At the risk of losing focus on the thread, I think there are 2 points in here I am working to resolve myself:
1. There is a notion that 100% commitment from uke is required to "do" aikido. The presumption here (at least I hope the presumption here) is that in parity, uke is applying 100% of the technique upon herself, leaving a negligable workload for nage. By reasoning, one could assume that *0% commitment would require *0% response, etc. and so on until you reach the point of obstenance where uke commits 0% to her attack. I do not know of any system of combat that advocates a 100% commitment to attack with abandon. Rather, most systems advocate a balance of commitment and reservation. Even when I work out with a partner who can apply irresistable pressure to my center, I always feel like they have more but are holding back.
2. There is a notion that the primal brain and nervous systems are somehow inferior to "higher" brain functions. The presumption here is that my superego (i.e. "me") has greater control over my body and its functions and therefore it is desireable to elevate my intellect. But then we rely upon basic exercises that are designed to condition the body's basic reactions... It falls back to the concept of hitting a baseball... There is not sufficient time to consciously decide to hit a fastball and commit to that action. Rather, I think we are specifically conditioning our basic systems to function more intelligently without our conscious involvement. It's about being, not doing. Isn't that where aiki takes hold of us? When we stop doing and start being?
These are both issues for me because they do not reconcile when you work out with someone who has aiki. When I touch some of these guys, it does not matter if I push, pull, stand there, cry, whatever. I will not affect them. The only percentage that applies is how much of my ass gets kicked. When the same guys attack... They do not even have to move and I get my ass kicked. They are doing it on both sides of the ball, and my involvement is inconsequential to them. Similarly, consciously participating in my ass-kicking does not solve the problem. The ol' lizard brain is good for some things, many of which I think we exclude because some of that talent is God-given and damn it if its not fair that we weren't given more of it. For being about our super-ego, I am not sure if its our ego that gets in the way.
I am still pissed off that God saw fit to deny me the 6 ft., 200 lb. frame that would've let me pitch in Major League Baseball. Instead, I take solice in criticizing the poor pitch counts of those players that were given the body that was supposed to go to me.
Thanks for the consideration of my post, Mr Reading. I'd like to address the points you brought up with clarification.
1. Anyone who knows and has practiced the movements of aikido can use them to throw someone who is not attacking as long as the target of the technique does not resist or if the resistance is insufficient to withstand the physical forces applied through body mechanics, but this is not the kind of action I would consider aikido from my point of view. I would call it "ass-kicking" (as you did).
The only kind of aikido of which I speak is the kind reflected in Osensei's statements, "A martial art in which there are conflict, winning and losing is not true budo," "The Aiki of which conventional martial artists spoke and the Aiki of which I speak are fundamentally different in both essence and substance," and "Aikido is not the art of fighting using brute strength or deadly weapons, or the use of physical power or deadly weapons to destroy one's enemies, but a way of harmonizing the world and unifying the human race as one family."
The reason I bring up this distinction is that it separates aikido from all other martial arts, as far as I know.
Most martial arts are predominantly defensive in nature. That is, the main purpose of them is for the martial artist to defend his life. Even in attack, the primary purpose of the application of most martial arts is to protect oneself (or one's interests), if by destroying or controlling the opponent. Even a suicide attack, such as in the case of Kamikaze pilots, are defensive in the sense of protecting the perceived "larger self" of the family or nation of the attacker as an extension of self.
When seen on a continuum of defense and attack, the lower brain default is always to defend. Attack in and of itself serves no purpose if it ends the life of the attacker (unless suicide is the purpose, and that would make it simply pathological).
That a default to defense in conflict is hardwired is evidenced though natural selection. The often used example of our protohuman ancestors reacting to a rustle in the bushes is a clear one - if the rustle was caused by a predator but did not elicit a reflexive defensive response, the protohuman would be eaten and not able to reproduce and pass on whatever reflexive response did occur if any. But the ancestor who demonstrated a defensive response to a rustle in the bushes might live to reproduce whether the rustle was made by a predator or a non-predator, hence the hardwired defense response, necessary or not, gets passed on genetically.
As you pointed out, in typical martial arts, fighters train not to over extend, to remain balanced, and to deliver destructive impact from the central core, but there is a range of effectiveness based on the physical limitations of the body. For the fighter to maintain his balance and still deliver a strike with meaningful impact, either the opponent has to move within the fighter's range of effectiveness or the fighter has to move himself so that the opponent is inside his range.
For the fighter to do this he must transcend his limbic system's defense mechanisms and move within his opponent's range of effectiveness. If the fighter has no fear of the opponent, he can easily commit fully to the attack. This is true in any case, even the swatting of insects. An allergic person who would swat a fly with his bare hand might act more cautiously if the insect is a large bumble bee. Even then, if the allergic person swatted the bumble bee, he or she would have to commit to a degree that the impact be strong enough to damage the bee enough to insure a wounded bee couldn't counter-attack in self defense.
