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It's been a while since I posted. This is something I wrote in a post that I want to keep :
My instructor has stated that it takes about two years of training in aikido before a student can use his or her skills in a violent encounter with some success. That seems about right to me, based on my own experiences. At the same time, I've been training for seven years, and still feel like a rank beginner in a lot of ways.
Note, that's not the same thing as saying that two years of study would give a student the ability to win a street fight. I'm actually not sure what a "street fight" is, or what "on the street" means. I know it's verbal shorthand for things that happen in the real world outside the dojo, but people seem to have a concrete (pun!) idea of what that means. I don't.
Both times that I've really had to rely on my training in a physical altercation, I was in a house and there was no fighting involved. In both cases, I had to physcially restrain somebody who was high on drugs for his own safety. This situation is about as far removed from the dojo, as I can imagine.
My experiences are probably not typical, but I'm not sure what is typical. My point is that with training and experience, we progress from a very narrow understanding of how to apply techniques (he grabbed my wrist, so I repond with ...) to a much broader understanding and spontaneous application of aikido principles.
As an example, last year, when I had the second physical altercation, I ended up wrapping the other person in a bear hug around his waist and constantly adjusting to his movements to keep him pinned to a couch until help could arrive.
We don't practice "bear-hug couch pins" at my dojo, but I still felt as though I was connecting to his center, disturbing his balance, and maintaining contact. To me, these are the aikido principles I've studied. Others would probably read my description and say that it sounds a lot more like grappling. Okay, but I haven't studied grappling in any depth whatsoever. To me, what I did was aikido -- ugly aikido, and I felt more like uke than nage, but it was effective. As a bonus, neither of us was physically hurt.
My point is that the aikido training methods really do lead to useful skills, and that preconcieved ideas of "life on the street" may not be what you face when you need those skills.