I've seen a few fights in my day and I've never seen two trained boxers or MMA fighters going at it on the street. The few times I've seen actual fighting skill on display, it was the defender who had it, not the aggressor. People who have fighting skill rarely walk around the street looking for a fight.
This I find to be one of the truest statements in the thread. I also think that is what aikido represents even more than many other martial arts. When a person "knows" that what they can do in a given situation can be "effective" it can allow that person to be confident without being the agressor. Most people with enough training an a given "fighting" style to be "effective" simply don't have the need to prove it others. The fact that they KNOW it for themselves seems to be good enough. It is generally those that haven't trained enough (or at all) that feel the need to prove how effective their fighting skills are.
Now, that being said, when I decided I wanted to train I didn't come to an aikido dojo to get spiritual enlightenment, social and personal grounding or harmony with the universe. I was simply looking for a way to NOT get my butt kicked. In the beginning I asked many times how effective some of the things we did in "training" could be in a "real" situation. What frustrated me to no end was that NO ONE seemed to be willing to discuss anything remotely entertaining the thought of a "real fight". In fact, any discussion of "fighting" at all would get a swift admonishment that aikido wasn't about fighting [from a few aikidoka].
Many times I had considered quitting as some if what I was doing felt like a waste of time, energy, money etc......Fortunately, I stuck around for a while. And through all of the sometimes new-age-hippie-feeling aspects of what I was seeing, I was able to run across a few people who, when they threw me, I could not have resisted (even knowing what the technique was going to be). I also found that the more I tried to really hit them (not trying to trick them or track them, but really try to make that punch or grab something they couldn't just brush to the side) the harder it was for me to resist taking the fall (or falling flat on my face). THIS interested me! The strange part was it wasn't because it hurt, or I would have been knocked out, but more that I COULDN'T have hit him/her with that attack AND that I was wide open to a counter attack IF they so chose to use one! -WOW!- Then what I realized was that because we were in the dojo they "chose" not to launch that counter attack. Occasionally they might touch or tap where they could have placed a pretty devistating atemi while I was off balance and falling to the floor just as a reminder. It helped me to start to realize that being in the right place to not get hit can be far more effective than I initially thought. (not at all saying that I am any good at being in that position just yet....lol). It wasn't the sankyo that was the "real" part of the defense, it was everything that led up to that sankyo (though I still like my joint locks for those times where I screw up my positioning and would like a little extra insurance
I think the point I am trying to make is, that for the beginner, the understanding that an argument in a bar or at a ball game won't end up in you getting beat all around the floor or stadium is a big part of what helps to build the confidence to become more serene and less violent in your understanding of training. The knowledge that you "COULD
" effectively resort to whatever you needed to do to protect yourself makes you less likely to feel threatened enough to do it. I think where the questioning of this issues comes into play is that very often in the realm of aikido training people aren't really understanding the martial applications of what is happening in the training. It can become rather confusing for the new (and sometimes not so new) practitioner.
I hated the fact that almost no one was willing to point this out to me. In my mind, you can't "choose" to resolve a conflict "peacefully" unless you fully understand that you can
resolve it violently. Without the understanding of violence you aren't really making a choice. You were only doing what you have been taught. Over time I have been able to read between the lines sometimes as to what the options are (much of it with the help of my sensei after really questioning what I was doing and why I was training). Coming from a lifestyle in my past that required that you be prepared fight on a pretty regular basis, this understanding was important for me to grasp if I was to continue to train in this art. Well, I am still here. To me this means that in my mind, I must be satisfied that aikido can and is an effective form of self defense for most of what may realistically happen to me....Now I just have to learn to make it that effective
I am not a person with alot of rank or decades of practice under my belt. I think, though, coming from that perspective that I can relate to the "effectiveness" question. What I realized was that those sempai that seemed "offended" by being asked about their ability to fight may have just been far enough removed from that basic understanding to not remember how important it is to someone trying to decide if their time and dedication will truly help them to protect themselves. For them, it was no longer nessessary to "prove" aikido's effectiveness because for them it had been proven long ago.
Sorry for the long winded rant but I am just coming to a point where I think I can see a little of both sides of the coin.