I have just recently started training in ki aikido. I have the impression that most of the work seems to be in defense against grabs of all sorts. Does aikido also deal with punches, kicks and elbows/knees?
The techniques of Aikido are not originally derived from an "empty hand" art as we think of it. Aikido techniques were originally part of a comprehensive system of fighting meant for Samurai. There was no such thing as an unarmed Samurai (unless he had been knocked out and disarmed and captured), they were walking weapons systems. As soon as you introduce the aspect of weapons into the system the grabs we have start to make sense. Katate-tori and Kosa-dori were done in oreder to jam the sword draw of an opponent. This didn't become really apparent to me until I stated teaching police officers. They have a variety of weapons and they get grabbed all the time. A subject trying to keep from being struck by a baton will grab the striking arm etc.
The strikes we do are from the same source. Anyone who knows how to fight will comment that the strikes we use to practice seem artificial and unrealistic. No one uses his hands that way. If however you put a short sword into the hands of the attacker the movements are much more realistic. These were weapons strikes not empty hand strikes.
Striking in the traditional Samurai arts was very technical and was meant to be done on armored opponents. Which made targeting quite adifferent affair than it is in contemporary self defense. I had to laugh when I briefly viewed a fight scene in Xena Warrior Princess in which one of the heroes delivered punch after punch to the body of an attacker who was wearing armor. Duh!
This is why many Aikido people who are fairly good at their traditional practice can't defend themselves against attacks by practitioners from othe arts. Boxers, Muy Thai, Jeet Kun Do, Kali / Silat, even Japanese Karate students simply do not do their empty hand techniques the way we do. Those who aspire to be able to really walk their talk in a martial sense need to be knowledgeable about the manner in which these other arts use their bodies and bring an element of that practice into their Aikido.
[Edited by George S. Ledyard on July 5, 2000 at 04:04pm]