I think you're both missing the point. If you commit to irimi or tenkan when your opponent is making a small movement or maybe even feigning a strike, you will find yourself grossly out of position.
Exactly. You say I'm missing the point, but regarding this first part of your post Michael, it sounds like you agree with my intention to dissuade Logan from "doing irimi" in response to striking, and to instead participate in the striking itself. In other words entering movements would occur in the course of doing
striking oneself, rather than in response to
Regarding the second part--
The essence of aiki is not learned in contact, but pre-contact.
Well, this is one thing we disagree about. There can be many reasons, but one may be that we are in different places in our training progress. When I become more skilled and capable with the type of effect that requires good physical contact, I will certainly turn my training emphasis to what I can do with that skill BEFRE contact. But, if I can't do great stuff with good contact yet, I am not ready to use it pre-contact.
Maybe you have already maximized what you can do using physical contact, so you are looking beyond that level.
I'm still rapidly improving my skill within the context of contact.
One result is improved ability to deal with uke in the absence of contact.. but it all comes from contact work.
Of course that's just my opinion about my own training. I do have some reason to say this "primacy of contact work" idea about aiki may be right though:
When O-sensei wanted to firmly demonstrate the value of his art with people like Tenryu and Kenshiro Ab(b)e, he demonstrated what he can do with them through
physical contact. (Like extreme versions of the kokyu demos he can be seen doing on stage and on the mat in his later years.) Whereas, when he tested Shioda for 9th dan, he did a non-contact test [Shioda's ability to perceive and utilize openings (or possibly even create them) was the deciding skill].
The picture I am painting here is that the non-contact things are an advanced manifestation of the skills that one has regarding physical contact with the attacker.