Did you open the can of worms on purpose?
Let me start by drawing a picture using sports cars and drag racing. Imagine that we have Morihei Ueshiba's car there on the drag strip. When you open the hood, you find an amazingly powerful engine. The car itself is sleek, rounded, has no sharp edges, but is painted with some very detailed, almost 3D type paint such that the car seems to float in the air. When other people race against this car, they lose. Badly. The car looks as part of the natural world as it floats quickly down the strip. Other cars leave rubber marks, exhaust fumes, and have loud noises, but Ueshiba's car does not.
Then, along comes Modern Aikido with Kisshomaru Ueshiba as the driver and Koichi Tohei as chief mechanic. They try to build a car just like Ueshiba's except they don't understand how Morihei Ueshiba painted it, nor how it got so smooth, rounded, and sleek. They also don't understand how Morihei Ueshiba built the very powerful engine. Of course, when they asked Morihei Ueshiba, his answer was to watch and steal the secrets. They do their best, even though they can't understand what Morihei Ueshiba is telling them in his lectures. Their car looks similar and runs similar but yet is so very different. If you look closely, you can make out the flaws in the design. When the Modern Aikido car races, it mostly loses, leaves rubber marks, has exhaust fumes, and is loud. When you look at the car, it appears to look like Morihei Ueshiba's car. When you open the hood, it appears to look like Morihei Ueshiba's engine. Except Modern Aikido's car never acts, runs, or moves like Morihei Ueshiba's car.
If we look at Morihei Ueshiba's car, we find that the engine is Daito ryu aiki while the body is Omoto kyo spirituality. Modern Aikido has replicated no understanding of either. Looking at the engine, we find that if you train Modern Aikido's exercises, then you are not doing Morihei Ueshiba's exercises, although they can appear to look alike. If Morihei Ueshiba found value in the exercises to enable him to become such a great martial artist, then if Modern Aikido is doing them just like Ueshiba, where are the Modern Morihei Ueshibas? After 40-50 years, we really can sum it up in two basic answers:
1. Morihei Ueshiba was a singularly unique individual. He was a one-in-a-billion kind of guy.
2. Modern practitioners of aikido aren't doing the same kind of training that Morihei Ueshiba did.
If we take a step back in time, we know that Sokaku Takeda created Yukiyoshi Sagawa, Morihei Ueshiba, Kodo Horikawa, Takuma Hisa, and others. They could all do very similar things. Morihei Ueshiba, in his early training, created Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, Rinjiro Shirata, and a few others. They were very similar in skills, although not as good as Ueshiba. Sagawa didn't really teach the secrets until late in his life. One student of Sagawa's has stood out - Tatsuo Kimura. Kodo Horikawa taught a couple of people, most notably Seigo Okamoto who can do similar things as all the rest. So, really, reason #1 is kind of hard to accept. If we look at the fact that Sokaku Takeda told people not to teach the secret except to one or two individuals, we can see why there were only a handful of great aiki martial artists. Yukiyoshi Sagawa upheld that. Tokimune Takeda did, too. Katsuyuki Kondo reiterated what Tokimune had done.
Basically, even though it is a hard pill to swallow, reason #2 is pretty much the remaining answer. Most people were never taught the secret of aikido. Morihei Ueshiba didn't really teach it, and his students had a near impossible time of trying to figure out what he was doing.
When Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei entered the scene at the end of World War II, Modern Aikido was born. Both then raised adherents to Modern Aikido, sending them out into the world dressed as Morihei Ueshiba's child. Forty years later, the child is now a man. There would have been no understanding that there was a difference between Ueshiba's aikido and Modern Aikido, except that there were a few circumstances which allowed the secret of aiki to get out into the world. Some people are now looking at the Modern Aikido Man and seeing that he doesn't move, act, or do anything at all in the same way Morihei Ueshiba did. The Modern Aikido Man is a ghostly and pale imitation that rarely stands up in the same light as Morihei Ueshiba to the tests of the martial world, let alone the tests of the intertwined martial/spiritual world.
What of Modern Aikido? Frank Doran mentions that Tohei created many energy games and practices. (1) And Patrick Augé states:
Mochizuki Minoru Sensei said that when he was studying with Ueshiba Sensei (late 1920's), robuse was the name given to the technique that later became Ikkajo, then Ikkyo after the war. The present ikkyo as taught by most Aikikai (and Aikikai related) teachers is the result of the modifications made by Tohei and Kisshomaru Sensei in order to simplify Aikido and make it available to more people.... (2)
Stan Pranin notes that Kisshomaru Ueshiba gradually changed the technical syllabus and created a flowing style technique based system. (3) Koichi Tohei was head instructor for many years and his teaching was influenced by the Tempukai. (4) Morihiro Saito also makes note of some of the things that Koichi Tohei introduced into Modern Aikido training. (5) Tohei is quoted as saying, "Everyone thinks that I learned ki from Morihei Uyeshiba. That's not true. The Master taught me aikido; he did not teach me ki. I studied and learned it myself." (6) While Tohei's reason for stating this may have come from a rough period of time, the words themselves hold value. Ueshiba rarely taught "ki" to anyone.
It doesn't take a lot of research to find that the students of post-war aikido were more influenced by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei, that the manner in which the techniques that these students practiced were more influenced by Kisshomaru and Tohei, and that the spiritual harmonious definition of Aikido was more influenced by Kisshomaru and Tohei than by Morihei Ueshiba.
