Some things I've been thinking about for a little while ...
When I first started training in Aikido, I was taken with the beauty of the movements and focused on learning the "manipulations" necessary to effect the technique. But lately, I've wondered at what it is that would make the techniques effective in a "realistic" situation.
I mean, it's one thing to train in a dojo in doing a nikyo from a wrist grab: uke steps in grabs your wrist and you move your feet so, you grab thusly and then you cut! Fine. But what is your partner/opponent doing while you're putzing around with his ONE hand? Unless he just came to hold your hand to check the time, in which case you've committed a grievous error in etiquette, he's probably vigorously punching you with the other hand. (Or, he should be).
But how to avoid that unpleasant conclusion?
My main training influences have come from Saotome and Ikeda Sensei's and while I can't really "see" Saotome Sensei's techniques and only slightly catch Ikeda Sensei's movements, I can see that 1) they move continously; and 2) they never "receive" a strike but always dictate the terms of engagement. While the uke may initiate (and even that's doubtful), nage does not wait for the atemi or grab to come to fruition on uke's terms.
In the wrist grab scenario, nage digs himself a huge hole, almost impossible to get out of, if he waits to "do" his technique after he's already been grabbed where and when nage wanted.
So, in a scenario (such as at the dojo) where you're engaged insofar as you are aware of the other, and possible ill intent on the part of the other, when the uke steps forward to attack, you can't pick out *what* kind of attack it's going to be before it's too late (i.e., you can't *react*) but you also can't wait to recognize the attack to formulate the appropriate response. I don't know about others, but I can't process and act fast enough - nevermind physical reflexes.
However, you *can* pick up immediately which side the attack is originating and move your center appropriately off the line of attack, creating distance, and hence time, while raising your hands to threaten his center - not to *do* a technique but as a general, nonspecific, response to a perceived threat. (Which means that nage has to attack - or be in the appropriate relation to uke that nage *can* strike effectively.)
Now, if *uke* reacts to nage's threat by grabbing nage's forward, threatening wrist to protect himself against the perceived strike - NOW, nage is a half-beat ahead of uke and has time to effect a technique.
To summarize my long-winded scenario, by reactive, I mean waiting for the attack, andn then doing the technique. By proactive, I mean perceiving the uke's tripping of the threat perimeter as initiation of your attack and ending the engagement on your terms.
This scenario makes sense to me. It assumes a committed attack to an end, and affords time to do a technique. Aikido was all about movement, distance and timing to me from the beginning but I couldn't see how they fit together in a martial sense ...