All good questions to think about. I've created a new thread from your very nice post in hopes of raising more discussion.
Over the past six years, I've been a part of an organizing committee to put together the sort of "cross-cultural" exchanges in the form of the Aikido-L Seminars
. These Seminars have brought together many different instructors on the Aikido-L mailing list -- those from different "lineages" of aikido. Although not on the grand and epic scale of the Aiki Expo, I think these Aikido-L Seminars have done some good in developing a community of open individuals who are willing to invest their time and effort to share their experiences in this world of aikido.
Frankly, I personally think these sorts of exchanges are extremely valuable -- not only for those participating but, as you point out, for those who put on the events (eg the instructors themselves). There's something about seeing people, some of whose teachers probably wouldn't be found in the same room together, sitting at the same table laughing, reminiscing, and making plans to see each other again in the future.
If I may be so bold as to say so, I think there seems to be in many aikido circles a pervading sort of sense of aikido xenophobia. It seems as though many believe, "If it's not done the way we
do it, it's done wrong." Ugh.
If aikido isn't about learning to understand people from seemingly disparate walks of life and cultivating the ability to appreciate and understand these differences (and, usually, see that these differences are actually minimal if not complementary or even non-existant), I don't know what it is.
Cross-affiliational and cross-organizational events allow these sorts of bridges to be built. This sort of open sharing of our experiences in these sorts of venues, both big and small, have enabled me to see the value of attending and/or helping organizee events such as the Aiki Expo, the Aikido-L Seminars, and the "friendship" seminars.
Behind the differences in our basic movements, our kamae, our terminology, our etiquette, and so on exist "real" people, after all.
Although I won't have a "table" this year, I hope to meet people at this upcoming weekend's Aiki Expo. Also, Ron, I'm looking forward to meeting and training with you in Philadelphia. And, of course, I'll also be in Toronto for this year's Aikido-L Seminar in November.
Do other folks here have any other thoughts on this subject?
PS: AikiWeb Seminar, any one? Just a thought...