Re: Poll: Does the philosophy of aikido need to be explicitly discussed during class for the training to be "aikido"?
Yes, I definitely think that O'Sensei did not change all that much from the time of his first enlightenment experience. Recently there was an interesting interview featured at aikidojournal.com with one of the hell dojo members. What she said of the founder at that time exactly paralleled what his post-war students said. Also, photos and films show that his technique did not change, except for allowing for the inevitable effects of old age. This, for Morihei Ueshiba, was in his 80's, so yes, I think he moved similarly in his 70's as in his 30's, perhaps better.
David, when O'Sensei wrote or said "floating bridge," it had specific philosophical meaning. (Probably stretching the meaning of the word, philosophical) It is not so easy to understand, and requires knowledge of Japanese creation myths and how they were thought of by people belonging to groups such as Omoto Kyo and Misogikai. I do not think that one can just read them and expect to understand them. Then there is the problem of how that idea relates to practice. I believe that that needs to be addressed during practice. Remember, O'Sensei, devoted large amounts of practice time to lecturing about esoteric matters, not just when he was old, but throughout his life.