Re: Is it still Aikido if you take away the Japanese clothes, etiquette and other things?
The dress (and etiquette) of Aikido is just part of the ritual. According to the adage, dreams are how our unconscious mind speaks to the conscious; ritual is how the conscious mind speaks back. As humans, we create ritual around everything we do that matters to us. As Zen master John Daido Loori used to say, there's ritual to everything, even a baseball game.
The key aspect of ritual is you don't have to believe it, or mean it, or think it--you just have to do it. The meaning comes from the doing. Every Christmas you can fuss over putting up the snow village--it's a hassle and it never comes out quite right. Then one year you declare you're not going to do it--and your children all tell you it won't be Christmas without the snow village. The meaning was in the doing, not in your attitude towards it.
So in Aikido. It doesn't really matter what you think about the pleats on your hakama or your bow to the shomen--they're part of the ritual you have made of your Aikido (if you use them). They are their own meaning.
But that's *your* Aikido. Or mine, anyway. Saying they define Aikido is like saying if you don't speak with an Arkansas accent, you're not speaking English.
This post brought to you by a Dark & Stormy or two drunk while sitting in the sun on San Francisco's Embarcadero. The poster reserves the right to disavow the contents upon sober reflection.