Re: Self-defense art?
Basically I'm in Edwin's camp on this one. It shouldn't take very long to be able to use Aikido in a functional self defense way. It may take a serious chunk of time to develop the full breadth of what Aikido offers but that really is another question.
Somewhere back in time I made the point that choosing a subset of Aikido techniques, heavily drilled, along with scenario based training, will get you there as fast as any PK art. Its all in how you train. Case in point is the randori level you see with Shodokan Aikido students - they are really good. The breadth of Aikido will come in time.
What is self defense is another question? One of my dojo mates gets a gleam in his eye and talks about cutting femoral arteries. He comes from a pretty tough part of the world. Me - I consider self defense as a tad less intense.