Re: The purpose of Aikido?
First off, hats off to Mark for raising such thought provoking questions. I myself must be a resident of that mentioned Fantasy Land, because at the club I bounce at, I deal weekly with the Urban Social Miscreant (tm)- and while the occasional meteor has yet to fall from the sky, the occasional broken bottle, pool cue or pocket knife is not unheard of. While most can simply "avoid such a silly situation", as a worker in the mythical "street", I don't have that luxury, and my art needs to be on point.
Secondly, I think that aikido has a lot to offer everyone. Most martial arts are all about being the 'best', while aikido challenges us to be 'better' and allows us to define what that means. It can attract a wide range of students, from the young brawler to the elder spiritualist. And each can take away something different. Methods vary from dojo to dojo, across styles and organizations, but the student that wants to stick with this art needs to find out what they are looking for. And find a dojo that addresses that need. If you are looking for martial efficiency, seek out a dojo that teaches the budo. If you seek spirituality, likewise seek a dojo that addresses that need. Too often we look at others in the dojo and think "They are not effective", or "I hope they don't get into a fight - they'd lose horribly". I fell into this trap myself. But what we don't get to see on the mat is what the person takes away from the training. Each of us wants something different - the teaching of aikido isn't just how to fight, but how to fulfill our need and respect others as they also seek what they need. I was told that we start by working together on the mat, and by that we learn to work together off the mat. It was hard to see - but I understand much better now.