Re: The purpose of Aikido?
I would hope that with ten years of experience some of your high level teachers would be breaking down their student's reasons for training in aikido. This is something very common during questioning portions of our testing...and really forces people to think about what they want to get out of their training. Beyond that, there are direct martial principles that I integrate into my training. Shinken Shobu...conducting my training as if it literally were a life or death sword duel, for example. I find that training at as high an intensity level as possible (mentally as much as physically) prepares me for these combative attributes you seem to be seeking out. In our basic techniques we have Otoku, or a great resolving, where zanshin is continued connecting both partners as they go through a series of physical motions to 'keep their mind right.' This is done, when seriously, to a point where training partners are pretty much sweating from concentration and focus alone.
I like doing this with all aspects of my training, but it seems weapons really bring this out in people. In a seminar at the beginning of the month we did some weapons pairing between knife and sword. The variable distance, presence of potential danger, and need for the knife wielder to take what would be extraordinary risk (in a real life situation) in order to have a chance at defeating the swordsman all cumulate to a mental and spiritual training needed for any combative situation. At the beginning of the morning session, people were timid and more or less going through the motions as they were unfamiliar with the particular movements. But once they started to become more familiar with them, they focused on the mental and spiritual aspects of the sword/knife exchanges. Before too long the intensity level of the dojo was so thick you could cut it with a knife (not necessarily fast, but incredibly focused). At the shodan level, we are just learning the basics of manipulating and controlling our own body...let alone someone else's. We have these basic ideas of techniques, but before too long it becomes time to have that above-mentioned familiarity with these technical aspects and focus on focus, intent, and the ferocious spiritual expression of this martial art. This kind of martial development are what make me feel prepared for dangerous situations....not how well I can throw or pin someone...but my mentality and ability to focus all of myself into what I am doing.
When going to mixed style seminars...my teacher (when he didn't need me for uke) would send me to be uke with non-aikido instructors (MMA fighter Dan Severen, Robin Gracie (Jr.?) for example). Obviously I wasn't going to attempt aikido techniques during a BJJ or MMA instructor's training session...I am going to perform what he is teaching. But it was noticeable I was willing to train at a dynamic level with whomever I was fortunate enough to have working with me at that moment.
Now I'm not trying to stroke my ego here....I'm quite junior myself as I've only been training in aikido around 10-11 years...so I too am just scratching the surface. But at the same time, I feel the most practical value I've received from my aikido training has nothing to do with what I can (or can't!) accomplish on the mat...or with my hands. For me it all has to do with spiritual growth, spiritual forging (there's a Japanese term for that...forgot it). In my humble opinion, personal strength and growth come from doing things that are difficult and with some element of risk. This is where the martial...the bu, in budo, come into play. Its a do, a way, of living through training. Whereas a jutsu is/was to a certain extent a means to an end (however a byproduct of any type of hard training can net these benefits...but it can also turn into egotism and narcism, which we are all familiar with. Anyway, a do should specifically focus on these concepts whereas jutsu doesn't necessarily have to, but often does).
I have never been in a fistfight in the mythical "street" that many speak of...at least not since high school (where I actually pulled off sudori and irimi tsuki...so I guess I didn't use fists that time)...but I have complete multiple combat deployments with the Marine Corps. I feel that my aikido training prepared me for that in ways that my military training did not...in the most useful ways to help me get through difficult situations (both combat and personal). My Marine training; small unit tactics, immediate action drills, CQB, weapons training, all helped with that physical or technical side I mentioned earlier...its the training that goes beyond the physical where perseverance through struggle is forged into the soul (this is what Shioda Sensei called Shugyo...more or less). Like the above-mentioned weapons pairing, or even toshu waza, the military training gave me the tools on the physical side...so I could ingrain and ignore those technical elements so that the fight could be directed with the mind and spirit.
I know this is sounding a little like fru fru fluffy uber spiritual intangible nonsense...and for that I apologize...I just wish you could feel the intense heat burning in my chest, just behind my eyes, and through every fiber of my being that is ignited just by speaking of such things. My (in)ability to articulate what I am feeling now, when in combat, and when on the mat does not do justice to the point/s I am trying to get across. Anyway, I guess my .02, in summation, is that ganseki otoshi or kaiten nage are not going to likely make you the terror of MMA circuits or a beast on the street. But these other levels of development that I have hopefully been speaking coherently about can be adapted to assist with satisfying those concerns. More practically, in my opinion, is that these concepts can be applied to every aspect of one's life. The goal of my journey in budo/aikido is to obtain a level of bliss, or happiness for no reason at all, and these are the training concepts that have been shown to me as the path to get there. With that, I will turn it over to someone much more qualified to speak of these things...my teacher, Kevin Blok Sensei. If anyone is interested he has a Pod Cast somewhere around this website if anyone is interested.
All the best, and I hope you find your Way, whatever that ends up being.