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If I say, "apple," is the one you see the same as the one I see, or are they different?
Apple is too complex, let's reduce it to "red". If I say, "red," is the red you see the same as the red I see, or are they different? Now you may argue that "red" is defined by a particular wave length of light and that we can agree that wavelength = x is red. That's all very nice, but it doesn't tell us anything about how we perceive red. I can be shown light of wavelength x + dx where dx represents a change in x and call it red. You meanwhile could be shown light of wavelength x - dx and come to the same conclusion that it is red. Whose red is red?
Clearly, since we agreed at a prior point in time that wavelength x is red neither of us can be right. The wavelength of the light we were shown varied from x by some amount dx. We are forced to admit that our definition of red is, perhaps, to constrained to be of any use when dealing with human perception of color. To enable us to talk about red, as it is perceived by humans, in any meaningful manner we must expand our definition of what is red to include a spectrum of wavelengths.
Aikido is like red. We could attempt to define Aikido simply as the form of "what Ueshiba did" and leave it at that. Therefore if I am doing what Ueshiba did then I am doing Aikido. Simple really. The problem with that is that Ueshiba did what he did over a long period of time and what he did and how he did it varied with respect to when in time he was doing it. So like red, that when discussed perceptively, cannot be pinned down to a single wavelength, Aikido, it seems, cannot be pinned down to a single form.
So today we have many different forms of Aikido. Yet I can walk into an Aikido dojo anywhere in the world and discern that what I am seeing is Aikido without having to resort to anything but my perception of what is being performed on the mat.
The question I ask myself is - Did Ueshiba intend for Aikido to become so varied in form, and if so, why?