Re: Different Styles of Aikido, same smiles?
I like the accent metaphor!
Two of us from Ki Society spent a Christmas break at a Classical Aikido dojo, and we definitely spoke with a kind of lilt...you could look down the line of students and pick out the two bouncing heads. Some footwork differences there. But it was clearly the same language, and I had a great time.
To be honest, I chose Ki Society (properly, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido) because the dojo was four blocks from my house. But I think it's a good match; the Ki Society dojo I've visited all share a rather intellectual, talky approach to the art that works well for me. The solo drills provide a powerful vocabulary for breaking down throws into basic elements and analyzing them, as do the ki tests and exercises. However, I suspect that a more body-memory-oriented student or someone impatient with "mystical-sounding" talk would be happier elsewhere.
If you have the opportunity, once you learn some falling and rolling it's a lot of fun to visit different dojo and sample their styles. (You can do it earlier, but it's not as much fun because there are so many things you can't do. Aikido is interesting to watch but glorious to experience.) I travel a lot for my job, and I've gotten to train in three styles, eight different dojo--every one of them a very cool experience, from the lavish dojo full of black belts in Hawaii to the nervous yellow-belt substitute-teaching his first class on loose gym mats in a Cape Cod community center. It's kind of like knowing Esperanto--you can find someone to talk to wherever you go.