All Practice is Fake.
The internet recently reminded me of its endless capacity for "frankness" when we posted a short video of a technique. Chants of "fake" and less courteous remarks came rolling in. Aikido often gets a bad rap in the internet world for being "fake." Between some genuinely poor representations of the art and that, when well, done it does look effortless, it's not a surprising reaction. There are many more brutally "real" looking arts out there for the public to compare Aikido against. But what is "real"? What is "fake"?
Let's face it, your, mine, and that other guy's practice are all "fake." Except, of course, Master Ken's (always re-stomp that groin!). Practice is not a real fight. Our lives are not on the line. No one should ever, ever, come to the dojo to intentionally injure their practice partners. Granted some places might skirt that line a bit more than others. I have personally practiced with an instructor who would routinely land full hits on the demonstration partner. Whether this was carelessness, a lack of control, or just being the A-hole he genuinely came across as, I can't say for sure. But what I can tell you is that I wasn't there very long. That kind of treatment is antithetical to any reasonable interpretation of Bushido.
So what is "real"? Is resisting real? Maybe, if it is natural, but so often it is not, If you are practicing a new move slowly, certainly it is artificial enough that resisting is not constructive feedback. Is attacking the technique "real"? Well maybe, but it again would have to be natural. If you set out to practice technique 'A;' against attack 'B', both parties have prior knowledge of what the other is going to do, so is that natural? Is that constructive?
So real must be at least full speed, random attack, and random response. Oh yes, we also have to be willing to hurt each other. So no mats. No gear. No pads. No rules…. No lawsuits? So "real" practice isn't a real thing. It certainly is not conducive to learning or having a dojo that lasts more than a week.
This shouldn't be misconstrued as a license to practice fantastical techniques that have no hope of working if one were in real situation. We must endeavor as martial artists to honestly evaluate our practice and its potential effectivity. We must strive to be good, "honest" attackers. Never just playing along but also never breaking the 4th wall to defeat the technique. If the technique is a throw we shouldn't discount that we are on a thick mat and know how to fall really well and just pop up like concrete isn't a thing. If the defense is a kick and we're all padded up, let's not discount the fact that unprotected ribs can and do break. We also have to be sure in our practice that a successful defense is the ultimate goal and therefore realize that the attacker is destined to fail. We can never allow personal hubris to interfere with that.
Different martial arts have different responses to attacks. Different philosophies. That doesn't make all the ones you don't practice invalid. Yours probably works for you, and that is great. Keep doing it. But another art may be just as effective for someone else. There is also nothing wrong with a little cross training now and then, or evaluation of what other arts do and why they do them. This broadens and deepens our understanding of our own chosen art. Evaluating to understand and grow is a positive exercise.