Re: "The goal is not to throw"
I have a little more time so I would like to clarify my earlier post...
My belief is that the thread concept is not complicated, nor is it specific to aikido. The idea is that if you practice [correctly] the proper movement enough times you should internalize the movement, thereby allowing you freedom not to explicitly focus on the action. "Not throwing your partner" and "Not focusing on the throw" are two different things.
I believe the problem with the concept arises when we:
1. Apply the concept of internalization before we are competent in the movement. Throwing someone wrong 100 times because you are "trying not to think about throwing your partner" is bad. To this problem, I advocate that the concept should be reserved for discussion amongst [more] senior students who already know the movement.
2. Apply the concept as a crutch for excusing failure. Your intention needs to match your action; if you want to throw someone but cannot, then your actions are inconsistent with your intent. To this problem, I advocate that you need evaluate your ideology and match your actions to your intentions (not redefine your ideology to match your incorrect action).
When I play golf, I do not "try to hit the ball." I use swing mechanics and if my swing is proper I will correctly hit the ball. When I play baseball, I do not "try to catch the ball." If I see the ball and let my body align the glove with the trajectory of the ball and close the glove when I feel the impact, I will catch the ball. If I shoot a basket, I do not "try to throw the basketball into the hoop." If I visualize the proper trajectory and align my body to throw the ball allow that trajectory I will make a basket. Judo uses the term "fitting" to describe the importance of proper positioning before attempting the throw. I like this term because I think it reminds us that there are important components to a throw necessary to the proper execution of the throw. I think in aikido we can sometimes get sloppy and rely on our "ki" to fix everything (and by "ki" I mean a partner who falls at the drop of a hat).
If I were to teach t-ball camp and explain to the kids, "Okay kids, don't try to hit the ball. Instead, try not to hit the ball." It just sounds weird and inappropriate. But, in aikido we have no problem saying "Okay, don't try to throw your partner. Instead, try not to throw your partner." In fact, after throwing out that drabble we'll strut back to kamiza and revel in our superiority.
Towards the end of his career, Michael Jordan would shoot free throws with his eyes closed. Later, Jordan admitted several reasons for the feat but he insisted the act was not that difficult after shooting a lifetime of free throws.
Ted Williams used to say that he would count the seams on the baseball as he followed the pitch. While most hitters simply trying to see the ball, Ted Williams would count the seams on the ball...
Tiger Woods would bounce a ball on the face of a club and then hit the ball to a green (he stopped once it became a parlor trick).
I use these sports illustrations because the are easy to find, fun to view and help take the "godly" atmosphere away from a simple correctional gesture our seniors give us to let us refocus our attention to where it needs to be (usually, on our poor structure or position... ).