Its interesting to see a martial art so engrossed with the preservation of life simply so permeated with acts of violence. There is nothing passive about Aikido. Even in doing nothing, our minds and body and spirit must be united and ready. In that readiness is not the body reacting to an initiator, instead that readiness compels us to act upon an instigator. Whilst the difference appear subtle, in reality it is not. The former suggests that when confronted by a punch, we avoid or block the punch. In the latter, when confronted by a punch, we cut.
Cutting seems more at home with arts like Kendo and Kali than Aikido at first glance. Aikido after all primarily uses unarmed techniques usually ending up in throws or pins. So where comes the cut?
There are many aspects of cutting in Aikido. The varying degrees of cutting comes from the state of mind as well. The more aggressive Aikidoka uses cutting as a form of Focused Power, attacking the core of the opponent. The intent is to cut opponents centerline when they commence an attack. The cut completely arrests the opponents attack by stopping its power source. Yesterday we practice this a bit.
Most times when we encounter an attack our mind gets caught up with the attack itself. When it is a knife especially, more of our being becomes tied to that dangerous weapon. Even an innocuous grab to hand makes us tense up in the according hand, usually with the instinctive reaction to pull away. What we try to train nage to do now is to disregard the physical aspect of the attack but to react on the intent instead. Thus, we run drills on uke hiding his weapon and randomly taking it to attack nage. Nage only responds to attacks not feints. Then we take a step further where we have uke hitting nage at close range. Nage's response is not to block the hand but to attack uke's core directly before being hit himself.
On casual introspection, it seems unlikely that Nage can react faster than Uke, if Uke is the one to attack first. But seemingly not. Nage cuts uke using the principle of irimi whilst uke is just attacking nage as is. When we start practice, both uke and Nage are in seiza. Irimi here is entering not moving. So this practices the mind and intent, rather than the formal tai sabaki.
In any case, the other levels of cutting relates to the Aikidoka's state of being. As I mentioned, an aggressive Aikidoka will generally use the cutting of chushin more times than anything else. Just as they would use Ateru more often than not. But the softer you get, the more your cut permeates the mind of uke. Ashi awase is an aspect of this. You cut the opponents movement by mind and intent alone. A good example of this is Kenji Ushiro, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-ranl2YTaw&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfffYhuoKdY&feature=related
You have to study the video a good number of times to see what I'm aiming at. His is the ability of using Aiki. But he employs Aiki to cut the opponent off his power and then proceed to attack him. So even as you step to attack him, he has cut you first before he hits you. Nor is this the reaction of someone who's trying to avoid his powerful strikes which no doubt they are. In essence, to their mind they have already been cut. That is why they stop.
Nor does it end there. You also see him cut people who are strongly attached to him or holding on to a jo. In this instance, the static attack precludes any sort of 'mental' attack in terms of timing or pre-emptive strike. Yet, Ushiro sensei permeates the connection with a cut that unbalances uke's power before dropping them.
Again. The idea here is not to copy or try to 'get' what Ushiro sensei is demonstrating. For our purpose it is to train the mind and body and spirit to unify and so you can express yourself in any form be it through your body, your mind or your spirit and have all the power of the 3 combined behind it.