Re: Ki is Kindness.
Aside from the meanings of the word ki (thank you very much, and hello, Peter), there remains disagreement about using that word in the sentence "ki is kindness," not as a semantic proposition, but one about the world.
Here, the statement is asserted to reflect (a participatory) reality to a believer, but a self-induced illusion to non-believers.
I think Jon stated it very well, from my perspective, when he talked about the decision to bring from a self-contained training environment and to a wider and experienced audience propositions about the world "discovered" in the mutual interactions of that training setting.
For aikido to articulate with the real world as budo, its effect cannot depend on mutual agreement between training partners.
Equally, for me at least, if my aikido is is to have any "spiritual element" in it (in the sense that Chiba has written about, in particular), it cannot depend solely on the apparent insights to be gained in an environment where we already assume certain principles to be true and discuss them in agreed-upon terms.
This I believe to be true of phenomenological appearances (e.g., since the nice people I train with block themselves when they are not relaxed, and since they relax when they intend no harm, ergo ki is kindness), and also the conceptual framework employed to describe and understand phenomena ("ki is kindness" even when I had a real-world encounter with a particular threat -- with a "t"-- because I was effective and I meant no harm.) .
And the conceptual expression of lessons-believed-learned is where, to me, critical thought does play a role similar to the role pressure testing plays in practice.
As for opinions, I would add that everyone has a right to reconsider, reexamine, and even reject their previous held ones. However, this is where Wittgenstein's views on religion comes to mind, which is why I am confident our apparent differences will remain unresolved.
Everyone take care; my apologies to any whom I may have offended.