If I play baseball and I want to practice hitting baseballs, I may set up a pitching machine to throw a consistent pitch that I will practice hitting. I may also ask a pitcher to throw pitches that are difficult to hit so I may practice hitting against a variable pitch. Pitching machines are not realistic, yet for the purpose of hitting practice they are consistent and effective solutions. Likewise, throwing to a live batter provides a more realistic scenario in which I will hit. Both are everyday resources for hitters to improve their swing.
I believe the majority of aikido styliszed attacks are intended to provide a consistent, obvious and uniform force on which nage can practice kata. For the purpose of learning kata, I believe these attacks to be effective because the purpose of these attacks is to give nage something with which to practice so they may learn what they are doing.
I think there are many dojos that will use an "applied" version of uke waza as a specialized training that increases the realism of an attack. For these modified exercises, I think many dojos with solid fighting skills can incorporate a realistic attack with effect. These exerceise deal more with expression of aikido, not learning of aikido.
Comparatively, I think most aikido dojos are not prepared or equipped to accomodate realistic attacks with effect. For that to happen, we would need protective gear. To effectively apply realistic attacks would imply a large percentage of success through grappling, striking or submitting. Since our training model is to provide 4 opportunities for nage to successfully apply waza... we would need 4 opportunities to successsfully attack our partner.
So unless we're coming home with with a less-than-perfect success ratio as nage, we're not really focusing on "realistic" attacks. This is fine, we have to learn somehow. I think as long as we recognize "realism" and "effect" are sliding scales with opposite correlation for uke and nage, we can be honest with our assessment of the quality of our uke waza.
First, in our dojo, no techniques are demonstrated. We work from authentic interaction, not from technique emulation. No nage ever sees their uke on the mat unless aiki has manifested spontaneously from their interaction.
What we offer in our dojo as ukes is energy from authentic attack intention without the intensity. It is meant to penetrate the central core of our partner like a spear, and the intention it arises from is the same. This provides a meaningful connection for nage to work with and also challenges nage's limbic system.
With a surprisingly low intensity, energy from authentic attack intention will easily show where nage is not being harmonious. Since there is no technique to perform, the aikido, when it does manifest, will sometimes look like an "aikido technique" that is familiar to most aikidoka, but usually it is a much simpler path to the mat.
Because all action arises from intention, the intention of the attack is of paramount importance, not the amount of force in foot pounds.
Giving authentic attack energy, or spear energy
, as we often call it is not necessarily easy to do and/or maintain through the unfolding of the aiki resolution, so ukemi is as much, if not more, of our learning than nage's part.
For instance, when most visitors to our dojo from other aikido dojos are asked to hold me meaningfully, what they do is try to stop me from doing a technique. Because of this, the energy is arising out the intention to defend, not attack. Aikido will not manifest under these specific circumstances because harmonizing with defense in order to reconcile conflict is to simply refrain from imposing a throw, which we refuse to do anyway in our dojo. So our practice includes a consciousness of what we as ukes are providing to our partner, and it is not just being a practice dummy for throws. Nor is it to be an obstacle to the manifestation of aiki.
The purpose of our practice is to bypass the rote repetition of techniques which can train habitual response that may really be inharmonious with uke's energy, and instead find takemusu aiki (spontaneously manifesting) from a transcendence of lower brain responses to a consciousness of beneficent intention. In this way, the operating principle in our dojo literally is masakatsu agatsu
(our recognized translation: "True victory is victory over oneself."). Without the literal victory of nage over his or her automatic defense responses, uke will not be able
"to complete his mission."
So we don't need protective gear although we deliver realistic attacks, because there is just a reduction in intensity.
In regards to training the movements of aikido, elementally they are quite simple and can be learned and trained into the system very quickly and easily. Many techniques we see in aikido are complex chains of these elements. As in chemistry, where 103 elements can make tens of millions of compounds, the handful of elemental movements of aikido are a tiny fraction of the number of "techniques" that may be formed from them. One can never know all the variations that an aiki path can take, but one can know all the elements that make up those paths so that they are created spontaneously from the interaction rather than as what Mark Freeman described as techniques preserved like a "fly in amber." Osensei has been quoted as saying he had no idea what "techniques" he had used in a randori, some of them assumably never seen before or after, and he gave it all over to divine guidance.
In our dojo we prove daily that this "divine guidance" comes from our beneficent intention toward our partner. There is no faking it either. Even the smallest amount of authentic attack energy will require a harmonious response for aikido to manifest.