I posted sometime back that there are no knockouts in Aikido (http://wp.me/pZbTQ-nT)
That would have implied that Aikido is a very safe activity. It truly is very safe, and we seldom leave dojo bruised and battered. But has it taken the awareness and sense of danger out of the dojo.
It is a difficult thing to inculcate into an Aikidoka, when all the Aikidoka has done is Aikido. There are a thousand and one ways to punch an person, and there are many funny odd ways for a person to attack you. The danger is real and unless you have a real respect of other arts, you will be blinded by the range of attacks you can be subjected to. Until you have been really punched at, you can never know what is punch feels like.
It is a strange thing, once you’ve sparred before, kick and being kicked at, punch and being punched at, your body will have an automatic response mechanism, you will be less apprehensive and more sure when you to get messy in a fight, you will also get automatically accustomed with distancing and awareness. This is something I feel lacking in the dojo I am training with. Despite of Harry sensei’s incessant reminders to watch our distance and other minor oversight that will cause a major mistake, nothing beats being really punched at to make the learning a little quicker.
It is easy to wax lyrical about doing a twirl to avoid a punch, avoid a kick. And of course certain people joined Aikido to avoid facing a punch and kick, but what happens when you meet real danger? When the danger is determined and highly skilled. Can you realistically think that a person will escape unscathed without a scratch? We can agree that definition of dangers will generally include kicks and punches too. I’m not saying that we have to simulate an all out brawl in an Aikido dojo, we just need to make sure that we get enough sense of danger for us to bring our skills to a more genuine level.