As someone who's studied both boxing and aikido (since that's where this discussion began)... thanks for laying it out like this and saving me the trouble, Alejandro. With all respect to what George has been saying, I still hold that the MARTIAL side of aikido is as important as the ART side. If you study aikido only to grow as a person and reach spiritual tranquility, that's absolutely your prerogative and I wish you well. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't work IF avoidance and verbal disarmament (what I call "real" aikido) fail. Once you learn the martial, you begin to understand the art.
I always find myself in the position of playing devil's advocate on these forums... when I'm talking to someone like Graham I end up sounding like Attila the Hun and when I'm responding to someone like Tony I end up sounding like some New Age, wishful thinking Aikido practitioner.
So, just to clarify... Aikido should be a balance between the martial and the spiritual. They are equally important. Note I said equally
. Very few people I encounter seem to be able to hold those two aspects simultaneously' This was true of the deshi as well. This is the source, I believe, of O-Sensei's frustration that "no one is doing my Aikido".
Seattle tends to be a hotbed of "spiritual" Aikido, so normally, I am reaction against the tendency to be in love with Aikido and notions of O-Sensei that are based on very little, if any, factual information. The martial side is weak on the West Coast generally, with some notable exceptions. But folks are serious about the art as a transformational path.
On the other hand, the East Coast, where I am from, likes to think of itself as really martial and the make fun of the West Coast non-martial paradigm. However, I am often struck by how unthoughtful many of these folks are about what they do. It's just a form of martial exercise for them. Or a pursuit of power designed to make fearful people less fearful.
The number of folks, like a William Gleason or a Matsuoka Sensei, who can walk the talk on the mat and also have pursued a vision of Aikido that is something more than jiu jutsu is too small for my liking. The Aikido of O-Sensei, a vision passed onto me by my own teacher Saotome Sensei, is an "endangered species". We have gotten to the point at which the martial boys aren't even doing very good martial arts and the "spiritual folks" aren't doing anything with very deep spirituality.
When I talk about these things, I am generally referring to the teachers, the folks who have voluntarily set themselves up as transmitters of the art. I constantly encounter teachers of Aikido who have never read Aikido Journal, never participated on the forums nor have they read the threads, never bothered to read Peter G's developing masterpiece here on Aikiweb... Often these teachers have no background whatever in any martial arts apart from Aikido. They have little or no knowledge of weapons, of striking arts, grappling, boxing, knife / stick arts, pretty much zero experience in anything but Aikido.
So, you have an art that is being transmitted by people who don't know the history of the art, don't have the least idea about the spiritual foundations of the art as the Founder understood them, don't have a solid martial background and can't offer their students much depth in any area. These folks skipped the Aiki Expos. They have ignored, even actively resisted, the opportunities that now exist to tap into teachers from outside who have been willing and even eager to help Aikido folks be better at what they do, like Aukuzawa, Mike S, Dan H, Toby Threadgill, Howard Popkin, etc.
So when I see on the forums those folks who seem to believe that Aikido is just some form of jiu jutsu, whose Aikido, as expressed through their posts anyway, seems to be limited to what I would call the "bop and torque" school of Aikido, I try to point out that it is far more than than what they seem to see in the training. I think this is really a thoughtful martial art for thoughtful people. Pursuit of martial prowess for its own sake isn't why the art was founded. It misses half the picture.
On the other hand, the "wishful thinking" school of Aikido is missing the other half. They are full of lofty ideals which they have virtually no ability to connect to their actual technique. They love the idea of O-Sensei as the un-defeatable martial artist / spiritual genius but have made no effort whatever to become that themselves. They do bad martial arts and call it spiritual. It's just as out of balance with O-Sensei's Aikido as the "bop and torque" folks are,
In a past post I referred to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of my favorite books. Pirsig talks about these two paradigms, which he refers to as the rational / scientific worldview and the "groovy" world view (it was written in the 70's when that term was in common usage).
In the Aikido community, one sees both of these paradigms functioning, with the rational / scientific folks pursuing technical mastery with little thoughtfulness beyond what is practical, beyond what works and the "groovy" folks who love the ideas, adore O-Sensei (even though they know very little about him), and have absolutely no idea how to apply the techniques of the art in a martial encounter and don't generally care that they don't.
I think that the point of Pirsig's book was that genuine wisdom only happens when these two seemingly oppositional paradigms are unified, like Yin and Yang, inseparable, constantly ebbing and flowing around each other, but having a balance that is always present. Real mastery of Aikido is the same. It should have a balance between the martial and the spiritual. One should be free to manifest technique in any way that is required. Technique designed for exploration of the principles of connection isn't going to be the same as technique that is designed to save your life in a deadly encounter. A solid underpinning of knowledge both intellectual and martial should be the goal if one is striving towards mastery.
So, addressing the original topic of the thread, what I see as the issue with most of the ways folks have addressed the issue of boxing type attacks, shows a lack of sophistication in their understanding of the principle of irimi
. There was a story about Shioda Sensei after the war... He and his students did a demo for some American service men. After the demo, the service men, who had a Golden Gloves boxer in their midst, asked about how they'd handle bxing style attacks. Initially, Shioda had his boys try to deal with the boxer but he "owned them". They couldn't get any of their cool locks etc without getting nailed repeatedly. So then Shioda, to preserve the honor of the art, came out and faced off with the boxer. When the boxer jabbed, instead of trying to snag the jabbing arm, as his students had tried in vain to do, Shioda slipped the jab, went straight in, snagged the back arm and dropped the guy with what I guess was a shihonage or figure four.
Anyway, this is where the difference lies between a focus on what seems to work, what is effective in a limited sense and developing an understanding of deeper principle through better training. Irimi is a very deep principle and it is not well understood. Even Shioda's tough boys made the mistake of trying to deal with the attack whereas Shioda went to the center. There was no second strike possible. That was "irimi". When irimi is executed properly, there should be no second strike possible.
So, all the sparring type responses to boxing, where there's a give and take, where there's even a chance for the boxer to throw a combination, are not ultimately what you are shooting for. What you really want is to not let the boxer determine the timing of his strike, which you do by initiating, and you want to occupy the space he needs to be in to hit you. If you can do that, then a boxer is no different than any other striking attacker.