Edwin Neal wrote:
It has been my honor to train with many fine students and instructors... I began my training in Japan, and have trained mainly on the east coast and southeastern areas of the U.S....
I do not believe my idea of functionality is unrealistic... i believe that some methods of training do not focus on funtionality and thus it does take more time to become skilled... and i think we are using the words: functional, skilled, mastery(no such thing)and effective in a rather loose fashion... i have a strong feeling that this is a matter of Doctrine (indoctrination), and methodology... taking your MA examples i feel judo is just as complex as aikido, and based on similar even nearly identical principles... i am not saying that one will have a grasp of kokyu/ki or a mastery of these skills but rather will be able to apply them in a meaningful way... see my earlier posts on this thread...
I think my own biasis come out in these discussions... When I think about functionality I am usually thinking in terms of "martial arts". I have always been fond of Ellis Amdur Sensei's definition of "martial arts" as training to fight another professional.
If by "self defense" one means being able to execute some effective techniques on someone who, while potentially being dangerous, has little or no actual training, then yes, there are all sorts of stories, many of them recounted here on the forums.
This is why the police are able to actually handle the subjects they arrest... It certainly isn't the high level oif skill they posess technically, despite their total focus on practical application. It's that the people they are arresting are generally untrained idiots in various stages on intoxication, not people with formal training in fighting. On those occasions in which they do meet with someone who can really fight, they generally get the punky beat out of them and end up prevailing only by calling in superior numbers. Even then they usually get very bunged up in the process.
Peyton Quinn has written extensively on the problem of appying ones tecfhniques under real high stress street situations. In general, even those people who train in very practically oriented self defense styles, have trouble accessing those skills when they get the adrenaline dump associated with a real violent encounter. The physical symptoms associated with the adrenaline dump i.e. tunnel vision, loss of fine motor control, lack of depth perception etc. make executing technique of any complexity, difficult, if not impossible, for a person who isn't used to operating under that type of stress.
Aikido is an art which has quite a bit of complexity compared with many of the standard moves one would see from some of the other arts I mentioned. The hands are very important in the execution of technique, well beyond what is required for simply striking someone or what is needed for grabbing them in order to do a double leg takedown... For most Aikido folks, even though they may have been training very energetically, they still have no experience applying what they do in the dojo on the street in that high stress, adrtenalized environment. Most self defense programs which are aiming for solid, reliable self defense capability in the shortest possible time focus on a set of simple techniques that rely on gross motor movements an the large muscle groups. I can't think of any Aikido school that teaches Aikido with that in mind as it would be completely wrong in terms of the principles we are trying to imprint in our traiing.
Clint George Sensei told me a story about Shioda Sensei that he'd picked up from someone who had trained with him (Shioda). Shioda Sensei and some students were doing a demo after the War for some American GI's. After the demo, one of the soldiers said that it was pretty cool stuff but how would it work against a boxer? They of course had a guy with them who had been a golden gloves boxer in the States. Shioda Sensei had his boys try to show them but they couldn't get anything on the boxer so Shioda Sensei himself had to show them (in order to save the reputaion of the art). Shioda Sensei completely ignored the jab, which had been so effective against his students and entered in and seized the boxer's rear hand and cranked a shihonage on him. Now I think that the Yoshinkan guys have the reputation for being the most concerned with the ability to do effective technique of any Aikido style and these guys were training directly under Shioda Sensei, yet they had a very hard time with the boxer... it took the big guy himself to actually do a technique against him. This story is completely consistent with my own experience that it takes quite a bit longer to reach some real functionality in Aikido than the other arts.
It is not that difficult to go to the center and knock someone out... If one trains hard in a striking art, one starts to have a pretty good strike in a relatively short time. I have not seen anyone who could pull off the entry required for an Aikido technique and then be relaxed enough to execute that technique against a resistant opponent as well as a person could be taught to step in and hit someone rapidly with some decent power in the same amount of training time. I can't think of an Aikido technique that one would learn in a few months that would be as reliably executed by someone of only moderate experience that would be as effective as a BJJ student would be on his double leg takedown after the same amount of training. I just don't see it. I've taught for a very long time now and seen students of all sorts of capabilty and experience levels come and go and I just haven't seen equal defensive capabilty in the Aikido folks for the first few years of their training when compared with some other arts. After four or five years (which is close to Shodan in most places) the Aikido person starts to integrate his stuff and may start to develop some ability to apply technique outside the controlled environment of the dojo.
It's possible that someone with a different background in Aikido, like Peter Rease, who comes from a style which has competition, might have a different perspective on this but it certainly hasn't been my experience at all.