Re: The GREAT kata debate
I get the impression that kata occupy a very different niche in aikido than they do in, say, karate. They occur only in the context of weapons practice, which isn't that central in many dojos, and they share time with suburi. In karate, very soon after you start training, you start learning your first kata. From that day on, every day you train, you will most likely do kata -- and you will do the same kata and no other for months, if not longer. At my old karate dojo, every class was the same: kihon, kumite, kata. If it was an all-levels class, we'd start off with heian shodan, every night -- and sandans and higher would patiently do that beginner kata that they'd done thousands of times before.
To people who don't get kata, or call it dancing, or are into the chest-thumping MMA "real" training, all that is a vain exercise. What can I say, there are things you can't explain to people who haven't been there and won't open their imaginations. Sometimes the value of a thing isn't apparent until you've devoted some time to it, and sometimes that value simply can't be explained to those who haven't applied themselves. You stare at a rock for long enough, maybe something amazing reveals itself. Maybe nothing does. Maybe there was nothing there to reveal. But if there is something profound, you're not going to get it out of a cursory glance and a 30-second soundbite. You need to apply yourself patiently, without expectation of having all the answers quickly to fit into your busy schedule (because, y'know, you've got important things to do, not this boring kata crap).