George S. Ledyard
..... Folks start training with all sorts of ideas about what the art is... after substantial time in, they should have a different idea (better informed) of what it really is. The ones who always thought it was about fighting almost inevitably start doing more and more cross training because they can't make Aikido work as a fighting system. Eventually, if they are really serious about fighting, they leave to do something that really is a fighting system ....
I suppose this aproximates my own experience. I'd been training in shito-ryu karate for about a year and a half when I started doing Seidokan Aikido under Sensei Jim Wallace in 1986 (and karate has been the one contant in my training all these years; I still go to the same dojo I did then). I quit Aikido in 1988 because, among other things, I ddn't think it was as "intense" as karate. Maybe that's the wrong, but it seemed that in two years no one had progressed as far as people doing karate for the same amount of time. Of course, anyone who has trained with me and seen how well I do -- or don't --- move would be advised to "consider the source," but the point is it is in line with what you said above.
However, Aikido had got in my blood, and I still had warm and fuzzy feelings for the art. I kept doing the ikkyo, sankyo, and kote gaeshi wrist stretches when I worked out on my own; that's why I have flexible wrists (even if nothing else is).
And a couple of times in the late '90s, after I started kali, I would haul out my boken and do the Inosanto 15 count with it. (A lot of drills in kali are designed to be done with several types of weapons, and a two-handed sword grip isn't too far from Dos Manos.)
So when events lead me back to Aikido in 2004, not only had I wanted to come back for some time, but 6 or 7 years of Inosanto Kali had drilled into me a very open-minded approach: "No one art has all the asnwers, but everything has something to offer." Even a Japanese TMA like Aikido can be looked at that way. I do think Aikido has something
to do with fighting, but I'd rather let Aikido show me what it is through practice than me impose something. What is it -- joint locks and throws? Timing? Internal energy? I don't know. But I want to find out.
Of course, if someone out there from a straight Aikikai dojo with no cross-training used Aikido to defend himself or herself successfully, who are we to ague? Makes the whole discussion moot.