Re: philosophical or practical martial art?
Why-oh-why must we break Aikido down in terms of "martial" VS. "philosophical"(or "spiritual")...
Are we so terribly dualistic in our thinking that we cannot conceive that Aikido is BOTH a spiritual practice and martially effective?
As far as what to focus on when one is training, I try to focus on Aikido! Aikido is Aikido. It is unique. If we just want to learn how to beat someone up in a bar brawl, there are a lot of other ways to learn that, and they take a lot less time to learn than "the spirit of loving protection for all."
One of my Senseis asked the other day, "Why do YOU practice Aikido, and not something else?" It is an important thing to contemplate! Therein we find our own clarity about what on Earth we are trying to accomplish at the dojo.