George S. Ledyard
Aikido is an art, the practice of which has its own inherent value. As I have said many times, if one is training properly, some degree of self defense capability is a by product of the training. But is not the point of the training.
This is not just an issue with Aikido, it exists in most traditional martial arts. If real world application is the standard by which we judge, then many of the elements of our training are archaic and irrelevant. And many practical techniques, strategies, and technologies are ignored. So we dump what seems impractical and add what seems modern and up to date. Soon it isn't the same art at all.
If you'll allow a digression...omit the word "martial" from the above, and swap out "Aikido" for, say, "ceramics", and it seems to me that the same holds true. Seems to me -- and I speak as an outsider, as someone who has no talent whatsoever for the fine arts -- that there are many practices that are diminished if they are judged either by purely utilitarian standards or
purely decorative aesthetics.
With any pastime that doesn't consist purely of immediate gratification, the reasons why people pursue it are numerous and diverse, but generally consist of various longer-term gains. It's interesting that the pursuit of a practice that seemingly takes you far away from immediate gratification, can eventually lead back to a reward that is pretty much purely in the moment. As Buzz Holmstrom wrote in his journal after being the first boater to run the Grand Canyon solo:
"I had thought -- once past [the last big rapid] -- my reward will begin -- but now -- everything ahead seems kind of empty & I realize that I have already had my reward -- in the doing of the thing..."
How many rewards go unclaimed, simply because we're looking for them in the wrong places?