What about weapons in Modern Aikido compared to what Ueshiba practiced? In an interview with Nobuyoshi Tamura, he states that Ueshiba trained with the yari along with the jo and bokken. Ueshiba had a long spear at the dojo for training that he used quite often. He also states that he never saw Ueshiba practice tanto dori. (7) It was also noted that in Daito ryu, one would study sword techniques. (8) Because Ueshiba learned Daito ryu, it was mentioned that at the "Aikijutsu Dojo" in Tokyo, Ueshiba taught sword and spear. (9) Also, it's noted that Ueshiba trained with weapons on his own, including spear. (10) Rinjiro Shirata states that Ueshiba didn't teach weapons work to his students, but did practice it on his own. (11)
Also, from one interview in Aiki News:
Editor: We have seen old movies (in which juken were used in demonstrations) but did you ever use the juken (bayonet and rifle) in practice at that time?
Kunigoshi Sensei: Yes, we did. Someone would thrust with the training weapon and we would try to deal with that kind of attack. We also worked against a spear attack. Anyway, there were just about every type of major weapon in the dojo. Even I was expected to have practiced against a cutting attack made with the bokken. Nor were we only expected to be able to avoid the attacks of the weapon-carrying person. We were also expected to be able to take the role of the attacker and wield the weapons. (12)
Shoji Nishio talks about how he had to study weapons on his own because they were not taught at hombu. (13) Kisshomaru Ueshiba also noted that his father studied and trained with the spear. (14) Nobuyoshi Tamura makes an interesting comment in that he thinks Ueshiba's jo was actually spear work. (15) All of this goes to show that Ueshiba's weapons training was not carried forward into Modern Aikido. It is a rare sight to see spear training in any Modern Aikido dojo. And if true, while Modern Aikido trains tanto dori, it was not from Morihei Ueshiba. Most sword training in Modern Aikido is from a teacher's background in some other martial system or from a teacher's own creation. The practice that is left from Morihei Ueshiba is some jo and bokken take-away. Morihiro Saito is one of the few students to have gathered a chaotic weapons training under Ueshiba and created a structured syllabus. However, it does not cover most of what Ueshiba trained with weapons.
Training under the founder at Hombu appeared to have been a few hours each day while training with other instructors (Kisshomaru and Tohei included) took up the rest of the day. We also have quite a few students stating that Morihei Ueshiba would talk a lot and no one knew what he was talking about. Add in the fact that in 1956, Morihei Ueshiba was 73 years old. He wasn't teaching all day when these students started training in Aikido.
I'm not diminishing the commitment, heart, skills, or pure dedication of these students. We can all see how much they have contributed. But, on the other side of things, we must also acknowledge that Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei had more influence on them than did Morihei Ueshiba. And that influence shines through very brightly in their Aikido, even today. There is a large disconnect when talking about the Founder's Aikido and these student's aikido.
What kind of vision of aikido are the shihan and top ranked teachers supposed to take into the future? Do they truly understand Morihei Ueshiba's Aikido, or is it more likely that they understand Kisshomaru and Tohei's Aikido? Those two visions of aikido are not one and the same. They are not even close. We have Morihei Ueshiba living his vision of Aikido, backed by aiki and some spiritual/religious ideology. In Kisshomaru/Tohei's aikido, we have harmony for a post-war world audience that is not backed by the martial skills of Morihei Ueshiba nor is it backed by his spiritual/religious views. The major consolation in all of this is that in the spiritual/religious sense, Morihei Ueshiba noted one didn't have to follow his exact footsteps. Modern Aikido has diverged from Morihei Ueshiba's Aikido.
1. Aiki News Issue 010
Frank Doran: All of the energy kinds of games and practices, many of which Koichi Tohei developed are very useful tools to put someone in touch with this aliveness which is within you.
2. Yoseikan NA website:
In 1963, Kisshomaru made his first trip abroad to the U.S. and subsequently traveled on numerous occasions to North and South America, and Europe. Although his efforts to expand the Aikikai on an organizational level are well-known, it should be noted that his technical influence was also great. Kisshomaru gradually modified the technical curriculum of the Aikikai by reducing the number of techniques taught and creating a standardized nomenclature. His flowing style of technique that emphasizes KI NO NAGARE movements have also become a de facto standard in many Aikikai dojos worldwide.
4. Aikido Journal Issue 112
Seiichi Sugano: Tohei Sensei's teaching was influenced by the Tempukai, and it was easier to follow, probably because much of the Tempukai curriculum originated in yoga.
5. Aiki News Issue 088
AN: Ki no Kenkyukai (Shinshin Toitsu Aikido) practices include lectures about the workings of ki, and demonstrations of the unbendable arm and the unliftable body. Did you ever experience this kind of practice in Iwama after the war under O-Sensei?
Saito: No, I didn't. It is a teaching method which Mr. Tohei devised.
6. Black Belt 1973 Vol 11 No 11
Article by Jon Shirota about Tohei and Ki
8. Aiki News Issue 010
9. Aiki News Issue 015
10. Aiki News Issue 051
11. Aiki News Issue 062
12. Aiki News Issue 047
13. Aiki News Issue 060
Nishio Sensei: (When I was a beginner) I asked how they applied the body techniques to the ken, but no one showed me. Since there was nothing to be done about the situation, I began practicing the ken in 1955 soon after I began Aikido training. What else could I do? Nobody taught me! O-Sensei did sword techniques at lightning speed and would say, "That's how you do it," and then disappeared from the dojo. I tried in vain to understand what he was doing and the next moment he was gone.
14. Aiki News Issue 065
Kisshomaru Ueshiba: There were some major events between 1937 and 1941. First, kendo training was allowed at the Kobukan dojo for a short period. The Founder had mastered various jujutsu forms and practiced spear technique for a while, but he had not seriously gotten into swordwork (kenjutsu). Now he stared swinging the sword frequently for his own research, especially after Aikido started dealing with empty-handed techniques against weapon attacks.
15. Aiki News Issue 066
Tamura Sensei: I think that O-Sensei's jo was not what we would call jodo but rather the spear (yari).