Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?
Well, my speculation, and it is exactly that, is that the exercises have two purposes:
1. To develop the body
2. To teach a skill
Many of the early aikidoka already had what would be by today's standards a tremendous amount of martial arts experience, and had the body development to go with it. For them, learning aikido was much more about aquiring the technical skill than it was developing the body. So there's one factor that would push them away from the "simple stuff" like kokyu dosa and toward the waza.
So why wasn't this resisted by the teachers? Why didn't the teachers say "You clowns are missing it. Go back to the basics." I think the teachers, Ueshiba included, really believed that the waza could both teach the skills and develop the body.
I hope everyone will agree that doing technique in the proper way will involve using internal strength. I also think it's not too much of a stretch (forgive the pun) to believe that receiving proper technique will develop the body. If you accept that, then two people practicing primarily waza can build internal skills and develop the body necessary to deliver them.
Unfortunately, there was so little explication that no one really knew what they were doing and what aspects of the practice should be emphasized. So the whole thing deteriorated to a sort of stylized cooperative kata.
It may be that the subset of techniques Ueshiba selected from his Daito Ryu practice were selected specifically for their ability to be practiced in an internal strength building, body developing way without people going home with broken arms and hyperextended elbows. I don't know, I wasn't there. I have spent enough time on the mat to know that many of us are practicing an "empty" aikido.
Some of us are driven to look elsewhere it hopes we can get to the "chewy center" by some other channels. I think that's fine, and I hope lots of us make it. I also think it's believable that some fraction of aikido practitioners will find the goods solely by practicing aikido. That's fine too. I just want enough of the skills to survive that I stand a reasonable chance of learning them from someone. It's frustrating to be willing and able to do the work, but not to have access to someone who can show you what to work on. In that regard, I will be forever indebted to people like Mike Sigman and Dan Harden (and a few others) who have been willing to step out of the background and shine a spotlight on the truth. I have not yet met either one of them. Mike has given me (and many others) lots of his time corresponding about how this stuff works. I know Dan has been doing the same for other people. Rob John has been very forthcoming with what he knows. It's a shame they have to take so much heat for it, and I just hope they continue to do it until I manage to scrape together enough understanding to be able to help spread the word.