Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Chris, I'm a heretic in the minds of many mainstream aikido folks, so file this statement in an appropriate place...
Really good judo and really good aikido (aikibudo, same same) are the the same. There are folks that can knock/throw you down and hurt you in order to make the waza and then there are those folks (less of them to be sure) that you can feel their touch/connection, but it seems as though some force from somewhere else made you fall down/fly through the air or just plain "I don't remember what it felt like." It ain't magic. Lots of people try to describe it in many different ways, some better than others, in my experience (which means I understood them...).
I do use similar methods to Chiba Shushaku, Kano Jigoro, Tomiki Kenji, Miyake Tsunako, William W. Oneill, Ernie Cates, Karl Geis, Al Holtman etc. because they were my teachers or my teachers' teachers. Also some other influences are incorporated in my and Jiyushinkai's practice methods. Shinto Muso Ryu has influenced our Jiyushinkai method also.
The katageiko method (both tandoku and sotai kata renshu) are very powerful tools (similar to playing scales and chord progressions, etc. in music) are very important. But then its also very necessary to have a competitive randori system to complement the kata.
"Taking form from chaos" in a continuing flow of critical thinking and problem solving coming from creative, intutitive processes is the real test. Katageiko can also reach this but Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto ryu kata practice at it's highest levels of changing targets, directions, etc. without warning while still staying within the "form" is the closest thing I've seen to real buki randori. Shinto Muso ryu also does this when instigated by the sensei.
Kata is a form that, at high levels, evolves into what Ueshiba Morihei called Takemusu Aiki in my opinion. Kano wanted this in judo, but very few people used the katageiko method and made that journey. Chinese forms are the same, but again, many people won't take the time and frustration to use the katageiko method as the forge, anvil, hammer, and intent to make the real DOING of these practices possible. I think many people are just doing some level of imitation waza. Just because something hurts or makes someone fall down or ... the mistake of thinking that two people conspiring to make a technique work in the dojo is the real thing and good technique. For awhile yes, but that's not the real stuff.
Please excuse me for running on, but I (like George and others) am very passionate about this. I just turned sixty a couple of days ago and am ruminating a bit about this passion for this stuff for the past fifty-four years. There's only a couple of things I would really change if I could and my budo practice ain't one of em. It is what it is and I've learned more than I can talk about from my experiences. As is often said, this opinion is most likely worth what it cost you...