Hi Kevin, sorry my examples hit a sore spot.
No one in the one dojo felt threatened at all by the gun demonstration. The gun was never pointed at anybody, no one gasped (we all know that particular instructor is a firearms expert), and the gun was disabled. The presense of it was enough to make the point. Some of us were very into "what works"...his point was what works today is a bullet from a mile away. So getting *inappropriately rough* on your partners while trying to find "what works" did not and does not make a whole lot of sense. It was a good lecture, well worth the time, and it has stuck with me. The tanto part is something I've heard of...not something I remember doing myself...but I think it teaches a similar lesson. And I know Silat groups where they ONLY train armed.
And I don't know of anyone crying assault there either.
When going for shodan/nidan in the other dojo, we know what is expected...control is used at all times, and to my knowledge, no one has ever been hurt, or believed that they were assaulted or battered. It was good training only
As to cult behavior, well, aikido, tennis, professional baseball, all can be cults of a sort. But no, I do not consider any of the dojo I have trained regularly in to be cults. In the case of the dojo above, we regularly trained outside of our organization, in other arts as well as other styles of aikido, and had others come in to us regularly. While the instructor was definately very religious and charismatic, he and I disagree quite a bit about religeon, politics and many other things. Yet we have a good relationship to this day, even though I have since left that dojo for completely unrelated issues.
To sum up...I have no issues with the training I described earlier, and I find it unfortunate that you react to it in such a strong manner, but hey; you pays your money...and you takes your chances. To each his own.
Backrolls...uh, yeah...back on topic...I agree with Peter...they have their place. Frankly, I probably do them too often.