To say it another way, Aikido is one tool in your self defense tool box.
Hey David. Splitting hairs of course, and I have followed your post long enough on Aikiweb to value highly your opininons so my contrary comments below are simply for the sake of discourse and discussion!
I think the paradigm of "Aikido is one tool in your tool box" is the best one we can have. Tool to me implies specialization and application. A phillips head screw driver is a tool for example, a specific tool for a specific kina screw. Screwing screws though is a much broader concept and the are methods and principles involved in doing so.
In that vein I would equate Aikido to the much broader paradigm, not the more narrow one.
As a methodology we are not so much concerned with the particular use of "getting the job done in the most fast in efficient way", but the study of the "Art" of screwing screws. We are concerned with how you balance your weight correctly, the right amount of pressure on the screw driver for wood, metal, number of turns needed etc.
In reality, we would look at someone that was putting that much time in the "Art of Screws" as well...being a little screwy himself!
Yet, this is what we do day in and day out in the aikido dojo! A breakdown of some very detailed and frankly inane things that while related to fighting and applicable...probably do not make us any better at using the figurative screwdriver over anyone else that simply picks up the screwdriver and two minutes later sets it backdown and goes and grabs a beer with no more thought of the screw.
No, an Aikidoka would scoff at the fact that it was not the most efficeint use of the screw driver, he could have used much less turns if he used his body instead of just his wrist! etc...LOL!
Again, I believe, such is the paradigm of aikido. It is much less a tool and much more about conceptually looking at the broader concept of martial kinesthetics. Because of this, we have developed methodology called "Aikido" that provides us a framework to practice and study martial kinesthetics.
I beleive that through this study, we can use our framework to adapt and interpret what we know into other areas of our lives. Phyiscally, Spirutlaly, Emotionally....of course...speficially...Martially.
So I think that calling it a "tool in the tool box" sends us the wrong message, and I think that for many beginners when we send them the message of "tool" they equate that to "application" and hence we have the dissonance that we have in "aikido doesn't work in a real fight" develop as intuitively and instinctively what they feel does not agree with the paradigm/definition that they think that aikido is!