Re: striking in Aikido
Rabih and Logan, you bring up 2 very good points.
1. How to train
2. How to go beyond the comfort zone
No 1 is just a great way to train in the dojo. It reflects the general community that makes up a dojo. Realistically, this comprises martial artists, hobbyist, health and fitness individuals, students and the like. The % of budoka and fighters might be small. Thus a method which simulates strikes but takes away most of the danger would be the best way to proceed.
No 2. For some though, they learn Aikido not as a past time but as something that they will inculcate in their lives. Be it for self defence, a tool or etc. To them, simulations are great, but what about the real thing. So other than going out and looking for opportunities to use it, you can also simulate 'reality' in the dojo. By upping the ante, you ask committed strikes that should hurt if you fail to apply. You also have a checklist. This checklist eliminates stages of the 'reality' that you do not wish to partake i.e. strikes that can permanently disable, fight to kill, lethal weapons, verbal abuse, sans tatami mats, and the like. In any case, simulation training increases proficiency and maintains the lifespan of the trainee as opposed to real training.
In any case, preconceived striking and its follow through are still ritualised. Haymakers, blindside strikes, grappling, hands not free, distracted situations are reality...
Finally, the objective of training must be clear from the get go. If the question has always been, can I really use Aikido when push comes to shove, no amount of simulation (reality or otherwise) in the dojo will convince you. The day you finally use it out there is the day you will find out yourself. There are no buts.