Re: What makes Aikido unique as a martial art ?
I believe - and it is my ow experience - that people in the modern world mostly engage with martial arts (and most similar passionate pursuits) because they speak to their life koan, they adress an existentially important, often yet inchoate question deep within them, and - ideally - help them formulate it and work with it.
I also believe that aikido - as it is today - offers a unique and specific way to engage with that question in those cases when it has to do with violence and peace, conflict and cooperation, aggression and affection. As much as I love grappling and respect boxing etc. aikido offers a different perspective. I do not think it is superior in the least, and I dont think it is for everybody at all, but it is unique: When taught adquately, it can hold both extremes right from the start, and adress people who are interested in precisely that.
Whether aikido was originally meant to be that, whether is normally taught that way, or whether it is a budo or combative art, are all different questions for me.
Finally, that is my personal perspective - aikido means a lot of things to a lot of people, and I do not think we have to agree.