George S. Ledyard
Training is all about imprinting. If you start with chaos you end with chaos. Exercises which teach hesitation, back away, excited emotional state. etc are not what you want to be imprinting.
The use of "aiki" to describe what is happening in these exercises is not how I would use. I often find that folks doing Aikido have little understanding of what "aiki" actually is. It is not avoidance. Many people feel that getting out of the way of the power of an incoming strike is "aiki". I would not consider that to be true. Neutralizing the attack and taking the attacker's center involves "aiki" if done according to certain principles.
The debate about terms is relevant here. I subscribe to the idea that "aiki" is better translated as "joining" than "harmony", at least where we are talking about waza. It involves a method of projecting ones attention and neutralizing that attacker's power at the instant of physical contact. Waza done with "aiki" is largely about moving the mind of the attacker in order to get him to move himself. Technique which is merely operating on a physical basis is simply jiu jutsu rather than aiki.
People need to be very careful about how they design their training exercises because they imprint mental and physical habits with every repetition. As far as I am concerned, the absolute first priority in Aikido work should be physical relaxation and mental calm and projection. The Systema folks accomplish this quite well. They have the lack of any prearranged form which Chris seems to want but they train slow to medium for a very long time. Even the advanced people largely train this way... it keeps the injuries down. Aikido randori practice should also do this if it is done properly.
I'm not criticizing an attempt to develop better practice. I am just pointing out that the exercises used as presented do not necessarily imprint the right things. Students training this way will get very good at avoiding but will not develop high level skills using the principles of "aiki".
The earlier comment about Shu Ha Ri was quite apt, in my opinion.
I agree and disagree with this.
I also believe training is about "imprinting". I also believe training is about self discovery.
I'm all for working on the finer points of technique. But I'm also about finding things out for yourself, instead of just hoping your teacher (or whoever) is correct . If you're worried about "imprinting" something wrong you'll never do anything.
When you first walk into an Aikido dojo, your first tai no henko sucks. But the instructor doesn't say "stop, sit down before you imprint something wrong". The instructor says "here try it like this", and a decent student learns from that and dose it a little better next time. Trial and error it's what has brought us out of caves.
You never know what you will do in a high pressure situation until you face some. If you spend all your time training in a comfortable environment, with everyone talking softy, and happily falling for you even when you don't quite get the technique; how are you going to learn anything for yourself? You cannot "imprint" anything worth while until you personally know what is worth while.
My personal definition of Aiki can be found in my blog, it's pretty complete so I'm not interested in reposting it here.
In my video clip there are very few moments of "aiki". This is because in a situation where people are allowed to make "non committed attacks" opportunities are few. To further the complication, many times the "nage" is so stressed that he can't see the opportunity when it arises. To complicate it even further all of the attackers are aware of what "nage" is trying to do, and are attempting to thwart him.
So yes there are very few moments of "Aiki". There are some there though, little tiny ones, and to me this is very exciting. Much more exciting then seeing someone in a preset situation do beautiful Aiki all day.