Re: Is is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?
Matthew beat me to it, I keep a copy of that on my computer just so I can repost it occasionally when discussions go this direction...
I know people who are dead nuts serious about their aikido training. But for some of these people it often strikes me that the focus is balanced on a shaky foundation in the first place. Some are just enamored with some Hollywood movie version of the inscrutable, mystical eastern philosophy. Hell, I know guys who I'm pretty sure are in reality more motivated in their focus on asian arts as a result of David Carradine's slow motion and often painful acting in Kung Fu than a result of anything more "real" or concrete.
The mistake, IMHO, is to try to compare this with koryu. It never really seemed to be anything like my understanding of koryu, even from the early history of whatever the hell it was we want to call what O-sensei was doing. Heck, Takeda himself was travelling about, teaching some this, teaching others that, charging by the lesson, and was generally an unpleasant man. And then with Ueshiba M, people came from all over the feel and train with this guy because he was doing stuff they couldn't quite understand but knew they wanted to be able to do. But it never seemed O-sensei was trying to transmit a curriculum of techniques, history, etc. as you see in most koryu. It was more O-sensei was teaching some sorts of body skills that he seemed to feel were intertwined with a series of spiritual ideas that he used to help organize them.
Later on with Morihei's son, Tohei, and the various other early deshi who went their own ways we see their take on what Ueshiba was doing but often then systematized in different forms with different focuses, mostly along the lines of the predispositions and abilities of the deshi themselves. Now each of those developed (or maybe better adopted) more formal traditions as they became systems on their own. Each with varied balances of ideas in areas such as reiho, underlying spirituality, etc. I've been in settings where they just practice. Others with bowing. Others with bowing and a variety of what are essentially adopted Shinto ritualistic practices, etc.
So this all goes back to my original post of saying it really depends on what you mean by "Aikido". To me it's like saying a Jeep isn't really a car because it's not as relaxing and comfortable as driving a Lexus on a day long drive on the interstate. Or that the Lexus isn't *really* a car because it can't 4-wheel-drive on the dirt back roads of Montana. Nah, they're both cars. Just different.
Me, I'm trying to figure out what the original old guy was doing. I come from a lineage that separated from Tohei, so the emphasis is there. And we have judogi, hakama, etc. But we don't line up according to rank nor do we clap 2 times after 2 bows. Just a bow to the shomen then a bow to the instructor. Some on the end. But would it be the same aikido as we practice it to remove the etiquette, etc.? Well, no, not really the same, but I would argue it is still aikido in some sense or another. But one could make the same argument about every single one of you reading this. Your aikido isn't the same as mine because, well, it's different on any number of levels. But I'd say on a higher level it is all still Aikido, at least in some sense of the word.
Whether the differences become important, then, depends on those differences and whether those differences are important to you.
A friend of mine was talking with Ono Yoshimitsu, one of the greatest living swordsmiths in Japan. His Yamatorige fully polished fetch over $60K and you've got years to wait. He was laughing about how a British Documentary team was doing a film on him and his work. He found it funny that they had him move his large power hammer out of his workshop. They wanted it out of view so they could film how he *really* makes swords, you know, the "traditional" way.
So I suppose my response to most of this is... Whatever. Seems like much of it is really a bunch of argument on semantics and reflects more about what people want to believe and what people choose to believe rather than any sort of certain truth about reality. Aikido is a fuzzy area trained in by a whole lot of people. Some folk are way out in the fringes doing either really amazing things or completely silly crap depending on your point of view. Is it all Aikido? Kinda. Sorta. Yes and no.