External? Internal? no. Universal
Universal is the key word to focus on when addressing Aikido. Universal love, oneness, centre of the universe, complete non resistance, in yo, at one with the universe....etc.etc.
All seen as philosophical terms but this merely means real spiritual terms. Real being the operative word.
In trying to work out the meaning of Aikido and 'ramblings' as some call them of O'Sensei we must first understand that we don't understand. Then we can take what he said literally. So there is no 'external Aikido' and there is no 'internal Aikido' for thos things are not Aikido. There is only Universal Aikido.
There is universal Ki, universal love, universal harmony and the universal dao, way.
Internal disciplines come under the heading basically of yoga. External disciplines come under the heading basically of physical training. So martial arts are mainly external disciplines and when they get to advanced levels find they are improved by internal disciplines. Thus we have chinese arts with internal disciplines carried to them from India.
Yoga says basically in essence that through various meditations spiritually you can learn and realize the true nature of things and find inner peace. This produces inner strength and inner stability and power.
Then people come along and say "What's wrong with those 'monks' for all they do is remove themselves from society?"
So on the other side of the coin we have 'outer' or external disciplines. These are for doing 'out there' in the world. Thus we can learn to ride a bike or even fight.
So then we have the outer discipline borrowing things from the internal disciplines to make them even better at the outer discipline. Prevalent in most martial arts as an example.
None of this however is Aikido. It is merely martial art. It is budo but not shin no budo.
Using the analogies above let's look at what Aikido is then. Universal. What is universal?
It is both inner and outer. "They don't understand in yo" was a famous comment made once but in yo is not some internal thing but actually a universal thing.
Let's put some reality on this in life. People getting too confused or upset with life internally explain how they gained after doing something like yoga. So they needed some internal training to restore balance yet notice it was internal discipline.
Meanwhile someone who keeps going around causing trouble or upset or messing up in what they do in life needs some external discipline. In other words they need new rules of behaviour or action to follow which in turn will put the balance back in. In a martial art it may be some technical correction for example.
So following new rules of operating as a discipline externally can wake you up internally and vice versa. As an add on here you may then understand what justice is for justice is when the person will not change and put such discipline in and thus the group does it for him.
So Aikido says universal. The rules of balanced inner self bringing about a balanced outer other. Not a defeated other, not a harmed other, a better other.
When a person does a job be it in politics or the police force or any other workplace or even if he is a criminal then that is external, that is outer operations. Now if in that job he goes home after doing things which made others suffer he will find it hard to sit alone and be at peace internally with himself and so will comfort himself with drugs or alcahol or a group of like minded folk trying to prove how right they are. Yet internally they suffer.
If a man learns internal arts be it yoga or whatever and yet uses the new found strength to cause suffering then he too will not be at peace and suffer. Thus Aikido cannot be self defence in the normal framework of what that means but only in the spiritual framework of universal love where I win over me and thus you win also. Everyone wins.
The attacker in Aikido is never defeated but only improved. Centre is not taken but given. Spirit is not led but joined. Mind is not taken but settled. Harmony is not broken but restored. The floating bridge is not a place from where you do but is where you meet.
Thus Aikido is but a universal martial art.
When outer harmony and inner harmony are the same we have Aikido.
Foods for thought and may they be thoughts of food.