Eh. This whole debate about non-violent and offense and defense could go on for longer than any of us will be alive, and honestly? In this case, I think it's a complete waste of time. Robert, I think your best bet is to just set aside your preconceptions and anything that you think you have figured out about aikido, and just go see some dojos. Ask yourself one simple question: does what you see on the mat look like something you'd like to do three or four times a week? Never mind what it's for (or what you think it's for). What you see on the mat? That's the path. If it's not one you want to walk, then all the discussion and debate about what it's all for is beside the point.
Mary, I think we're all agreeing Robert should visit various places to get a better feel for things. But I wonder why you are having resistance to this discussion. For many people who have never tried Aikido, starting a topic in the General form on Aikiweb is a place to start. And in less than a day or so, Robert has asked some questions, stated a few things, and had people come along who have a cumulative experience in aikido (and other martial arts) of a few hundred years
, and are taking the time to answer some questions and throw their two cents into what is an evolving discussion.
It's like the guy just walked in the door, was greeted by some experienced people, and you're discounting the experience and the exchange. How would you feel if you were new to a dojo and got a similar experience to the one you're offering?
People who never post or register read these forums. Perhaps if you feel discussions with new people wanting to explore aikido are a "complete waste of time," then maybe you could chose to not participate in them. Please allow those who would rather be part of an open "welcoming mat" to the aikido community chose how to invest their time.
The idea of defense and offense that's come up is good. Katherine's input is insightful. What people go "looking" for in various dojos can, to varying degrees, be affected by their initial questions and possible misconceptions that are addressed by people here.
Robert, welcome to the forums, and I hope your taking the time to register and ask some questions, and the replies you get, and the discussions you inspire, proves fruitful to you in your journey.