John Furgerson III
Personally I like the spiritual side of Aikido. I hope I have offended no one but sometimes it drives me crazy at how people are only focused on a tradition or what color belt they have.
Budo begins and ends with "rei" which is often translated as etiquette but it has a deeper and more complex meaning than just that. The color of the belt isn't the issue here. It is what is proper behavior. This is still a Japanese martial art. The most senior teachers are Japanese. If you don't have the remotest idea of what is proper, you can offend someone deeply without even knowing you have done so. You can remove yourself from consideration as a serious student by being sloppy with your behavior. That's what "rei" is about. It is about respect, honor, and paying attention.
As someone who has spent his entire adult life working on this art, it is very important to me that people who have earned respect through many years of sacrifice and effort receive their due. That is what this conversation is about. I don't know enough about the particular circumstance Wayne described to have a real opinion, but the thread does bring up an important topic for discussion. Because we are not Japanese, there is a tendency to treat etiquette as something imposed on us from outside. So we take a more do your own thing attitude about such things. Etiquette is definitely not about doing your own thing.
To paraphrase a saying that gets used a lot by gun proponents, "an armed society is a polite society". Etiquette is how warriors interact with each other. Paying attention to the details is how a warrior survives. Etiquette is the first form of conflict resolution. That's why people consider these things to be important.