re: nikon's philosophy question
I started practicing Aikido because I got my hands on a book called Aikido and the Harmony of Nature by Mitsugi Saotome. I am almost done with the book (I get side tracked really easily). Because I have read about much of the underlying ideologies, Aikido has taken on a significantly philosophical side. I feel that any Aikidoka who practice Aikido as just another martial art are not true Aikidoka in total sense of the word. So I would say that no, one could not be "good" at Aikido without the philosophical understanding, for it is that understanding which truly makes it the way of love and peace.