George S. Ledyard
Sensei had a button he wore on his hat that said "Peace through superior swordplay". He once commented on "conflict resolution" by saying "We have a conflict? Bang! Your dead. Now no more conflict". I'm not saying that he believes this is the only form of conflict resolution but as a Budo man he clearly sees this as one possibility. His other favorite is "You want to be non-violent? If you are weak, non-violence has no meaning... it's just wishful thinking."
I think that this is much more in keeping with a traditional viewpoint on what aiki is. Sensei pointed out to us very early on that "aiki" as a term was value neutral. It was not benign, or good, or warm and fuzzy as many Westerners interpreted it. He said that this was actually the reason O-Sensei did not wish just anyone to study his art. He felt that the techniques of the art should not be taught to someone of bad character because they dangerous and should not fall into the wrong hands.
The clear implication is that "aiki" is not a moral force, it is a process for connecting. I think it is more than simply a technique but it certainly isn't the synonym for holding hands and singing Kumbaya that many folks have tried to make it. The idea that connecting in this manner is necessarily "good" just isn't the case. I've done training in which there were techniques that were classified as "aiki" techniques which were total combat techniques in a system that most would consider amoral at best.
Saotome Sensei has always been big on how people apply their training off the mat. One of Sensei's students was a top heart surgeon. He routinely was able to do complex operations in a fraction of the time anyone had previously been able to accomplish. He said he used the same mindset he used in Aikido randori. That was exactly the kind if thing Sensei loves. Incidentally, when Sensei told the Nidai Doshu about this fellow, the Doshu went nuts... he loved the whole idea as well.
I used to have similar conversations with Chiba Sensei, when we met in Japan. This would be shortly after my arrival in 1980--and I knew far less about the culture than I know now. However, our conversations used to focus far more on morality and moral choice as it affects the individual.
As for the heart surgeon, Tada Sensei has a similar anecdote about the skill required to make optical instruments: he believes it requires a skill that aikido training affords and that machines cannot match.
I think the moral issue is of crucial importance to postwar aikido, as is the ambivalence of many Japanese to the last war. I have come to this conclusion through the 30 years I have lived here in Hiroshima and talked to A-bomb victims, government officials and young students who have no knowledge of the war.
It is a very common complaint here that postwar Japan lacks a spiritual focus. There is a very good article by Ian Buruma in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books
. The old ultranationalistic values were swept away, but MacArthur never succeeded in establishing a western style democratic structure here and the postwar educational system did not give any secure basis for individual moral values.
Kisshomaru Ueshiba was a transitional figure, but the younger deshi, like Chiba, Yamada and Saotome were most definitely 'postwar'. A moral dimension is perhaps something that western aikidoists can give the Japanese, but I am not sure that this moral dimension is best represented by Aiki Extensions.