Peter A Goldsbury
The more I study aikido, the more I am convinced that the early history of the art needs a cultural context. Thus, the question whether O Sensei 'taught' or sanctioned/condoned the teaching of weapons outside Iwama' also needs a context. I myself do not believe he 'taught' weapons in Iwama and I am not just playing with words. I have written the earlier columns to explain why.
I find the history to be fascinating but my ability to pursue it in any real depth is limited due to my lack of language skills. As a student and teacher in my own right, these questions are important to me. I know what I have gained personally from my sword training. That continues to be true.
I see the difference between students who study weapons and those who do not. I think that there are many aspects of the principles operating in Aikido which are best studied via weapons, especially the sword.
As foreigners studying the art of Aikido, the cultural context of which you speak is necessarily what we choose to make it since the art has no organic context of its own in our culture. I definitely do not see this as trying to duplicate some aspect of samurai culture or an attempt to be more Japanese than the Japanese. It's simply my own belief that weapons work will yield an understanding of various principles at work in our art better than other methods. I think these principles are universal rather than cultural; we can understand them as well as any Japanese person, even though we have a different cultural context.
I have a great appreciation for the work you are doing. I have learned a tremendous amount from your series. I can only picture some hapless poster on a forum in the far future discussing where all the weird elements of my own sword work came from... It'll be funny to see what they think... what came from where, what I made up, etc... Knowing what the elements have been so far, I defy anyone in the future to make any real sense out of what I do; it's an eclectic mish mash and likely to get more complex as I am still quite actively training with anyone who I think can show me stuff. Id any of the deshi were like I have been, it's no wonder that we can't make much sense out of it.