Of my thirty-one years on the mat twenty-six have been spent in the role of instructor. For many of those years I simply taught what I had been taught by Shuji Maruyama Sensei without giving much thought to what lay behind the techniques I was showing my students. Rather than stressing the inter-relationships between technique and principles, I was more concerned with martial effectiveness of what I was being taught and teaching. The ki exercises and testing that I was brought up on began took a back seat to technique which was far sexier and more fun to teach. I and my students at the time were all at our physical peaks and our classes were punctuated by lots of hard throwing and zesty randori. Weapons kata were done perfunctorily mainly because they were on rank tests. In short, my teaching was pretty much what one would expect of someone so young and with so little time in.
My transformation from a teacher of aikido technique to a student of aikido occurred gradually until six years ago. It was at that time that I "discovered" my aikido and realized it was time for me to find my own path in the aikido wilderness. That decision led to a fundamental change in my experience of aikido. I began to understand that in order to teach what I was learning I had to let go of the notion that there is a difference between the two.
I find that it is impossible to differentiate the process of learning from the act of teaching. What I am teaching my students now is primarily my practice of learning aikido. Technique is a vehicle to demonstrate the principles that are awakening within me. I strive to provide students with a venue that will permit them to realize their own aikido potential and strongly emphasize the cultivation of ki as a way to develop correct feeling and strong coordination of mind and body. I have discovered that my solo work with bokken and jo staff has provided me with a whole new set of tools for enabling my students learn to move from their centers and relate to their ukes.
And now that we're all a lot older, classes are punctuated by lots of not so hard throwing and the randori is a notch or two lower on the zesty scale.
I don't think that there is a right or wrong track. Today I find myself at the precise place I am at because of where I have come from.