If it's other opinions you want, I guess I'll chime in a bit.
I studied aikido about 10 years in the U.S., but never really felt it was right. I came to Japan 12 years ago and have studied aikikai style about 6 years total. I've asked a billion questions about aikido/ki/kokyu, etc. and for the most part, no one here(in my dojo) really understands it completely. There's never really time to talk to anyone here outside of class(workaholics) and even so, the language is still somewhat a barrier. And as per this thread, it's all pretty hard to put into words. Just today I was looking at a kanji that means transport and my friend said it meant haulage(must be a British thing.) and I hadn't a clue what he was talking about. It took me a while to pick out the "haul" from his accent and work it out.
So for me, it's really great to read about what/how I am/should be doing aikido. I've almost never verbalized what I do since I came to Japan so it's nice reading it in English. Nice to read about theory/philosophy/imagery AND this baseline skillset thread, even if the read is a little bumpy. So's my aikido, buh dum bump!
I'll preface what I write with the excuse that I don't really know
anything. I'm just guessing about what I do and feel in the dojo and what I think might be happening. In my dojo we usually do seated kokyu at the end of class, and I always look forward to it. Recently I read of others doing that in the beginning and I think that's a great idea. And I suppose kokyu would be a good place to start learning aikido.
It's been said before here:
Relaxation, connection, moving from one's center, maintaining balance, smooth movement, breathing. It all seems to be important to me(especially that breathing part!) I'm not sure about the back leg talk and the friction of the feet, but I certainly feel
a lowering of my center, a relaxing of the muscles, slow, controlled breathing, a centering of myself. All very vague, I know, but that's what I feel. I might not know how to do it right all the time, but I definitely know when I'm doing it wrong.
And that is also important.
Nothing wrong with being a rock or a tree or connected to the center of the Earth or even being in complete harmony with the universe and overflowing with the all powerful ki stuff. And heck, rotate whatever you like as long as it works for you.
I think I favor how Mike has been explaining things, but at the same time I don't think Eric should be faulted for believing otherwise. A lot of what Eric said made sense to me. But perhaps Eric could explain what he would think a good skillset would consist of and how to teach it using his concepts and jargon and allow Mike his beliefs.
Would like to learn more in this thread so if you all have more to say, please do. I'll soak it all up like Sponge Bob Squarepants.