Christopher Li wrote:
Some of them were experienced, but a lot of them were just kids - Gozo Shioda himself was just a kid with a little bit of Judo under his belt when he started, I see more experienced people walk into the dojo all the time. Yonekawa and Kamada, who were both prominent at the Kobukan, started very young with very little experience. Also, you had a lot of Omoto-kyo believers come into the mix, who were not necessarily "experienced fighters".
I believe Shioda was a sandan in judo when he met Ueshiba. He may have been young, but I would say that would be more than 'a little bit' of experience.
With regard to the hard and soft aspect of practice, I think it's important as to what aspect is practiced in these ways, rather than a blanket 'soft' or 'hard' dichotomy. There's nothing wrong with rigorous training and I think that people people need to use strength initially when learning anyway - even if only to learn that they don't need it for practice. The only thing I'm not a fan of, is folk claiming what they are doing is hard, just because they are smashing a compliant uke into the mat.