Aikido: Striking all along?
First, I will define what I mean by striking or striking based arts.
Striking based martial arts differ from grappling/throwing on one simple characteristic, grabbing the opponents is not part of the main syllabus or curriculum. Karate for example has throws and other such takedowns, but its primary offence is applying force through the medium of a fist or leg rather than grab and throw. Judo is the opposite, where force is applied through the grips and the body as it drives into a throw or takedown.Therefore, when I say 'striking', I mean that the style or martial art focuses mainly on delivering force through a punch or kick, notwithstanding any throws or takedowns that may or may not exist in styles repertoire.
Based on this definition, It is my opinion that aikido is primarily a striking art. Now most people would likely point out the '90% atemi and 10% throws' quote from O Sensei, my opinion however, is that Aikido is and always was a striking martial art, akin to karate or boxing forms from both the East and West, rather than a grappling style as most aikidoka, me included, would believe. I will not go into detail here but I would state two of my main points regarding this belief.
Firstly, blending. The idea of blending in aikido is unique when compared to martial arts like judo or jujitsu as both these grappling arts do not have compliance when it comes to techniques training. Granted there may be some compliance when it came to katas or class, however judo for example, practices full resistance when it came to sparring. This is the same for any other similar art such as wrestling or brazilian jujitsu. No grappling art ever teaches 'blending' as Aikidoka understand it throughout the curriculum, sooner or later, resistance will be introduced leading up to full out combat.
However, martial arts like Tai Chi have drills and two man forms where both martial artists would not resist and fight, but blend and flow, these include drills like push hands, two man forms or sticky hands in Wing Chun, all of them espousing the same idea of blending and harmonizing so as to build sensitivity, all prevalent in boxing forms that focus on the 'internal' rather than the 'external' aspects of combat. This is one reason why I believe that Aikido is actually a striking art primarily, rather than a grappling art as most aikidoka have believed.
The second reason is the techniques used in Aikido. As most aikidoka who have tried to use Aikido in combat could attest, trying to apply a kotegaeshi or a nikyo is nigh on impossible, especially if the opponent is bigger and hell-bent on not getting locked in the first place. This is not because the techniques do not work, but it is due to the way we are taught to apply them. A grappler would get in close and use clinches and other such techniques to set up the lock. Aikidoka do not do that, most of the set ups for the locks are unrealistic and involve the opponent over-committing to an attack, which is why when we attempt to apply these techniques in real life, it usually devolves into a wrestling scuffle that is almost childish to look at.
So why do we use such unrealistic training methods in regards to entry? Surely if we were to execute a throw or lock we would use the same methods as ALL grappling arts would use when setting up their throws and takedowns? Two reasons come to mind in regards to this question. One, Aikido is bullshit, which any aikidoka would shoot down in the blink of an eye. Or two, aikido is not a grappling art in the first place.
To describe how each of the techniques are actually striking techniques would be impossible. But I would like to point out that firstly, Aikido's ideas on footwork, speed and timing are based around striking rhythm and movement. Secondly, most of the entering movements are not practical if one were to try to apply a throw, one need only look at judo to see what is a proper throw set-up. However, if one were to see them as set-ups for strikes to vital points or counter-BLOWS rather than counter-THROWS. I believe that it will begin to make a tad more sense for any aikidoka wondering what the heck is going on.
This is just a short preview of an essay I am going to write in regards to my opinion. That essay would be a little more detailed with examples of technical applications. I will leave a link to the essay when it is done.