We answered as best we could and the discussion went back and forth, but I don't suppose our answers really satisfied him because it is a difficult thing to explain.
Today, in my email, was a link to a post on an Aikido blog by Marguerite Del Giudice, titled "“Aikido Odyssey: Suburban midlife mom finds her Grasshopper”. It explores the same question from one woman's perspective. Click the link to read the whole thing. Here's a quote that captures part of it:
Now, more than 12 years into this odyssey—I was 45 when I started; I’m 57 now—aching hips no longer waken me like thunder in the night, and my heart still leaps when I’m drawn into a break fall, my partner blending me with gravity in such a way that my entirely extended body slams down flat and loud on the mat, wrung out like a wet sheet in the wind. In the end, I suppose what aikido gives me is time, or, actually, the experience of losing time altogether. On the mat, I get to feel myself, as in no other circumstance, purely in the moment through my body.Every person's answer to this question is different, and my answer continues to change over time. But the heart of my answer today is; I do Aikido because it makes me feel alive. I do Aikido because I love the experience. I do Aikido because I cannot imagine not doing Aikido.