Dear Voice of Experience members,
[\] How important is it to you to impart to your students that aikido is a "budo"? [\]
I agree with the others who have said that it's not enough to assert that aikido is budo, but to say what we mean by these terms.
My interpretation of "budo," as "the way of war," is the simple recognition that existence has inescapable conflict. It's built into the nature of reality. It follows logically that we have to have a sensible way of coming to terms with this. Aikido is one amazingly good method.
Philosophy aside, I also see aikido as a combat art. This means that one's chance of survival in a hand-to-hand combat situation should be improved from the study of aikido. No guarantees, of course, but the practice of your chosen art should give you an advantage that wouldn't otherwise exist.
Tying these together (the philosophical and the practical) is essential. Aikido is really a remarkably different approach to combat. The "bu" in "budo" can be met with "aiki." Conflict may or may not be resolved, but this is irrelevant if no harm occurs. So I would agree with the opinion that aikido is the budo of love.
The discoveries we make about ourselves, our relationships with others and our world through training, through the intense encounters and problems we face on the mat, should address practical combat concerns, and by extension, give us a sensible universal approach to living.
This, to me, is budo.