Re: Poll: How important is actively applying the "principles" of aikido "off the mat" in your everyday life?
Aikido has certainly effected my life in certain ways, but so has my Buddhist practice, and doing Japanese tea ceremony, and generally maturing as a person as I've been in college. It's hard to know which things have produced which changes in me... but really, whatever you do has an effect on your mind. When I train in martial arts, that has a certain effect on my demeanor, and that shows up in my life--I took a break from aikido, and as I've been getting back into it, I've found that I'm more sure of my movements and less clumsy. On a mental level, maybe I'm less afraid of confrontation, but training in debate probably has had an obvious influence with that as well.
I do not think Aikido itself is essential to my life, though. Buddhism is my path, and the Buddha's teachings are what mainly give me my "tools" for everyday life--not committing the "ten non-virtues," practicing compassion, being intelligent and skillful, etc. There are certain principles in Aikido that are shared with my Buddhist practice, such as the idea of non-harming, and those are important in my life, but I don't need aikido to practice them. There are certain things like being assertive without being aggressive, and the whole warrior thing, and coming out of a situation where someone's trying to hurt me where no one gets hurt, but really, I haven't been attacked yet, and most situations like that can be avoided. I also do not think of things in terms of "blending" with the situation, although I do try to enter into a direct relationship with things.
I remember a story about a Tibetan Buddhist teacher I know... some guy punched him when his students were there, and his students got angry at the guy... and then the teacher walked up to the guy and hugged him. The guy started sobbing, and later on took some classes at the teacher's center. This teacher has never practiced aikido, and he acted in a spontaneous, intelligent and compassionate way, and really helped that person and diffused the situation. Fully nurturing one's capacity to help others through wisdom and compassion are what is important to me, and aikido can certainly be one way of doing this, but it is not the only way, and it is not the primary way for me.