Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?
Well actually aikido CAN cover a full spectrum of many things. Commonly, there is a certain base methodology that you will typically see being performed commonly in most dojos.
Things such as a swords length ma'ai with hamni. Practicing from this distance using shomenuchi or yokomenuchi for example. Teaching irimi and tenkan...using wrist grabs, kokyunage, and the like.
However, you could also practice it close in from the clinch as well as from the ground in the mount, guard or whatever...
The thing that makes it aikido is the philosophical approach towards conflict resolution.
I have grown an appreciation for WHY we do practice from a swords length ma'ai. Aikido is about engaging conflict and dealing with it BEFORE the physical starts. So, in that respect, I'd say that it is difficult to teach certain concepts of the philosophy from the clinch and positions where physical contact has already occurred.
Frankly from a conflict resolution standpoint, I think this is one of the primary strengths of commonly practiced aikido training that often gets overlooked as we concentrate on the physical.
However, teachers use the methodology to teach the philosophy and the DO of aiki. Within that realm, there is a pretty darn wide birth for technique.