Rob Liberti wrote:
2c - Would someone who has had the objective to win and has been successful for several years be willing to completely drop their arm strength (and let arms fall by their weight alone) knowing that they will lose competition after competition in order to break-through to a deeper level of aikido exclusively based on blending and kokyu - and only then start winning again? Is there another way?
I can't speak for competitive aikido, but I participated for decades in the high end of competitive chess (including getting to hang out at a US Championship one year, which was a fascinating experience). In chess, the answer to "Are you willing to ruin your game for a long time, maybe a year or more, in order to improve?" is "yes" for almost all serious high-end practicioners; otherwise they would never have gotten to the high end. Eventually you hit a wall; you may be winning at your local level but for all but a literal handful of people, there is a level above that where you won't be able to win.
I wasn't a top player but I went through at least three such episodes in my chess career; it usually took me 6-8 months to recover from having learned something radically new.
I would expect competitive aikido to work the same way; if you muscle your techniques there is a limit to how far you can improve, and a serious competitor will eventually discover this. My school doesn't do randori competition but we do taigi (kata) competition and it's clearly true there. For one thing, the only way to make a sloppy fast taigi better is to abandon all the small tricks that are allowing you to do it fast, and the immediate result is that you stop being able to do it fast, with detrimental results on your score. Eventually you learn how to do it fast with no tricks, but the intermediate stage is a pain.