From a linguistic perspective, I think 8 directions has been slightly lost in translation. While the Japanese happo (八方) does technically mean 8 directions, it is usually used to mean 360 degrees, particularly in older language. You see it in terms like happo-bijin (八方美人), which is a person who tries to please everyone, and as such, ends up being unreliable. They do not try to please people in 8 specific directions.
I would also like to make a small comment on this mini-feud between Marc and Dan. I don't know either of you, and I don't know how good you are. Quite frankly I don't care. I'm quite sure that you are both much more skilled than I am at any rate. However, I wouldn't want to train with either of you, if you are going to get into this sort of exchange on the internet.
Robin. That's interesting but as I said it leads to all directions, the body getting used to it etc. as in 360degrees. Remember this is the way its used in this particular subject, ie: Aikido and thus comes under it's nomanclature.
I believe there is a term called happo-baraki within Aikido which means to be totally aware of ones surroundings when used in Aikido, hence my reference to zanshin.
One more minor detail, if you don't want to start a little feud of your own I would suggest you remove the name Marc from the above. A genuine mistake.