Re: Hard before Soft???
I'll bite, but let me first clarify some points:
1. Hard and soft aikido do not inherently possess a state of virtue.
2. The ability to act in one disposition [or another] is not dependent upon the ability to act in the converse action.
3. Inflicting pain and inflicting punishment are different concepts.
That said, I think this argument comes up often in aikido, poorly constructed as it is. I believe aikido requires a structure to properly function. When we begin training, the structure [should be] very similar to competent jujitsu; that is, a mechanically sound structure that works. As we train, the structure should soften as we improve the mechanical efficiency (moreso resembling aikido). This is actually quite common in most activities and sports; the subject acquires a grace in action related to her activity. So I believe aikido is both "hard" and "soft".
Second, benevolence is a term that describes a predisposition to act. The antonym is malevolence. While many of us may not benevolently act, few of us malevolently act. In other words, my inability to benevolently act does not predispose me to malevolent actions.
Third, predisposition inherently requires a choice of action, from which my choice may be predisposed. The omission of a choice makes predisposition irrelevant, since there is only one course of action.
In aikido, I think we often give ourselves far too much credit for our [in]ability to apply aikido upon our partners. Sure, we'll talk a big game..."I'll take the assailant's knife and hold him down until the police came"...."I'd never hurt someone trying to attack me"... blah blah blah. But then we'll also say things like "aikido doesn't need to work on the street" or "I am not interested in whether aikido works". But then we'll have conversations about how uke must collude with nage simply to make technique function in a dojo.
Very simply put, the role of competent aikido is to provide a course of action that provides an outlet for compliance. Aikido is not love; it is compassion, or probably better put, agape (I am pretty convinced the love thing is a poor translation). We must have the bravery (confidence in our ability to accomplish a task) to use aikido and the courage (action with the foreknowledge of consequence) to commit to our actions.