Thanks everyone for your responses. I have to say I have never really experienced a plateau as Leonard Sensei decribes it before and maybe this is one! Though I have been around long enough to feel confident I am not just thrill-seeking. For years the philosophy of compassionate response to conflict, was the way I saw it. I also trained to learn about and understand my own capacity for violence and for empathy. At times I have trained for excercise, increased bone density and beer with buddies after class. I value that and a lot else aikido has done for me. But, is it actually a generative, creative thing to do at this point? Or is it a martial art for people who can't admit they are practicing ways of hurting and killing people? (I know there are aikidoists who make no bones about that, and I respect their position, but its not something I want to do). I am getting no younger and don't want to waste time and damage my joints for no purpose. But I guess it is just something I have to figure out in my own way. perhaps by blending with my doubts and trying to go deeper with my understanding of violence. Or possibly what I am feeling is the need to take my aikido off the mat and into my life in a new way.
I am curious, what does the life-giving sword really mean? is there a discussion of it you can point me to?