Re: Why bother keeping Aikido 'pure'?
I happen to believe aikido is a martial art, but not because of its tactical curriculum. Rather, I think aiki is a building block for any tactical combat system you want to use, even the small curriculum we use. At some point in time, writing, swimming and strategic games like chess were "martial arts," amongst a number of skill sets that were not common amongst non-military classes. Martial arts do not necessarily mean anything other than an educational process designed to enhance combat skills of militaries.
To provide a personal elaboration about an earlier point, I think aiki is definite and detectable and I also think learning the skill is transmittable. At the risk of stereotyping a perspective, I believe there is an element in aikido that does not want aiki to be tangible. Intangibility is a tool that can be used to insulate aikido people from establishing a metric of success and holding others to that metric. By leaving aiki undefined, we have a greater range of freedom to express personal perspective without criticism or correction.
I also happen to think the claim of life and death in training is to identify the need to use more intent and intensity in our training, not necessarily claim a physical ability to kill someone. The relative risk to your body does play a factor in intent and so I can appreciate physical factors that increase your body risk as a method of increasing your focus and intent. But we are not training with the intent to injure, we are training with the intent to control ourselves. Honestly, there is a small group of people who I can touch and instantly feel concern for my safety and know they have absolutely no intention of injuring me. Anyone who has worked with the business ends of large animals knows that feeling.
Rupert said it best a couple posts back, aiki is a tool to use in your endeavors. I would say that you ability to use aiki in your endeavors is indicative of your relative success in expressing aiki. Not good, not bad, just a metric indicating your level of ability.
The elephant in the room is that eventually we are faced with this issue of evaluating our ability to use aiki. If our ability strongly ties to kata and the cooperation of our partner we are limited in our ability to venture into other aspects of application, whether your putting your knowledge into fighting systems or athletics or philosophy or whatever.
Mary made a couple of comments about "caring" for what reason we train. To that extent, I would advocate that we have chosen dojos because they are supportive environments for our learning. I would actually advocate that we should care about why each of us are training, so we can help our partners understand their metrics of success and paths to improvement. I can be a jerk and not respect why my partner is there, but that would be a poor partner.
"I am here because I cannot stand my spouse and I need to kill 2 hours."
"I am hear because I want to be more assertive."
"I am hear because I want to learn how to care of myself."
"I am hear because the court ordered therapy."
So what? I tolerate Red Sox fans, too. My training is about me, I have no obligation to inherit the reason my partner trains. I inherit the obligation to help my partner, but to help my partner I need to know what he is trying to accomplish.