I am glad to see that this is a common practice. One of the reasons that I wanted to know if O-Sensei practiced this way was because he obviously attained a great level of skill and his philosophies on training are important to the way we practice aikido. Do you recommend any two person drills that will help with timing, flowing with a resistant Uke, stepping off the line, ect. When I wrestled there were maybe 6 or 7 drills that, when practiced correctly, made the techniques more of a reaction
than a thought out response
. This is my real goal for free mat time.
I recommend a simple irimi exercise: Have a partner strike shomenuchi, either empty hand or with a weapon. Practice your irimi movement, adjusting attack speed and your patience in moving to your skill level. Move in and turn your hips to face the same direction as your partner, lightly touching the attacking arm and the neck of uke (begin to take his/her balance after you start getting the movement down). Same thing can be done with munetsuki, and modified to work with yokomenuchi. After some time start to adjust the exercise and move to the inside of uke rather than just the outside. Can't ever do too much irimi practice.