Aikido seems to come into more criticism for not being an effective fighting style than any other art
I agree with much of what you say in your post George, of course.
I think though, that as soon as we put the words "self defense" on our website, syllabus, or handout....we have signed ourselves up for something and there is an expectation of effectiveness as a martial art.
I think that expectation over rides any philosophical or spiritual goal or concern at all. Intentional or not. That is a fact.
As long as one holds out that shingle, nothing else will really matter, mainly because in the hierachry of human needs, self protection in the physical sense will come before spiritual fulfillment.
I think there are two ways to resolve this problem.
1. Teach the full spectrum of conflict resolution effectively.
2. Take off the reference or inference to self defense or martial art all together and start referring to the practice as an allegory or model for conflict resolution or spiritual development.
I think it is dishonest to both ourselves and others to hang that out there, then not deal with the issue head on..effectively!
Certainly not inferring that you are doing this! Just that I see this as a consistent problem within Aikido and almost every website I go to in aikido has the words Self Defense on the very first page! Almost none have the words "Weight Loss" or "Spiritual Fullfillment" or any other "Macro-emotional measure" success that would be just as reasonable.
I had a mentor in sales along time ago that told me "Son, there is a little larceny in every deal. As soon as you learn this, you will be on your way to being a great salesman!".
I am beginning to grasp the totality of what he meant these days!
I agree that there is much more to martial practices and budo than self defense of course, and I agree that it is a secondary benefit for most really. I beleive I have always held that position.
However, I do believe that we owe it to ourselves and our students to be honest.
I think a good start to that end for most would be to eliminate the words 'self defense" from the venacular. That alone would go along way to transcending the whole "fighting effectiveness" thing.
By getting rid of the inference or expectation it would free those that embrace this important side of the methodology to fully explore what it has to offer in a manner that is devoid of any pretension of effectiveness.
However, I think as in most human endeavors, that a little larceny and controversy keeps things interesting and exciting and definitely keeps them coming into the dojo and paying the bills.
Co-dependency at it's finest! base human nature seems to thrive on it!