What makes a given technique an "aikido" technique or a "karate" technique? If I use mae geri during aikido randori, am I no longer practicing aikido? Some ardent aikidokas out there believe so. In the 25 years I've studied and practiced aikido, I've heard this phrase time and again and it confuses me. To be clear, aikido has its own philosophy just as any modern budo. But it seems to me that there a lot of budoka who try desperately to preserve the sanctity of their art to such a degree that they refuse to incorporate anything that remotely resembles something outside of their system.
Aikido's basic philosophy is to "blend" with an attack rather than clash so as to envelope an aggressor's energy, redirect it and control thus neutralizing the attack. This seems to be in direct contrast to the majority of karate styles, for example, whose answer to an attack is to block and counter or strike at the perception of aggression rather than waiting and having to counter. In my opinion, all budo is based in the relatively same esoteric principles of seeking a peaceful resolution to conflict and the techniques of a given system are nothing more than the mechanics of that philosophy. Furthermore, I firmly believe that incorporating tools from other systems not only enhances my ability to defend myself but gives me a deeper meaning and perspective into the art that I teach and practice.
As an example, all of my aikibudo students learn basic kicks and punches from Shotokan and Matsubashi Karate Kempo, the two systems of karate I've studied and practiced. The principles of grounding needed to properly execute seiken are the same as the those used in basic bokken work or in any entering technique, e.g. irimi nage. And let's face it, some times a kick to the groin or knee makes a lot more sense than trying to blend. If I use empi to strike a man's face in close-quarters because it's the fastest way to end a conflict, does that make it any less of an aikido technique? I don't believe so. It's the philosophy of the art and the opportunity to practice mental and physical discipline that continues to interest me. The "how" I practice that discipline will always be subordinate to "why."