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I remember Maruyama Sensei would speak of Aikido as a vehicle that would lead the student to enlightenment through dedicated and diligent training.
I have noticed that as we move from the 'center' of Aikido (O-Sensei) the further away we get generationally, the more the idea of competitiveness begins to make its way into the art. The words 'right' and 'wrong', 'real' and 'fake', 'legitimate' and 'contrived' etc. begin to show up in the lexicon of Aikido more and more often. These diametrically opposed ideas form the nucleus of conflict, competition and strife.
O-Sensei wrote "there are many paths to the top of Mt. Fuji..." I take this to be a metaphor for the growth of Aikido as it has spread throughout the world. Dissemination invariably leads to change. How many of us remember the old grammar school experiment where a story was told to the first student in the first row who then passed it on to the person behind and so on until the last person in the last row heard it and was told to repeat the story so all could hear it? The resultant story was never the same as the one originally told by the teacher. Aikido is no different. Each teacher will change the story a little bit. That teacher's students who go on the become teachers themselves will embellish the story further. This is what makes Aikido such a rich and beautiful art. It's like a living, breathing entity that changes all those who encounter it and is then thereby changed by those it touches.
Just as the basic framework of the story in the grammar school experiment will emerge at the end so that students hearing the final story told aloud will recognize it despite the differences in detail; what remains noticeably unchanged throughout growth process of Aikido are the underlying principles that get transmitted from generation to generation of instructors, the DNA of Aikido if you will. This is why you can walk into an Aikido dojo anywhere in the world, regardless of 'style', and recognize the activity being performed as Aikido.