In aikido we learn to stay outside the range of effectiveness of our partner through ma'ai, accomplished by distance or position (e.g. tenkan), therefore the attacker must be at least 51% committed to the attack to reach us. Because unlike other martial arts aikido is not about scoring hits or attacking, we never move within the range of our partner's effectiveness. Even irimi requires turning off the line of the attack to insure we are out of range by position.
There seems to be much anecdotal evidence that Osensei demanded a committed attack from his ukes. Why?
Because of the predominance of firearms in today's conflicts, from rifles to rockets, hand to hand combat has become more and more archaic, but looking at physical conflict before the 20th Century, to attack without full commitment could mean certain death. Imagine wielding a katana on a battlefield and you will realize that every time you strike you had better strike to kill. If you aren't in the midst of an attack your action better be fully in defense. Any portion less than 100% with any action would mean an opening for your opponent to take advantage. The reason samurai encounters often ended with double kills is because there was 100% commitment to attack and 0% commitment to defense from both warriors. If one of two equally skilled warriors was 50% committed to attack and 50% committed to defense, but the other is 100% committed to the attack, who would you think is most likely to achieve his goal? However, all attackers may not have a samurai spirit or be foolish enough to attack fully with no reserve of defensiveness. We can see this clearly in one-on-one encounters or sport fighting.
Is sport fighting and one-on-one contests, there is opportunity for the fighter to give less than 100% commitment in his attack because his main intention is to be on his feet at the end of the round. In contrast to a battlefield situation, neither combatant has to worry about being attacked from the rear by someone else or shot with a projectile so there is plenty of time for feinting, jabbing, doing little bits of accumulating damage to take down the target. But it doesn't matter how many crippling blows a fighter can deliver, if the fighter is the one on the ground at the end he is defeated. An examination of any sport fight will show more time spent defending and less time attacking, particularly fully committed attacking, as 100% commitment to attack means 0% commitment to defense. Unless the contestants are so unevenly matched as to be silly (Mike Tyson versus Woody Allen) either contestant can only launch a fully committed attack if they drop their defense.
Aikido is the only martial art in which every attacker demonstrates a "failing" attack to the point that he goes to the ground. In other martial arts partners may lower their defenses on purpose so that a fighter can practice, but those partners still do not get knocked down every time they do so. Aikido practitioners go to the mat (are "defeated") for their partners virtually every time.
So how can this paradox be resolved? The Founder of our art tells us on one hand that our art is not about defeating an opponent, and yet every time we practice aikido some one is thrown to the ground. Or are they?
If you follow through with your ukemi all the way through an attack you will go to the ground. If you hold back even a little and your partner insists on you still going all the way through the throw, you both will feel the resistance. Is this harmony? Who is the attacker if one insists the other goes to the ground?
When the aiki experts you encounter "kick your ass," my guess is that you are still doing your part as uke, because if you were really trying to attack them as in a real fight, the moment you felt them take the advantage, your limbic system would trigger your default defense mechanism, whether it is resistance or withdrawal. If you stopped being a typical aikido uke, providing service to your nage, you would react to the attempt to throw very differently than going into a roll.
About ten years ago when I first transformed my practice of aikido to eliminate anything that would cause harm to my attacker, I stopped trapping the fingers of my partners' grabbing hand during execution of nikyo. A seminar I attended subsequently included a teacher demonstrating nikyo in the traditional manner in which I had learned it. Each time I performed the technique with my partner, with the only exception of not trapping the fingers of my partner's grabbing hand, my partner would withdraw his hand as soon as his system registered the force that was going to break his wrist if he didn't drop like a stone. He'd then point out that he could then remove his hand and not go to the ground. He didn't realize that for me the purpose of aikido is so that the attack will stop, as he stopped his attack. Then and now, I continue to not be interested in any form of aikido that defeats an attacker through pain compliance, or that insists a non-attacking partner go to the floor. Try not trapping the fingers or grabbing your partner next time you apply nikyo, sankyo or kotegaeshi the way you normally would. if you are applying a painful technique the limbic system trigger will produce a reaction of resistance or withdrawal - unless the uke is 100% committed.
If you teach aikido, you know how hard it is to get a beginner to give you the kind of energy necessary to demonstrate without lugging them around and forcing them into the ukemi path, do you not? I think you are 100% correct in your premise that someone giving 0% attack requires 0% response, because aikido is a response to attack and if there is no attack, aikido is irrelevant. Remember I am not talking about the use of aikido movements to attack someone who is not attacking.
