This is actually a branch of the "New Dojos" thread, since that's what put me in mind of it. What are the differences in Aikido and Aikido students (and teachers) now as opposed to when you were starting out? What's better, what's worse, what's the same (for better or worse
I'd agree with George Ledyard that there seem to be fewer people aiming at becoming professional Aikido bums. In a way, this is probably an effect of the greater availablity of Aikido. For example, if you look around Japan (where there are a lot of Aikido folks) it's very unusual these days to see anybody attempting, or hoping to attempt, to do this kind of thing professionally, or even to see anybody trying to set up a permanent establishment. It's not hard to run into folks (not just in Aikido, but in many arts) who have been training 30 or 40 years, but don't have dojo of their own - many of them don't even teach.
Other things - the general level of knowledge is much higher now than it was when I started (when almost nobody had even heard of Daito-ryu), and I think that's a good thing.
There are also a great many more qualified teachers available in the west now, especially non-Japanese teachers, and I think that's also a good thing.
OTOH, as things move away from the "owned and operated by students of M. Ueshiba" model that initially prevailed in Aikido I worry that things will start to fragment, which is already happening to some extent, although that's also a component of size and numbers. Not so much technically, since Aikido has never been unified technically, but in terms of purpose and motivation.
I also see an increasing trend in many sectors towards a "Budo aversion", in which Aikido practice is completely divorced from anything "warlike and violent". For example, I recall one person who told me that they would walk out of any dojo that practiced with rubber guns, presumably because such a tool of violence would be anathema to the peaceful ideals of Aikido. It didn't help, but I pointed out that there are many pictures of M. Ueshiba training, not only with pointy weapons of destruction, but also wooden model guns (for bayonet training), and that he taught such things even post-war.
What do you think?