George S. Ledyard
In my opinion, the message of the Founder (as it was perceived anyway) gave him and his art an appeal that spoke to people all over the world. If it had just been about technical sophistication, there would have been far more "household names". There were certainly a number of people whose "aiki" was as good, or even perhaps better.
We know so much more now than we did when i started Aikido. Stan Pranin almost single-handedly lifted Daito Ryu out of relative obscurity using his magazine, Aikido Journal, to spread awareness of the art, its history, and the surviving exponents.
In terms of modern Japanese, and even Korean martial arts, it would be hard to over estimate the influence of Takeda and Daito Ryu. Many of the top martial artists of his day trained with him for some period of time. Ueshiba and Aikido are only the best known of these. Hakko Ryu, Shorinji Kempo, Hapkido, Yanagi Ryu, etc all were influenced by Takeda and Daito Ryu.
But most of these styles are relatively unknown outside of Japan, some are obscure even in their homelands. Whereas, Aikido is one of the best known and widely dispersed martial arts, perhaps the most popular of the non-sport martial arts.
I can only attribute this to two factors... First, Aikido has an aesthetic which more practically oriented martial arts do not have. While the impractical nature of Aikido movements may be a source of criticism by some, I think it is a main source of appeal for many of the art's practitioners.
Second, the message of the Founder, no matter how bowdlerized by his successors, spoke to thousands of people on a very deep level. This may have been less true in Japan but it was certainly true overseas. Teachers like Mary Heiny Sensei have told me that it was this precisely which attracted them to the art. The figure of the Founder himself was tremendously inspiring. The man clearly had a kind of charisma to attract and hold so many strong personalities.
Directly related to your thread title, there are some very in depth questions that I think are being asked recently. Most of them are becoming more and more pronounced because of Peter Goldsbury's columns and research.
Just whose vision of Aikido was it during those times: Founder or son?
When Aikido went worldwide, whose vision led the way: Founder or son?
And just what exactly was a good translation of Ueshiba's vision? As you note, unless you understand, major things can be lost in translation. And as a few have noted, the early books on Aikido were rife with mis-translations of one sort or another. How can we trust that other information in those books are good?
IF the ideal of aikido came from the son, how can we trust that it was really the father's vision? What kind of translation from either of them came through to us? What did we miss? Take out of context?
George S. Ledyard
I think it is different now. You can see it on the forums... When I came out of school it was the the tale end of the Hippy days. We all grew up on Joseph Campbell telling us to follow our bliss. We didn't see anything strange about deciding to devote our lives to an art with no commercial potential. Of the people in my first dojo in DC back in 1976, at least five have become senior teachers. Of my second dojo in Seattle under Mary Heiny, at least six have gone the distance. Of all these people, I would say that the person of the Founder and our perception of his message was central to all but one or two.
For the first part of your para, I agree. But, there are questions here that I'm going to ask. Respectfully.
How do you know that your perception of his message was the right one? Have you kept that same perception over time? How do you know that your perception of his message is the correct one, right now?
To be fair, my answers. I grew up reading the books, listening to people. I learned Aikido. I had perceptions of the martial and spiritual outlook of the founder. My aikido training followed those perceptions. And then, one day, I was handed a stick of dynamite that blew my martial perceptions out of the water. I was wrong. I didn't know that I didn't know that I was wrong. And so, I have discarded my earlier spiritual perceptions of Ueshiba until I can research that, too. I don't really know enough of the martial underpinnings, yet, to get a grasp on how that could have helpbed build Ueshiba's overall vision. I'll get there.