Re: The purpose of Aikido?
Look, every martial art is designed to train the spriit. Aikido is not alone in this. They all have hopes, through hard training, competition, etc of molding us into better people. Hard work has a tendency to do this on its own, it's good ole self discovery. So I think we can take that off the table when discussing the value and effectiveness of aikido.
I disagree with the notion that Aikido takes 10-20 years to become effective or useful or that one has to be a Shodan or higher before one can really apply it. That's not the Aikido I know at all, but I digress.
I also agree with the points Mark raised.
I tend to look at it from a sports perspective. Lets say you want to be good at Aikido. You want to be able to use it. So you go to the dojo five days per week for two hours per class. Realistically you're only training probably 40-60 minutes per day, maybe. So you're getting somewhere between 3-5 hours of training per week, of varying degrees of quality. Do you think a baseball or tennis player, or a golfer, would be any good if their only practice was when they were actually playing their sport? No, they go to the driving range or batting cages or work on their swings in a variety of ways all the time. How much is the average aikidoka working on their technique or more importantly, the things that REALLY power the techniques, off the mat? Very little. Most don't even have any exercises they could actually do on their own time. If they do, then you have to factor in whether or not they're doing them properly and with the proper mindset and intent. Doing the techniques well requires a body that works in a specific, coordinated way, just like baseball or tennis. With such sporadic training and no outside work, it probably does take 20 years to develop a body that works properly at all times, if you're lucky. So why not find things to work on that will make your aikido stronger and better when you're off the mat?