Re: Early Aikido vs Modern Aikido
Just having an understanding of how your body works and being in good physical shape will help accelerate competency. That is why I feel it is so important for teens to take up wrestling or judo.
I do feel key elements of good training have been removed from many arts, aikido included to make it more palatable to the masses. I really do not believe that martial arts are for everyone, even though that was the goal of kano and O sensei when they developed their arts. Because elements of sparing and open drills have been removed from many arts, these arts have suffered in developing competent martial artists. Sure they look good on the mat, but when put to task many would fall apart. The saving grace seems to be people who had an athletic upbringing, and kept themselves in shape as adults. These people are naturally gifted to physical movement and can turn theory into reality much more consistently. I really think that most aikidoka who had no training prior to taking up aikido (and are not tomiki guys) would probably have trouble leveraging their art against someone trying to stop them.
That said, I do not think it is that important. As long as people are honest about their abilities and honest with themselves about why the train, then I am glad what they are doing makes them happy and gives them some physical activity. It is when people start to make claims that makes me defensive.
In terms of hard or soft technique. I do not really think it matters. There is a time for both. It is how hard the technique is that makes it effective. It is how it is trained. I've played with judo guys that were all muscle that beat me up and down the mat. I played with judo guys that were like gripping nothing that lead me to my doom. Both were equally effective because they both trained the same way. Had they not used those training methods, I do not think either would of been nearly as effective. So I do not think looking at hard vs soft is really the way to look at it. Look at your training methods, see how you can improve them.