After seeing your message, I felt obliged to respond. First thing I should say is hello and welcome. I was in the beginners class that you watched, the taller of the two fair skinned men. I didn't stick around for the latter class. I'm a new student, and hadn't practiced any martial art before starting Aikido ~2 months ago.
So far I've enjoyed my experience at New England Aikikai greatly. Everyone has been kind, helpful and understanding. I could probably list about 10 names of people whom I feel particularly grateful to, which is extrodinary considering how bad I am at remembering names.
When I read your post my first Instinct was to defend Paul, which I guess says something right there. BTW Paul was the sensai who taught the beginners class. On to the defense. Paul teaches one mixed class Saturday morning, and a beginners class afterwards. I suppose I could list many excuses: how Paul is not as young as he looks(and how he does not look particularly spry to begin with), how he has trouble sitting/kneeling(never seen him do so, sits cross legged)/bowing, how he was sweating profusely, though not as much as us (we had all been at the previous class, and literally left puddles under our feet). I would rather say that I did not feel disrespected, and I am sure neither of the other two did. It was an excessively hot day, we had all practiced hard already, yet I did not worry about the clock, nor did the thought enter my mind that I wished the class to be over soon (this has sometimes been known to happen <sheepish grin>). However, the best indication is probably that all of us were in Paul's class before the beginners class.
There are two mixed classes on Saturdays, one before and one after the beginners class. Paul usually teaches the first class, and someone else (often David when I went) teaches the second. No indication was given as to which class one should go to, and my initial inclination was to go to the later, as then I could sleep in and watch cartoons
After taking the beginners class with Paul I changed my mind and switched to the earlier session. I assume others have done the same.
Paul generally concentrates on the basics of movement. On extension, movement from your center, stability, how to do things with as little force as possible. He encourages questions (sometimes forcefully), and keeps a much more relaxed atmosphere than in the other classes. It seems that his exercises, and comments are designed to get us to think about our bodies, or perhaps more correctly, to synch our minds with our bodies. The other begining classes (Tuesdays,Thursdays) would probably have been more along the lines of what you thought they should be. For me Pauls class provides something different from the other two, but which is equally as important.
Disclaimer: everything I said may be completley and totally wrong, as I am a beginner, but I don't think so, because I am an arrogant beginner.
Hopefully I'll see you at the dojo, or somewhere else. I think I've rambled on enough.
Norm, I like your quote, here's another.
"If you have one eye on your destination, then you have only one eye with which to find the way"