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].
When a prospective student comes into the dojo to check things out, I usually sound them out as to what they want out of the training. If their interest in training is along the lines of what you just stated, I send them elsewhere or tell them to do my applied self defense class. I do not recommend that they do Aikido.
One weekend with Payton Quinn at his ranch in Colorado would do more for your self defense ability than years of Aikido. Peyton Quinn
You could save a huge amount oif time and money. Seriously, Aikido has to be the longest road to any fighting capability that you could come up with.
The seniors who tried to tell you that it wasn't about fighting were telling you the truth. It was to their credit that they didn't bullshit you with assurances of the devastating practicality of the art. It may not be what you wanted to hear but it was the truth.
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 realize that this was said some what sardonically, but I actually think this is really the only reason to train in Aikido. It is precisely what the Founder created Aikido practice to be. Aikido is a system of personal development which uses a martial paradigm. It just isn't a practical fighting system.
Asking a bunch of Aikido seniors about practical self defense application is like walking into a lab full of theoretical physicists and asking them if what they are studying has any actual use. It's not that the principles thay are studying don't apply everywhere, it's that what they are looking at is something other than practical application.
I am not saying that Aikido doesn't "work". I am saying that it has to be about the silliest way to train if one simply wants to be able to fight out on the street. It would be hard to find a martial art which took longer to get one to the level of practical capability.
I think that many people come to Aikido for the wrong reasons. Often they are sold a bill of goods about what they are learning when they start. This is one of the reasons you see people leaving to go do mixed martial arts and such or quitting Aikido to train with one of the internal power folks. Aikido, for them, didn't deliver the goods they thought they were after.
I was lucky. Saotome Sensei, right from the very start, told us that if we were simply interested in self defense, we should buy a gun. That, coming from one of the most martially capable Aikido teachers I have ever seen was enough to convince me that what we were after was something different.
I do not think I would be doing a beginner any service by assuring them of the practicality of what they are studying. Quite the opposite. If they come in for the right reasons, they tend to stay. At some point in the process they realize that they actually have acquired some martial capability. But it is the by product of proper training, not the focus of that training.
Anyone who is totally wedded to the idea of practical fighting application of their Aikido should really do one of the Aikido styles that came out of the 30's. Patrick Auge down in LA is Mochizuki Sensei's senior foreign student. Chuck Clark Sensei and his own Aaron up here in the Seattle area come out of the Tomiki lineage although they have their own style now. Amos Parker Shihan or Robert Mustard Sensei come from the Shioda lineage. Allan Beebe trained with Shirata Sensei. These systems were founded by teachers who trained with O-Sensei before the art was even called Aikido. If you want martial application, that's where to go, in my opinion. Post war Aikido was structured differently and was intended to be something different.