If nothing else, "Get out of the way! Get off line!" Later, guide, blend with, diffuse, off-balance, and then ground or return the attack. In the beginning, thought tangles our response. Then one stated objective, "connecting mind and body," begins to make sense.
Over years of practice, the so called "natural movements" of the art do become natural and the mind steps aside. The practitioners enter "the zone," no mind or fluid mind, and perhaps begin to understand the mind of the founder, seeing and understanding what he saw and wished to convey in the practice.
My formative Aikido practice was in the line of Fumio Toyoda Shihan. Our curriculum reflected what was obviously important to him, including breathing exercises and basic meditation practices. It was not until years later, perhaps after his death, that I learned of how integral zen practice (in the Rinzai lineage) was to to him and his Aikido practice. Toyoda Shihan would eventually also earn the title of zen master.
For many reasons, which include my want to explore the now obvious similarity and overlap between the practices, I have shifted some of my few free hours from Aikido practice to zen practice.
My most relevant early observation? It is absolutely amazing how a simple question can be like a slap in the face in the first days of a new student's Aikido practice. The mind gets in the way of simply stepping off line and letting a question pass by. The impact leaves fewer bruises than the same in Aikido, but the effect is otherwise at least as devastating.
In time, perhaps I can do better than effectively getting out of the way. With practice, maybe someday I will be able to guide, blend with, diffuse, off-balance, and then ground or return the question---turning the question inside out. At least for now, the path feels very familiar...
It will also be interesting to learn whether or not one practice will complement the other and how the combination will affect me.