Hello Sensei Ledyard! Kind of an aside, but I find that I always enjoy reading whatever you write. You have the voice of a scholar, and of a reflective person, apart from being knowledgeable about aikido.
This leads me to two questions: (1) Have you written any aikido books? [Or are there other writings that you have done on-line or elsewhere, whether or not about aikido?]; and (2) If you had to pick three foundational ideas to convey to others about your own understanding and practice of aikido, what in your view is most important?
Thanks Michael for your kind words. No, I have not written any books... Folks have asked but I have to say after talking to Ellis and Bill Gleason about how they worked on their books, I am reluctant... Huge effort for not a lot of return, really. It is far easier to reach people through my videos and, at least in terms of talking about waza and principles, I think videos are more effective as an instructional device. Communicating ideas is another matter... but I have so far limited myself to writing on-line. If you search here on aikiweb and on Aikido Journal you'll find that I may have exceeded my son's time on World of Warcraft writing about Aikido.
I don't think I can really pin down a set of key ideas. I think it depends on whether we are talking about Aikido technique or Aikido as a transformational process, whether we are talking about Kihon waza or martial application.
I guess these days my main focus with people is to emphasize practice that should focus on relaxing the mind and the body. That's common to any aspect of Aikido one wants to talk about. The work I am doing with Dan Harden, Howard Popkin, and my own teachers is helping me understand a lot more about what "connection" really is. It is far more complex than anything I had ever had explained.
Anyway, relaxing is the big focus. The only way to really start relaxing is to stop being fearful. There are so many ways that we exhibit fear. As we start to transform fear into something more positive, it changes everything about how we do technique and how we relate to the world. There is huge power that comes with not being afraid all the time. But it is a constant process, I think. The easy part is not being afraid of being hurt, of being fearful of the physical contact. The harder part is not being afraid of really connecting with people. One has to allow oneself to be vulnerable to do that. There are all sorts of folks you can see who are really scary powerful physically but scared to death to be vulnerable and their interactions are all tinged wit fear, their martial power being used to cover that up. I think Aikido is supposed to help address that. Whether it does or not depend on how folks train. I am still trying to work out what I think the proper balance is.