The whole Aikido IS a martial art BUT it's not about fighting because of the spiritual/martial interplay, is I think, entirely misleading.
Lest we forget, one of the world's oldest military treatises written over 2500 years ago, states quite clearly - "the highest form of victory is to subdue the enemy without fighting". There is nothing spiritual about that statement. It clearly points to the acme of human skills development, rather than the spiritual loftiness that it is so often interpreted to mean, because, the highest form of victory IS self-victory. Through conquering one's self, are others conquered. Again, the practical rationale of victory over self, and the conduct of war without fighting, is quite clearly a recurring theme throughout the writings:
The issue it seems, is one of perception, and the all-too-human tendency to perceive things by contrast and polarized opposites - hard/soft, light/dark, black/white, good/evil, war/peace, violence/non-violence. It isn't two different things, or even two aspects of one thing - it is one and the the same thing, in as much as a military treatise speaks not to the conduct of warfare as it does to the adept of warfare.
On the surface, that may seem contradictory - that one who exhibits such lofty character traits would engage in covert operations designed to subvert and thwart the enemy.
It is no more contradictory than the oxymoronic cries to struggle for freedom or to fight for peace, by banner waving pacifist activists. The prevention of war, by necessary means, is as legitimate as the overriding desire to maintain peace.
In that sense, martial arts is a transformative practice, on various levels - it is never about fighting... AND all about fighting...
And as someone once said... "[My karate] is never about fighting. Killing, maiming, destroying - yes. But fighting... never."
Suffice it to say, Ignatius, that O-Sensei repeatedly stated that "there is no enemy". Of course he said lots of other stuff but for me, this statement sums up what I am trying to get at with my Aikido.
What's interesting to me is, and I do meet a lot of people who do this art, the ones that seem most concerned with the fighting aspect simply are not very good. I believe that this kind of thinking restricts their abilities. It isn't necessarily so, but there seems to me to be a correlation.
In thinking about what I just said, I suppose its unfair... very few people I meet have very good Aikido... so it's really not fair to blame it on this attitude. What I would say is that the folks who are less concerned with fighting are easier to get to relax properly. There is an inherent tension in win-lose, friend - enemy, defeat or be defeated that interferes with your ability to "join". I mean, how do you train yourself to "join" when your entire thinking is separate and dualistic. I am not saying it can't be done, at least on the level of physical technique... clearly people like Takeda Sokaku and Sagawa Yukiyoshi managed it and they had very individual, me vs them attitudes.
But I think that this type of thinking is not a part of Ueshiba Aikido. I think he was very clear about this. As I said before, I actually do believe that Aikido is a martial art and that it should "work". But I think it was O-Sensei's position that to be really unbeatable, you needed to lose this dualistic thinking.
So that is what I shoot for in my own Aikido and its what I try to teach. I think it is far easier to get someone to develop the proper relaxation and calm interior when one lets go of this whole idea of needing to defeat someone. Because the flip side of that notion is that I can't let him defeat me. Built into that whole way of thinking is fear at its very core. If you want to be a warrior to contend with, lose your fear. Get rid of your fear of death, of losing, of being hurt, etc. Its very difficult to do this when your focus is on how to do these things to someone else.
And, once again, I think that this type of thinking is pretty much useless in ones daily life. Your life will be pretty miserable and you'll certainly be alone most of the time if you treat everyone you meet as a potential enemy and everything you do as a contest that you need to win. I have friends who have this as their default setting and they have had a hard time being happy. I think Ueshiba's Aikido offers a different paradigm that would make people a lot happier and the world a lot better place.
But rather than change themselves to fit the art, people want to change the art to fit themselves. Fearful people create an art which virtually imprints fear. Weak people create an art which is weak. This is why the discussion of what Aikido is supposed to be is so important. Your training will determine what you become. If you do not structure your training to arrive at the goal you want, you won't get there. So we all have to decide what kind of Aikido we want to be doing because it determines what kind of people we wish to become. If you are one of those folks, I believe we call them narcissists, who think that they are just fine and everyone else needs to change, then put your attention on becoming developing the power to defeat all comers, you'll need it.
That's my story and I'm sticking with it.