I think Ron has a point.
I think that martial training was a way that they strove to be fearless, to lose that sense of vulnerability.
But really, there are two ways that people have chosen to go about this. The most common one is by focusing on power, the ability to defeat any enemy, bear any hardship, be stronger, tougher, better, than any enemy one might be presented with. While not an easy path I believe that it is the easier of the two. It is fundamentally based on papering over ones insecurities with the trappings of power.
I agree with the above quote except for one aspect. I don't think that truly training to become stronger, tougher or able to defeat perceived enemies is a "papering over of one's insecurities" in all cases. If that were so then Ueshiba M. would be a prime candidate for this reality. He did start training in Budo to become strong but somewhere along the way his training and his desire to transcend his own fears lead him to discovering the method we call Aikido. The key to avoid staying in the "better fighter" stage is to know that ones ultimate goal is to transcend the need for fighting itself, iow to transcend fear.
I find that it is critically important to first understand the deepest, most primitive nature of oneself if one can ever hope to reach any sort of personal evolutionary pinnacle of non-violence and peace. Imho Budo is about going through
the process of dealing with the base, primitive, fear-driven self to truly understand one's nature when at its lowest. It is about forging the total self, to forge something one must face the fire so that the self can be objectively purified (mind, body and soul) and made stronger as a result. It is only then can we truly understand the goal we are trying to achieve by aiming to be exemplars of peace and love in the world. Without War there is no Peace, without Ego no Ego-less self, without Fear no transcendence of Fear etc. Peace, Ego-lessness and transcendence of fear among others have been indicated as higher goals of Aikido as Budo.
A major part of the problems seen in Aikido today regarding "fighting" come from papering over one's insecurities no doubt, but not by seeking to become truly stronger and better as a person by understanding the primitive human elements that drive warfare. Instead this papering over is found when people act as if conflict and banality do not exist in the universe and stick their heads in the sand (denial). This causes folks to create false and artificial structures in the their lives (the dojo included) to maintain "harmony" when in fact this is merely a facade. One of the most genuine forms of harmony one will find is among emotionally mature competitors where honest respect (another tenet of Budo) is engendered through the recognition of another's real and measurable abilities. There is no need for a facade of truth since one has experienced the truth in the other's abilities, no more proof is needed and one can move on to greater things.
This however cannot be said for much of Aikido practice where there is this false sense of harmony which also causes people to submit almost immediately to their baser selves whenever this "harmony" is challenged. Challenge brings honest truth and honest respect through humility. Respect and truth engender harmony (
). One can only transcend fear after looking it in the eye and not being taken by it. Avoiding it and refusing to deal with it head on is merely a form of denial. Aikido is the antithesis of denial.
Ueshiba M. did not became an illuminated being suddenly that day in 1925. His illuminations on the true purpose of Budo came as a result of his ongoing war with fear, his true desire to not only be strong over others but primarily over himself (true strength). He realised who the true enemy was and aimed to deal with that directly. But he first had to become strong and understand the true nature of the enemy and this was addressed by his martial training. Omoto Kyo provided the spiritual path for him to move beyond just being a good fighter (external expression of strength) and towards defeating the only true enemy, the ego (internal expression of strength). However he would fail in defeating the true enemy if he had not first met and understood this enemy through his martial training.
I think it quite interesting that although Ueshiba M. had to go through the hard, nasty, gruelling martial forging process of dealing with his own demons to get to where he arrived spiritually, that modern Aikidoka somehow think that they can start at the end where he left off without first gaining the same level of understanding of the true enemy that he had.