Re: Article: Aikido - What It Is and What It Isn't by George S. Ledyard
I pretty much agreed with the whole article myself, although I would argue that aikido is not principally a weapon art. Personally I don't know if this differentiation necessarily existed in Ueshiba's mind - though obviously I wouldn't know that. However, an instructor that trained under Ueshiba told me that Ueshiba stopped the training of sword work for non uchi-deschi because the students spent too much time arsing around with the wooden swords and not doing aikido. This suggest to me that the sword is really a way to understand aikido. That is how I feel, and I find practically that students who do basic sword exercises improve more rapidly than those who don't.
I'm not sure that high ranking necessarily equates to better instructors. I have never trained in Japan, although I have trained both with high ranking Japanese and U.S. instructors. Although I feel I cannot give a totally authoritative viewpoint, my view is that Aikido in Japan has become intensely formalised, and that the essense of aikido (which I consider to be blending) is preserved more closely and investigated more deeply in the top (e.g. Yamada) instructors in the US. If I was to undergo an uchi-deschi program I would definately go to the U.S. to do it (although I currently like the situation I am training in currently).
I think it's false to believe that only aikido exhibits the problem of divergence within the art. I think it is much better to evaluate instructors than to evaluate the martial art within itself. I can be a brutal animal who has only really done ju-jitsu and still call myself an aikido instructor (in fact I have met a so called aikido instructor just like that). Personally I look up to instructors such as Ueshiba, Yamada, Kono because I know I have much to learn from them (and obviously some of the contributors to this site), whereas other instructors it is pointless me training with because all they are doing is repeating techniques which they have been taught. Not wanting to get esoteric, but in the words of Basho, learning from some instructors is like scratching your foot whilst you still have your shoe on - they are doing aikido as they have been taught, but it they are not really getting to the nub of it.