Then the results,
can only be obtained inside the laboratory.
I am not saying to go out and get into a fight but the ability to apply the principles outside the lab is the measure of your progress.
I simply disagree. The "practice" of Aikido is just that, a "practice". The form of Aikido derived from forms that were about combat and fighting. The form it was given was about "practice" as a means of personal transformation. If one feels that the practice is enhancing ones ability to connect, that it removes barriers, that one is increasingly less fearful, etc then so-called "progress" is being made.
You can have achieved this object and still get the crap beaten out of you by someone who knows what he is doing because the form we use to develop our understanding of principle is ill suited to the purpose of fighting.
As the forums indicate, all sorts of people have used Aikido to defend themselves successfully. But this is largely due to the fact that most violent attackers are not trained. They may be dangerous but they are not trained fighters.
People are so concerned about fighting... Folks who are serious about this soon realize that there are shortcomings in their Aikido practice. Pretty soon the are seeking out various instruction from outside so that they can adapt their Aikido to what is practical. Maybe they seek out someone who can help them develop internal power, maybe they study another system of aiki. They start working on alternative attacks like boxing or karate. In the end they realize that to fight the form needs to be different. It may be the same principles but it is not the same form.
If you do not practice a form that is appropriate for the task, i.e. whatever form of fighting you think you need to prepare for, you can have the nicest aiki in the world on the mat and you will not be able to fight. You want to apply principle against a mixed martial artist? Then you need to study the form that principle needs to take in that context. Doing that will not be Aikido, it will be something else.
I am not saying don't do this... I have done this myself. I have messed about with Karate, Kali, Escrima, Police Defensive Tactics, classical combat forms, boxing, etc. Each of these areas of study offer an opportunity to apply the principles we learn in Aikido. But that application is not Aikido itself. The ability to make that application is a separate study for a different purpose.
People who study a style of mainstream Aikido and think they are learning to fight are a) wrong and b) distorting their Aikido to be something it isn't and therefore are missing out on what it is. We need to get past this Samurai-wanna-be mentality and really look at what we have as a practice. We have a practice that is unlike any other practice I have seen. Yes, it isn't mixed martial arts, it isn't judo, it isn't Systema, it isn't anything but what it is. As much as we can learn from other systems, we need to stay in touch with what we have that no one else has. The outer form of Aikido is unique. The doing of it can be and should be a transformative practice in a way that most other forms are not. We need to get past this worry about it not being "practical". It was never supposed to be "practical" in that manner.