Re: Early Aikido vs Modern Aikido
To my mind this is a nonsensical arguement. Some people do effective aikido, some don't and it was ever thus.
As for hard training the same applies. Generally people who like "hard" aikido are attracted to a "hard" dojo and vice versa.
I'm not sure there ever was a golden age of Aikido in terms of hard martial training (just look at the variations among some senior shihan) and this is particularly true outside of Japan.
Any elite activity is going to be physically demanding, and IMHO any martial art traing should be effective, but not everyone agrees with that point of view.