Sometimes people refer to uncooperative partners as "ukes from hell." Wendy Palmer Sensei said to me once that a bad uke can make a master look bad and a good uke can make a beginner look like a master. The "bad uke" gets his reputation, not from fully attacking with an effective attack that is hard to deal with, but by being defensive when an aikido technique is being applied. If you want to quickly lose all your training partners in the dojo you belong to, start defending yourself any time your partner starts to throw you. You will begin to understand what I mean about commitment to the attack.
What I have found is that when uke is 100% committed to the attack, hard style aikido works fine in producing a throw. But when the attack is less than fully committed, say 75% committed to the attack and 25% committed to defense, any physical action by nage (including the machinations of throwing) that will trigger a limbic system response in uke will either cause uke to resist or withdraw and there will be no aiki. The less committed an attack the more likely the chance the attacker's default defense mechanism will be triggered. Allow me to reiterate that I am not talking about the ability of someone to forcefully throw someone using the movements common to aikido.
As an example, think about someone determined to kill someone else with a gun. For the moment of truth, that is for the space of time in which the intention to kill produces the pulling of the trigger however short the time, there can be only negligible regard to the consequences of the action or the trigger will not be pulled. If the consciousness of how this murder could also destroy the life of the murderer is present in the murderer, the would-be murderer must transcend the default defense mindset in order to pull the trigger, even if that transcendence is only long enough for the murderer to act.
Bearing in mind that an attacker who is not fully committed has a portion of his intention in defense, and that at least a portion of this intention is hardwired in the lower brain, if there is anything that triggers that limbic system defense mechanism, the attack will revert to defense. To test this, have a partner grab you and ask them to not let you do anything with your arm. Try to touch your partner's nose with muscular strength. If your partner is doing what you asked it will be a struggle.
Hard style aikido uses a constricted flow of ki (stream of spirit) to make the center-to-center connection referred to in Aikido, and it is extremely effective when dealing with a fully committed attack. But off the battlefield there may be less commitment. In our dojo, because we do not practice in a technique emulation way, we learn to give authentic attack energy with reduced intensity. However, even with less intensity the commitment
to the attack can be 100%. At 100% anyone who can demonstrate the movements of aikido sufficiently can find an aiki resolution. But as students advance in my dojo we begin to vary the level of commitment all the way down to 51%. At fifty-one percent, there is no way anyone, not even the most accomplished aikidoka is going to throw uke, because uke can respond defensively to anything out of harmony with his attack. At 51%, the connection MUST be of a different nature and it is at this level we start to see the most subtle truths about aikido and the stream of spirit connection.
2. There is nothing "inferior" about lower brain functions. We rely on our autonomous nervous system to keep us breathing, keep our heart beating, our blood flowing, our hormones working. But these are all automatic. There is no choice in our brain to breathe or not to breathe, for our hearts to beat or not beat except temporarily on the conscious level and even in that case the autonomic brain will win every time if we consciously attempt to overcome it.
The neocortex allows us to make choices, and some of those may counteract or encourage our limbic system directives, such as the ability to hold our breath as long as we can or to hyperventilate. Ultimately though, the lower brain will always win in cases of body and cell survival. (non sequitur: cetaceans, with their lack of corpus callosum, have two independently operating brain halves and have conscious control over their breathing even to the point of death) When the lower brain is triggered to produce a defense response, it is also difficult to transcend, but it can be done. We can maintain a cool head when the s*** hits the fan if we apply our higher brain functions to the cause even with a flood of adrenaline to the whole body.
In our practice at my dojo we have found that the only way to achieve aiki and a subsequent aiki resolution (what other aikido practitioners might describe as a throw) with out triggering uke's defense responses when the attack is at a 51% level of commitment is to embody beneficent intention (love, compassion, appreciation, acceptance, forgiveness, etc.), thereby eliciting a broad "flood" of ki that joins the constricted, destructive flow of ki of the attack. This is not easy, but it is definitely attainable and is a literal manifestation of masakatsu agatsu.
The feeling of grabbing someone with the full intention of locking them up (and we do this with all students after they have learned the basic movements of aikido, even beginners) when they embody some form of intention that you will benefit from your interaction is indescribable except for the feeling of your attack intention melting instantly as you head toward the mat. Once the student experiences this spontaneous manifestation of aiki, they will never forget it. The practice then becomes about making a more rapid transition from limbic response to transcendent response until the transcendent response can be generated before physical contact with uke. In concert with that, the practice becomes about doing this more consistently. In this way, we bypass the habitual responses (trained techniques) that the lower brain can integrate into its automatic fight or flight repertoire and instead train a response of higher consciousness that will permit aikido to manifest spontaneously in whatever path the union of ki of the particpants creates.