This must be an extremely challenging thread.
I welcome any on topic posts.
Is it really that difficult?
I was thinking about this thread and I think a different kind of answer to your questions can be found in looking at the context in which Mark Freeman's declaration was made.
Mark Freeman: I also realised that many of the 'standard' attacks we work with in aikido are not really effective attacks at all and therefore of little real use when searching for 'true' aikido.
If I may be so bold as to explain what I think Mark meant, when he practiced at my dojo he encountered a different kind of attack than he is used to. His reference to ‘standard' attacks was from encountering the same technique emulation teaching model throughout his travels visiting numerous dojos in various parts of the world. Commonly, an instructor demonstrates a technique and the students pair up to practice the form. But often the form is learned at the expense of the formless.
In my dojo, I had no technique for him to copy, I only had authentic intention and a few simple fundamental movements. When confronted by an uke with the intention not of following his technique but of continuously impacting his center, Mark for the first time felt what it was like to really be under attack in a practice situation.
The energy I would give Mark to work with should have brought me to the mat instantly (and subsequently would as he practiced), but because I triggered his limbic system, he reflexively went into his default defense mode and tried to throw me instead of harmonizing. Even though he knew he was safe in the dojo, his state of defense kept him from allowing the aiki to become
. That is, until he was able to transcend it and offer some form of love (compassion, welcoming, acceptance, forgiveness, benevolence), then boom, on the mat I'd be, feeling satisfied instead of thrown, from nothing other than a shift in consciousness on his part.
It is important to understand that I was not trying to stop Mark from doing a technique. Defending against a technique is the opposite of maintaining attack intention.
Also, it was not my intention to merely rattle Mark for effect. I am sure he will confirm that the ukemi I gave him was impacting his center continuously from a sincere place. Mark learned that the only way he was going to see me on the mat was to transcend his limbic system response and embody an intention that was in harmony with mine. In this way he made his own discoveries about that intention that were similar to mine, that the spiritual truths of aikido are literally what make the physical principles work when aikido spontaneously manifests beyond technique.
I will go out on a limb here and say that what Mark meant by using the words "true aikido" is aikido that is both martially sound and simultaneously holds true to its highest ideals. I hoped to show Mark that the embodiment of those ideals is at the very heart of aikido's effectiveness, and I wanted him to feel it on both ends of the stick.
When you experience aikido in this way, what you may have thought of before as the Founder's idealistic metaphors are revealed to be literal, practical truths. Only Mark can tell you whether he found "true aikido" on my mat, but I hope he was able to perceive some of the truths of aikido I have found working this way.