Who do you pick for practice?
As one who is very much a beginner (I started two weeks ago) and as one practicing in a dojo where they ASK that you not wear the hakama until you have reached a certain rank (not sure which one..didnt know the ranks that well at that point), I will say that I do find it useful in pointing out the people who are more experienced than I am. This is particularly good because since we are on a university campus the group changes quite a bit from practice to practice. So you are never quite sure the level of experience the other people have because you may not have seen them more than once before. Because of this the hakama gives you some idea of who is more experienced. This can be useful if you're having trouble figuring something out. We have a different instructor on Mon, Wed and Sat..and then I made the trip out to the dojo to check it out and see if I would like to practice there (my knees were rather shaky walking up to the door..not knowing exactly what it would be like)..making a total of 4 different instructors so far.
As to whether a beginner can recognize good aikido or not...well thats a bit tougher. I can see the difference between the beginners and the more advanced students. I cant see the difference between different advanced students yet other than that some make more noise when they fall :P
When actually practicing with the advanced students I *CAN* feel a difference. Uke is MUCH smoother and I am more likely to go down properly and fall the right way than when my partner is less experienced. I may not be able to SEE the difference between good Aikido and bad..but I sure can feel it..when I do something right..it just clicks.
When picking partners I generally spend equal time with the more experience advanced students..the students at or around my level of experience..and the few who have even less experience than myself. It's usually a matter of who's closest to you when you get up from demonstration..and who's slowest to go pick someone :P
Someone either earlier on this thread or the previous one mentioned that they found the hakama an invaluable training aid because it makes you move the way you are supposed to. I dont have the extra funds yet to run out and buy one...but I think I will once I have the money..and at least try it on at home and practice tenkan and iremi there..Cant do falls..would wake the neighbors :P
Thank you for listening/read to my disjointed ramblings.
"Are you *sure* this is safe?"