According to Kanai Sensei
Jason Tonks wrote:
My point is that he had reached that stage of his Aikido over a lifetime of hard relentless training. There is no doubt in my mind that O'Sensei could have used this soft flowing style, but can someone who has just begun his path in Aikido use this to effect? Surely only through taking a similar path can a person's Aikido evolve to this level?
, seeking to emulate O Sensei's style in his later years is flawed for two reasons. The first is O Sensei actually said that young people need to practice hard and hold on tight to make sure the technique works. The second is that despite the fact that O Sensei's technique looked soft and flowing, it was actually very strong and powerful. Kanai Sensei says that O Sensei would "bounce [him] off the mat when [he] took ukemi." If people just look at the soft part, he says, then they are missing an important part of what O Sensei was actually doing.
Based on what I have seen, I think that it is impossible to develop powerful, effective technique without hard practice. I can't rememeber ever meeting anyone who has done so. There are some powerful, effective teachers that I have practiced with who often talk about the importance of softness, but all of these people have actually had a great deal of experience with hard practice and are very capable of doing hard, martial technique. As I see it, the reason that they often speak of softness is that they themselves have reached a point where they understand the strengths and limitations of hard technique and have begun to move on to developing a similar mastery of soft technique.
I personally think that understanding both hard and soft technique is ultimately neccesary to developing truly effective Aikido. I have practiced with people who tend to focus primarily on soft technique and who have developed a good deal of effectiveness with that style, but they all have had at least some high-level exposure to teachers with harder styles. Even so, these primarily soft styles tend to be much more limited in application and effectiveness than the styles that incorporate harder, more martial practice. If one wants to actually develop effective, powerful technique like that of O Sensei, I think that hard practice is a requirement.