Aikido and the bigger picture.
Early martial artists were people of nature: Buddhist monks, or, Taoist priests whose martial arts training centered on maintaining health, calming the mind, and increasing longevity. The study of healing arts include learning the powers of food and herbs. These materials have the power to heal, to help sustain energy levels, but also they have the power to be dangerous to us if we are not respectful of their nature. Developing the strength to persevere through a strong winter where movement is made difficult and dangerous by deep snows is critical. In the hot summers the needs of bugs, snakes and bears often bring them close by and can create a dangerous situation if conflict develops. However, just as a study of food and herbs can help us use their powers wisely; understanding and respecting the aspects of other forms of nature that may be dangerous is foremost. Coupled with a calm, and steady center, we will, almost always, keep safe. The development of combat skills was secondary when other methods failed, or, when arrogant humans are involved. And we do have a rich history of human conflicts and wars. And so modern students of the martial arts tend to focus on the arts known to palace guards and the armies of kingdoms. Also nature is not in everyone's daily experience in any clear way while conflict and wars are. So however easy it is to focus on what is currently visible; we would do well to study like the traditional warriors and learn from nature.
Studying and integrating these ancient arts refines our temperament, because it harnesses aggressive tendencies (that are sometimes accentuated through martial arts training) and can mitigate an individual's violent or aggressive propensities. Observing nature is a lesson in understanding the powers of Yin and Yang as true balance involves both the strong and rigid and the soft and yielding. Learning that we, ourselves, must strive for such a balance internally as well as with our surroundings creates a reverence for life which is essential to those who study martial arts.
Aikido brings together body arts with the cultivation of spirit and energy. Training the body is easiest because we are most familiar with our material existence. Training the spirit and energy is more elusive in practice and so it is often omitted from the curriculum of martial arts schools . Training both mind and body is most difficult but it is the hallmark of true Aikido.