Have at it Graham.
The hard before soft title of the thread came from something I read that Tony posted awhile back. To paraphrase, before you can do soft Aikido you must first learn hard Aikido, or something along those lines.
Anyway, when I read Joe's post "Before you can be benevolent and spare people from pain /punishment/retribution you have to be in a position whereby you have the power to exercise your authority to inflict punishment in the first place.", it made me wonder about the whole soft vs hard Aikido debate and how it all relates to the idea of least possible harm when responding to a conflict and whether it's necessary to be in a position to inflict punishment (hard Aikido) in order to not do so (soft Aikido).
As you can see, I've managed, due to my mish-mash of mixed metaphors, to engender a boat load of confusion. But hey, most threads end up addressing tangential issues. I'm finding the responses interesting and informative.
So please, feel free to respond in any manner you see fit. I'm sure it'll be worth the read.
Hi Ron. As a relative newcomer to the art (~ 2 years), I'm struck that my instructor will often take the time, when reviewing aikido technique with us, to point out minor modifications that would transform the technique into something really nasty and "hard." I think the aim is to make some of the martial meanings of the movements clear. For someone who is really capable (i.e., not me), benevolence flows from not applying brutal or lethal force, despite the fact that aikido proficiency certainly creates openings for this.
It strikes me though, that this may be a different kind of "hardness" or "strength" in training than what is sometimes discussed in forum. Just based on reading other threads, sometimes "hardness" seems like it may be associated with the direct use of muscular strength in the performance of techniques, as an aid to overcome the balance of an aggressive and actively resisting opponent.
I don't think I've ever seen my instructor do the latter, although maybe I'm not competent to judge. And maybe I'm just misunderstanding what I've read elsewhere in the forum. But that kind of "hardness" (which perhaps is also connected to adjectives like "full force" and "high speed") seems like a somewhat different variation than what comes to my mind when I think of my own instructor.