I'll add that being "constrained" (my own quotes for emphasis) into set forms can actually bring about quite a lot of creativity.
I remember being in a creative writing class a few years back. We had an in-class assignment in which we drew two words out of a hat and had to write a poem about the first using the second. I drew "freedom" and "leather jacket."
I sat and thought about it for a few minutes and couldn't come up with anything. So I constrained myself to the syllabic constraints of a Japanese haiku and came up with something like:
- My leather jacket
On the bank next to your shirt
As we skinny dip.
Although it wasn't a "proper" haiku since it didn't involve the seasons, I thought it was interesting that I came up with that almost instantly after giving myself a constraint.
In aikido (bringing this back on-topic) I feel the same thing can happen. At least in our dojo, we work with "ikkyo" or "hijinage" to try to develop what works for us.
You know my teacher pretty well, Erik, and I know yours in a similar fashion. You focus more on creativity and we focus more on physical effectiveness. Perhaps, out of your pursuit of creativity comes effectiveness and out of our pursuit of effectiveness comes creativity? It's hard to say but it sounds pretty neat, in any case...
PS: Yes, Chuck -- what you guys do is really creative, too. It's different from what Erik does, but definitely fostering what you said. It felt kind of like a mixture of jazz and chess to me...