Excellent article; reflected many of the questions I've been seriously wrestling with in my practice these past few years, especially since attending the '03(?) AikiExpo. I posted a thread saying how I'd felt more aiki from nonAikido practitioners at that event. If Ushiro sensei wasn't in Osaka I'd be training in karate. Almost returned to my first art of jujitsu with Threadgill sensei here in Colo. and also investigated Systema for about a year while tumbling along inside myself. My biggest question, as yours, was asking what made Aikido an entity apart from other and/or the root arts it sprang from. Many of my mat fellows seemed upset that I could actually strike, choke, etc. I explained that if I didn't deliver a sincere attack with control and blending, than I not only showed disrespect their training but they would be training falsely. I don't think that sat well, or they'd decide that meant to full out attack me with no regard to control, aiki on their part, blending, connection. Just a pointless brawl. Many frustrated years...And I have trained with very accomplished practitioners where we could go to almost extreme levels because there was sensitivity, connection, controlled force, focus, committed intent, ect. All the elements that, when combined with understanding and experience, elevate any art to it's full potential. The goal, for me. Not wallowing in who's right or wrong, who's got it or not, just bringing the best you have to the table with an open mind and commitment to engage, exchange, uplift and be uplifted. To raise yourself, your mates and whatever art you're in to it's higher levels.
I also decided at this time that, for me, Aikido was more about internal intention. Nothing in Aikido techniques or weapons movement is different than say, jujitsu or kenjitsu, only the internal stance of the practitioner is what separates them. I'd chatted briefly with Peter Goldstein sensei in Japan about something he'd mentioned in a thread: In Japan Aikido wasn't about working on the self. When he went on to explain how this concept conflicted with the culture, it made sense. However, I'm very interested in following Aikido for this very reason. I'm certain all other MA have this potential, but Aikido's moved me the most, or at least the most consistently. At this time, I'm also very interested in delving into ki practices. As you mentioned, the energetic is where the higher heart of the art lies, not in technical supremacy or physical ability. While these other aspects are very important to learn, they are the foundation upon which we must keep building, not the end all. Very one dimensional structure
. This I believe fully.
I was very impressed with the ukemi of Systema folks and have been working with that idea of softness and extreme relaxation as much as possible. Long way to go still
Okay, I've spewed enough for now. Thank you, George, for elucidating these points.