mostly what I get is sheer denial without any real reason.
Dan Harden just posted some views that I don't have time to addess at the moment. I will get back to that later tonight or tomorrow.
Thanks for the question. And please post any suggestions you might have for tests or whatever.