For a while that statement made sense to me. Then I began to think that if that statement holds true for Aikido it should hold true for many other arts as well:
"Judo works; YOUR Judo doesn't."
"BJJ works; YOUR BJJ doesn't."
"Boxing works; YOUR Boxing doesn't"
However you see many more Aikidoka that the above statement applies to than practitioners of the arts I mentioned. Judo, Brazilian JuiJuitsu, boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, MMA, Kyokushin Karate, and many others produce people capable of defending themselves using their art in a short period of time.
Well, I would debate that... Certainly the folks who focus on competition get strong quickly, so in fights against people who don't train, they give an appearance of competence. But against other trained people? There is no short cut or magic bullet. Training in almost anything SERIOUSLY will produce a self defense capability far above the level of the typical street criminal.
But every martial art has people who have trained for years and taken their art to another level entirely. I saw one of the Machados at he Aiki Expo. His level compared to a practitioner with a couple of years of training wasn't even in the same universe.
Everybody focuses on the fact that a guy with two years of most of these striking and grappeling arts can beat up a two year student of Aikido. So what? Look at what they are attempting to learn...
What we are attempting to develop in our Aikido is incredibly complex. It is far more difficult to do than punching someone out or choking them out. Do you think I am teaching Aikido in my applied self defense classes? Of course not. The first thing I teach is basic striking and the goal is to develop the ability to step in and knock someone out in the shortest possible time. It takes about six months for the average student to start to get some capability (training twice a week).
A major reason is their training methodology. Boxers use a heavy bag, speed bag, headache bag, and shadow boxing to learn the basics and then they spar. Judoka use an uke/tori relationship in uchikomi practices and then they randori. Kyokushin Karateka use kata and bags and eventually spar. Aikido never seems to move beyond the uke/nage relationship. Even jiyu-waza seems to lack the same feeling that I experienced in Judo randori.
Well, this is generally true. It's like I said before, if you want to get out there and fight with people from different styles, you will need to change the form of your training. Everybody seems to be upset that their Aikido won't allow them to defeat the local Muay Thai guy. Did you have plans to fight the local Muay Thia guy? Did you do something to offend him?
If you came to Aikido to learn to be a bad ass, you came to the wrong place. Don't screw up Aikido by trying to figure out how to make it fit into your own program. If you put all your attention on making your Aikido effective against boxers, Muay Thai practitioners, BJJ, MMA, CMA, Kyokushinkai karate folks, whomever, by the time you are done it won't be Aikido any more. You will end up with Jason-do. I'm not saying not to do that... it just won't be Aikido when it's done.
Regardless of whether you call your style a martial art, combat system, or fight sport most people enter under the pretense that they will develop skills to allow themselves to overcome one or more opponents in an unarmed confrontation. This is in fact the selling point for many styles, especially those claiming reality based self defense. The problem is that many of those that claim effectiveness do not deliver. Students are often deluded as to their capabilities and these delusions could place them in a potentially deadly situation.
Yeah... so what is your point? There isn't a single martial art out there in which doesn't have a quality problem. Judo is probably the best in terms of overall quality simply because it is the least widely practiced and the least commercialized. Since you can't really make a living by running a judo dojo. But basically, the McDojo afflicts every art. Even the koryu have more completely bogus instructors out there than the ones who are for real. There's plenty of horrid MMA out there as well. It's just that in striking arts, if you can hit fast and hard you can hide behind that until you run up against someone who is really skilled. The Dog Brothers call it doing the "Cave Man".
It's all a matter of "caveat emptor". If you want to be able to fight, study an art that is a fighting art. If you want to defeat skilled opponents you'd better have a skilled teacher.
Here's how it works...
A person who trains seriously in almost anything will handle someone who doesn't train. Then there is the difference between sport systems and combat systems. There is an old saying, "If conditioning enters in to it, it's not a combat system." So someone who does a real combat system will finish a sport fighter very quickly. Weapons beat empty hand any time, any day. So, if you really want to do self defense, study Kali or Silat. And then, at any distance over about 8 feet, firearms are the only way to go, although I suppose you could do shuriken jutsu. If the threat is more serious than you can handle with your Sig, call in air support. Oops, that's only for professionals, sorry.
Getting back to reality, anyone who has really mastered the principles from his art on a deep level will most likely defeat anyone from any art who hasn't.
But I keep coming back to the statement that if your interest is primarily in defeating all comers in contest style matches, don't do Aikido and if you do, you better do Tomiki style. If your interest is primarily in street self defense, study a real combat system, and I'd focus on weapons with empty hand as a back up.
If you are absolutely wedded to Aikido but still worry about your ability to apply your technique, cross train and also get your ass over to someone like Dan Hardin who can show you how to make your stuff effective. But I can guarantee you that if your primary focus is on applicability, it won't take long before you are not actually doing Aikido any more. It will morph into something else.