Re: Aikido as External Art -or- Where's the Chewy Center?
I always took that statement by Ueshiba to be less of an indictment of what people were doing than how they were doing it.
Last night I was showing a new student in our dojo the basics of kote gaeshi, and I had him stand relaxed while I very slowly applied the lock, pointing out the points along the way where a new link in the chain to his center was formed. I remember thinking that I don't get nearly the level of tension when I work my connections in solo practice as other people get when I apply technique to them-- if and only if they receive the technique in the correct way, i.e. stand in there until I actually take their center.
It seems like most people who take ukemi "bail out" and take a dive as soon as it's apparent where the technique is going. I believe they are encouraged to do this, and told they are risking inury if they don't. In some dojos I've been in, this is absolutely true. The techniques are applied so explosively that if you don't go with the flow on time (or early) something is going to give way. Over time, this leads to empty practice, because tori is not moving uke-- uke is moving uke.
I think it's better for both tori and uke if the technique is applied with more sensitivity, which allows uke and tori to really work the center to center connection and test its limits. I believe this may be what the founder expected us to be doing, but most of us aren't doing it.
It's hard for me to believe Ueshiba looked at people doing waza and said, "That's not my aikido!" because he meant they should all be doing solo exercises. I think he said it because the waza were not being done in the spirit in which he intended them to be.
This is not to say solo exercises are not important, because every living exponent of the arts with real skill has clearly stated that they are the key. But I put them in the category of homework-- I think dojo time should be spent doing the things you can't do without a partner, be it waza practice, kokyu dosa, or static testing. Waza practice done correctly can be a form of dynamic testing, and I think this has real value. Hard to come by, though!