As I've mentioned before, for some odd reason, I've been thinking about how the average aikidoka could or should react when grabbed anywhere other than the wrist. I (and those with me) experimented with doing the 8 releases (hanasu no kata) from a grip above the elbow and came up with some fun results. It's nothing earth-shattering, mind you; we didn't invent any new techniques or anything, just found what techniques tended to lend themselves to that slightly unusual condition.
There are a number of those sorts of odd conditions present in the koryu kata, of course, so it isn't as if the subject hasn't been addressed at all. I guess I've just been looking through the eyes of those students who are still mudansha, or below dan rank (the kyu grades). The entire time spent learning from day one through first degree black belt, you study tegatana no kata ("the Walk"), the 8 releases (from the wrist), randori no kata, or junana hon kata, and o-waza ju pon (the "Big 10"). None of which deal with "unusual" attacks, such as from the rear, or from inside ma-ai, etc.
I suppose it should be obvious why: the kyu grades need to study the basics, to internalize the fundamentals first. Once they've established a foundation, you can start adding variables. It makes sense; you learn to add, subtract, multiple and divide for a while before you ever get into fractions or algebra or trigonometry, etc. And that process just takes time, plain and simple.
Still, I guess a part of me is impatient. It doesn't take long before you begin to genuinely care for these students, and consequently, I get a little nervous thinking about their safety out in the "real world". I know they're still young, fledglings, newly hatched, but I want them to be able to handle some of the misfortune that comes hurtling our way from time to time.
In particular, I've been thinking about the Milwaukee mayor who tried to help a grandmother who was trying to protect her 1 year old granddaughter from a 20 year old man (supposedly a domestic dispute) at a local fair. When the mayor tried to see what was going on, the young man beat attacked him with a lead pipe.
The funny thing is, aikido principles apply regardless of the situation. I understand Ueshiba tended to go back and forth from empty hands, using a jo, and using a sword when lecturing. It was all the same to him. And I suppose in theory, if a young aikidoka who hasn't had any experience dealing with a weapon, if he still used aikido principles (getting off of the line of attack, or even a good old fashioned shomen ate) he would fair pretty well.
My concern is, even though their subconscious mind can probably handle things, their conscious mind has a tendency to get in the way when the situation becomes even slightly unfamiliar. You come at them with nothing in your hand, they know what to do; put something in your hand, and suddenly they freeze for a split second.
So is it diluting or undermining the education and progression of a kyu grade to occasionally (not a lot, but once in a while) spend a class dealing with an odd grip or a weapon? Even if they don't remember a thing, I'd hope that the sight of something new at least won't paralyze them when it counts.
Since we've started reviewing the goshin jutsu kata in judo lately, I thought it might be fun to play with it in aikido this morning (half of us had seen it in judo anyway). The beginning handful of techniques introduce some odd grabs, but the resulting techniques are still rather aikido-esque (it was influenced by Tomiki, after all). Everyone did pretty well with it, and it was in interesting change of pace.
Maybe next time we have a little "special class" we'll dig out the knives.