You say, "There is no secret agenda - even if there were, what would it be?"
That is an eye opening statement. So many discussions begin with a wide variety of subjects. And from that base, it feels like a large amount of them end up about IS/IT.
When I began meditating with the TNH crowd, it appeared that many sangha leaders and dharma teachers were learning Tai Chi as taught by one specific man. His teaching happened in seminar so all of a sudden sanghas were doing Tai Chi like a dance. I observed myself becoming judgmental. Then I became grateful. Most of these folks had been divorced from their bodies by a religious culture that was deeply influenced by Puritan and manichean dualism. They were reconnecting at a pace that made their practice valuable.
John Clodig, my Yanagi teacher had me accompany him for several years teaching "Key Moves" to police, fire, water works, university science departments, zoo keepers and hotel staff in order to reduce repetitive stress injuries by becoming more efficient in handling non-human objects. We used a curriculum of internal principles and applied them to CAL OSHA projects. What we did was a great help to others.
These are agendas that use the art outside of "fighting". I experience many of these back-and-forth bickering to really be about a limited agenda - that of aikido as martial prowess; something several folks seem to be reacting to because they have different agendas or different levels within which they hope to reach.
Just an observation about agenda.
Interesting point Chris.
It would in fact be a good exercise for people to inspect what their agenda is rather than say they don't have one. Maybe some have too much significance on the word.
I also note you mention shamanic practices. Now that's getting more spiritual I must say. It could also equate quite well with Ueshiba's type of Shinto.
In fact my partner in crime Aikido wise, who has trained with me for over thirty years is a qualified shamanic osteopath. All fascinating stuff. We ended up teaching those people too for a year.
Another interesting point you make about the spiritual folk who then started practicing tai chi. I find this type of situation often to be true where spiritual are quite divorced from the 'body' so to speak or to be more blatant from the reality of what they have learned.
I find it in those who do reiki or even forms of ki atsu, yoga, meditations of different kinds, even tai chi etc. Not all, but many. I tend to break up religions and spiritual practices now into two camps. Let's say religious philosophy and rites and rituals as one camp and religious practice as the other. Same for spiritual pursuits.