I am amazed at how many people think that strong-gripped "static grabs" are important to your training.
IME, for most people, such training cultivates exactly the opposite of what I would consider "aiki" and as you begin to develop your understanding of musubi, kuzushi, and sente, pose no real challenge.
In a sense I'd agree with you Tariq.
Static practice is in essence dead. If there is no attack who needs any defence?
Before such practice is dismissed lets look a little closer. After all there is more than 1 way to skin a cat as they say....
I come from a background where such static practice is considered essential.
It is the starting level for our aikido training without actually being Aikido itself.
It is only 1 of 4 levels - Kotai, jutai, kitai and ekitai.
Our goal is to be able to move through these levels as we grow in skill. While I enjoy the journey I'd hope that there is more to it than just 'doing Aikido' in classes but that there is some development and growth in ability along the way.
This first level, Kotai, is a largely mechanical level. We use it to teach the bases of Aikido, eg positional relationship (kamae), correct distance (maai), good posture (shisei) for starters and then moving on to look at other essential bases of Aikido.
The case for such static practice is that mistakes are easy to see and feel. If you are in a dangerous place in static practice it is easy to see. If you move incorrectly and your partner has a strong centred grip then you will fail.
I could go on but I'm just tossing this on the table for consideration and don't have time to write a book.
The case against, or at least a downside of such practice is that it can be taken as "Aikido" hence the many dismissals of Aikido as not being alive or unrealistic.
Perhaps if people understood it for what it is then Aikido would not be so readily criticised.
My personal opinion is that its not just people outside of Aikido that misunderstand this practice - many aikidoka love it and never move on to the next level. Perhaps this is due to a flaw in some of the older methods of see and copy teaching where students saw something and out of respect for the instructor assume that that is exactly what they must do. Another topic for discussion perhaps although it has come up many times before.
Our second level of practice is jutai ...more flowing practice where Tori can blend with uke. This is where the real movement of Aikido can be practiced.
Personally I think this is as far as many of us get. We can do the moves but something is missing. We can do something, it seems to work, it may even look beatiful and feel beautiful but is it really the full deal.
The issue with jumping in at this stage is that to the unquestioning eye mistakes that would be clear through static practice can be hidden in the movement. A willing partner concedes his balance and posture allowing Tori to fool himself into believing his practice is good. Of course it may be but equally it may be riddled with danger that could have been eradicated by forming a foundation through kotai practice.
To be fair jutai practice is fun, it looks good and feels good. Again if you've seen a figure head do this without explanation it can be convincing enough to practice for years without questioning. Perhaps until now when MMA has opened the eyes of so much of the MA world and fostered a belief that its ok to question.
The next level Kitai probably answers my own question on what is missing. I believe this is the stage where the Aikido moves from jutai and lessons learned from the Kotai stage can provide a framework for inclusion of the missing element - the ki factor or internal energy stuff.
My concern is that if you just jump into this level...if you are lucky enough to have someone to show you...then theres a danger of assuming this energy alone will save you. If you stand in front of a knife and havent learned the basics of getting out of the way its going to hurt...ki energy or not. But when you have a foundation, and the moves then this internal stuff is for me, the final ingredient.
A big issue with Aikido is that so few of us that teach really have a handle on this. I'll be honest and say my own skills are fledgling at best. I think we shouldn't be afraid to admit this and keep working and searching until we find a guide.
Anyway - digressing....
The final stage that we talk about is ekitai....going beyond ki. I don't really have the level of knowledge to talk about this - I assume this level of mastery is where O'Sensei reached.
I'm sure that some of this is either heresy or fluffy rubbish to many. In which case ignore it. My post is really just to say think about why static practice exists.
ps I know I said to a couple of my students that I was joining the 'done with aikiweb' brigade...but its just such a good place to compose ones thoughts and then lay them on the altar for sacrifice...