Re: to ki or not to ki
I tend to agree with the point of view that, if one is mindful of the presence of the mind, in aikido, one might miss the mark of what is going to be a true aikido technique.
I teach this by talking about the 0.2 second delay of conscious thought when the mind is "considering" a physical interaction with another person, rather than simply reacting to it at a near-reflexive level, which I think the delay is something down in the 0.015 second range - though someone will need to check that for me to get real numbers. That's the sort of time frame it looks/feels like in practice.
When people are learning, there is a LOT of those 0.2 sec delays/slowdowns in the techniques they are attempting to learn/use. Perhaps as many as there are steps to the technique, possibly more, if they happen to be a "thinker" as noted above. In my dojo, I tend to call "thinkers" Engineers, since I have such a high population of them around. Engineers overthink everything they do, and seem to always want to over-complexify AND over-simplify everything, making it harder for them to learn.
Anyway, as students progress, they get past first one, then several, and eventually all of their conscious thought delays, and now, if their principles are sound they should have a very fluid, smooth technique which can emit from them reflexively at need.
Combine the above, with many thousands of repetition so as to "know" the when a technique should "be there" but not actually have to "think" about it, and in my personal opinion, you are looking through the keyhole at Ki.