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.
Ummm. I was talking aiki-do, not aiki. Damn internal people. Seriously, this is a great post and I do not disagree with any of it. I think the emergence of people with aiki is going to show us alot of what we can (and cannot) do. George sensei's post on ukemi that is currently live is an indication of the monumental shift in perception going on within aikido. That said,
Kata is emulation. I can "look" like I am doing something, even if it is wrong. Instruction through emulation is a lower bar of entry for dojos and students. Not bad, just lower. I think there is value in kata and I do not want to imply that I think kata is bad. However, I would argue kata is the standard of advancement for most dojos. When you grab a hunk of aiki, or she grabs you, there is no emulation - her center directly affects your center. This relation is consolidating into what I am now calling "connected" as to have a concrete metric of success (i.e. I move, you move). This is eye-opening and humbling all at once. It is also not what I see in most of my dojo visits.
I think explaining this concept to someone who have not experienced it is almost unrelateable. I dub this the shihan effect because while to the instructor the concept is simple, to the recipient the concept is so foreign as to be uncreditable, if not unbeliveable. I think the aiki peeps have their tasks cut out for them over the next several years to just bring the population into an understanding of what is going on at that level, let alone getting into trying that s%$# on someone else.
I think takemusu aiki is almost impossible for most of us simply because we can't get it through our head that we can be uke AND nage. Nage=good; uke=bad. Screw the expression of waza. In our dojo, we are starting to view our "attacks" as expansion of pressure seeking the weakness. This is something both uke and nage can do simultaneously without either side really "pushing". In this sense, I agree that good attacks can be executed at a level of intensity that minimizes injury while still maintaining a level of effect.
Bringing that back to the thread, I think many dojos are looking into this stuff and getting an eye-opening experience that does a better job of addressing a functional role for nage AND uke that does not require sacrifice from either role in the expression of waza. I view this discsussion to be one of priority. Nage advoccates attack styles designed to maximize "learning". Uke advocates attack styles designed to maximize effect. As the role of uke and nage become more aligned, the advocacy of each role will also align. We will be left with attack styles that have a balanced effect in both education and application.