Admitidly I lurk here more than post. I read everything that everyone puts down. I reflect on all of it in context to my own situation of life, budo training and what I want and need from it. I rarely feel a 'need' to reply or 'contribute' because so much of what I would offer up as something to think about has already been said by others.. although perhaps just worded differently than how I may do it myself.
That being said I am replying here to say that I have read your position on Aikido and the many posts in which you state it in to be highly valuable to myself and others like me who do read them and discuss them, just not on any internet forum. Instead we try to impliment them in our daily practice.
I have a nasty habit of writing walls of text to try and be clear in what I want to say. I read it over and try to edit it for clarity and to be as concise as possible. Sometimes it will still be a wall of text I am not certain even the most patient of us would want to read so I do not bother to post.
Some background on myself if I may, to show how I come to understand your goal and position on this matter... at least as far as I understand it to be anyway. Perhaps I am farther off base than I know. I admit there is so much I do not yet know... which is why I lurk here and read all that I can from everyone and reflect on it.
Stop reading here if you do not care. Look for the last paragraph for the end of it all.
When I started training 14 years ago I honestly had no idea about different styles of Aikido and where they came from. I just knew I had to find a Sensei and start training. Previous training in other arts like Judo, Karate, Jujitsu (Japanese Koryu, not BJJ) and even a little sport style TKD to fill in some time over a few years. My Karate and Jujitsu Sensei's said that I should look into Aikido after training with them a few years. I did not understand it at the time but after reflection of 'how they said it' I understand they saw how my body 'shape' was when doing Karate and Jujitsu and 'knew' I would be better off with Aikido when I had no idea what Aikido was.
My first attempt had me waiting to train at a Dojo in Japan near Hananomiya (southern Japan, near Kobe) however I was still young, 19 years of age and despite years of formal training with oriental instructors... I had been careless and misplaced my letter of introduction so... I had to come and watch each class and show sencerity before Sensei would consider my application. (I found out later he knew in advance I was coming however because I had failed fairly hard already by misplacing my letter of introduction I was deemed... worthy of some form of punishment, rightfully so I must admit.)
By the time I was allowed to start training however my family situation over seas put pressure on me to return home. All I had of Aikido at this point from what I had seen from over a month of watching class several times a week was that I knew I had to find another teacher. So when I got back home I looked up the first Aikido Dojo I could find and signed up and trained for several years, still without knowledge of different styles, political issues and all the other trappings of life in Aikido.
After those years went by I found my life situation changing again and I moved to a place where no Aikido was to be found and I lived there for 12 years. In some cases I would drive an hour and half to the nearest city to try and pick up my training. This proved to simply be to taxing on other areas of my life so I had to accept that my love for Aikido would have to wait for the time being.
Now I live in Australia. There is lots of Aikido here as you may be aware and I have had 12 years to do some research and learn about all those trappings of Aikido. So when I got here I went and watched various Sensei to see who 'had it' and could 'teach it' even though I knew what 'it' was, I could not put that into words as my previous Sensei who had 'it' never taught 'it'.
Feels like 'The Matrix'. No one can be told what The Matrix is, they have to experience 'it' for themselves.
Again, having a few years of experience throughout in my childhood with other martial arts, seeing Aikido in Japan (I know your thoughts on some shihan there but that notwithstanding) and finally some Aikido for a few years I had a sense of what I was looking for and what I was not
There was a moment in time before I began my training again in Australia when upon reflection I realized what I had experienced with my first teacher. He had it but he did not explain it. He would show a technique before class with one or several of the black belts. He would always demonstrate basic static Kihon, then Nagare-waza and occasionally kimusubi-waza in which the he would hardly make any contact (maybe the slightest graceful touch 'because it suited him to do so') with Uke. This was done so the lower ranks would practice Kihon and get a glimpse of the shape of things to come and understand why they had to develop their foundation and not be bored with that development.
At the end of his demonstration he would say 'Hai Dozo' and that was that.
Always two or more of the sempai would come and help us out with what they had to offer about the details, mechanics of the technique shown. However to get direct instruction from Sensei one had to have shown a great sinserity to learn. Attend every class. Train outside of class and have that reflect during class. Direct training with access to the 'Ura', 'it' and the 'secrets' was not explained to just anyone.
We would always be peeking around while *cough* 'focusing' *cough* on our Kihon at what the higher ranks were doing with the Nagare-waza version and feeling very envious I can tell you.
OK, people who wanted to skip the wall of text could probably start here again
Now I train with a small Dojo that is growing steadily. I have been wanting to invest myself even more now that I understand what I am trying to 'connect with' inside myself and in others. My current Sensei does not keep her secrets. She shares everything openly and in great detail. She is very inspiring to me as she understands that the technique 'has to work' even you if have to adapt it. She understands so much and most importantly, she knows her own short comings and what she does not understand and needs to learn from her Senei's above her. That last part is what really makes a difference to me about her as my Sensei in that she is open, humble about being 'not sure' and 'I will ask Takeyasu Sensei (or others) next time I am in Sydney.'
My Sensei, myself and others share your goals of trying to grow Aikido
and to make it one of the most powerful arts the world has known-just like it's founder was
and to do so in a positive, friendly, encouraging atmosphere at the Dojo. My Sensei is very particular about this as am I, in that we believe people simply learn better when 'remember to smile and have fun' in injected into the process even though practice is 'serious business'... remember to enjoy yourself.
Train with sincereity, honesty, resistence when being Uke (no giving your centre away, over extensions etc.. and proper 'attacks' with 'controlled' intent.) and explain to the newer people why these things are important and what they should be trying to take away from it, one small piece at a time.
Be open to other aspects of Aikido and learn about them and 'from' them. Guest instructors, seminars are hosted, attended towards this goal. Learn the differences but look for the similarties.. find that common ground to work from and build on.
Do not limit ourselves blindly 'just because' and equally do not have 'blind faith' about a part of Aikido 'just because', always 'honestly' question a technique's validity, purpose... your Sensei's ability to demonstrate it and your own ability to understand and learn it.
Be honest within yourself. Find the centre within yourself. Hold on to those connections.
Keep up your efforts on these forums Dan. I for one greatly appreciate them.