George S. Ledyard
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.
Exactly what aikido "is" continues to be the great question of life in these forums. I agree with much of what you say about aikido and its practice and martial arts functionality. As far as aikido being developed as the ultimate system of martial functionality probably it is not, I agree. The principles of connectedness and blending which aikido emphasizes is unique from the approach that many other martial arts teaches and has some distinct advantages in handling situations before some actual physical confrontation occurs and even when it does provides a systematic approach in meeting and overcoming a attack. I remember from reading a number of your earlier posts that you have been a major proponent of respecting the budo aspects of aikido "practice" I don't think you are refuting that proposition at this point (though I would never suppose to speak for you). I'm supposing the intent of this post is merely to put greater emphasis on the philosophical/spiritual nature of aikido in the larger general practice objectives.
Each of us have to decide what aikido is. Some without doubt have a deeper knowledge through their study, background, and longevity of experience in the art to speak to this subject. However the answer to the question still must be reached by each individual practitioner. Aikido in functional reality is what each of us want it to be, and allow it to become in our life, whether it is a method of self-defense, a relaxation/exercise activity, an area of philosophical study or a method of completely ordering and structuring our life. When all the emphasis is turned predominately to the metaphysical and universal connectedness aspects, the art of aikido begins to be more closely associated with some form of yoga practice modern dance, or meditation.