Re: Is aikido a budo?
For me, budo is a commitment to reform and refine the self using a militaristic pedagogy, specifically from the Japanese culture. I think this commitment exists for physical, mental and spiritual aspects of self-improvement with some argument as to which represents the highest order of development. I think budo must contain a military tie and it should have a austere efficiency, a hierarchy of authority, a specification of application and fidelity to the pedagogy. Ultimately, budo is capitulation to the process. You use an external mold to create a desirable form and into the mold you place yourself - thus assuming the desired shape. I evaluate budo as a qualitative mold - better mold, better product. When I hear about elements that dojos remove from their pedagogy, I think about how that decision effects the quality of the mold. Capitulation to the process is both a large part of the culture and the training. "doing what I want" is not exactly capitulation... coming from a fighting class devoted to servitude. Not doing weapons because I don't like weapons is not exactly capitulation to the process of learning what weapons can teach.
To be sure, there are some dojos that have removed so many elements from their training, using Japanese vocabulary and wearing Japanese attire are about the only elements of budo that exist in the dojo. Does that make the dojo teachings a budo? I would argue, "no." At some point, I think you have enough elements missing from training that the definition shifts to be exclusive of a training environment. Sometimes we talk more about a michi than a budo, which is fine but different.