Hmm, some interesting thoughts there, thank you.
The reason I ask is that at training on Monday a 2nd kyu was being told that he had to move away from performing techniques with just strength and move towards doing a more graceful/flowing movement if he wanted to progress upwards, but at the same time told us beginners that we still had to practise "hard" technique. So it seems like as you get better you have to learn to relax more and do better technique rather than force it with strength, which, given the precepts upon which aikido is based is a good thing as your strength will decrease with age.
It does appear to me that there was/is a split between O'Sensei's students, those who follow the earlier styles of aikido which emphasised the martial aspects at a cost to your opponent, and those that follow the later style of trying to reduce harm to your opponent. And these different views permeate down to the teaching of the art from that viewpoint, so that a "soft" style will be taught "soft" from the beginning whereas the hard styles will be taught hard from the beginning. It seems to me very like the split between the Chinese internal and external martial arts. They both lead to the same goalpoint but start from a different point.
Which leads me on to ask do the members here think that doing aikido will necessarily lead to an enlightened view of the world in the way that O'Sensei visualised or is it something that has been developed first by O'Sensei and then taken up by his later students? For me it seems the latter as the pre-war and post-war (to use an often quoted division) techniques apear to be the same, just the application is different. So doing aikido for forty years will not mean you become a compassionate human being, just that you are good at aikido. Your applicaiton of it is still dependent on your personality.
I train in Bracknell at the Ellis school of Traditional Aikido. Been there for about 6 months and am absolutely hooked. I was thinking of coming to some other aikido clubs around Reading to see what they are like, but I think I might wait until I am a litle better (and also have more free time!)