I agree that anyone reaching shodan should be able to defend themselves at a very competent level. If they cannot, I don't feel they deserve the rank, regardless of time spent. You don't have to be in marathon runner condition but Aikido is a martial art and it's prime purpose was and is self defense. You may not practice your technique in a way that will allow it to be there for you in a confrontation, which is fine and good and I respect that decision, but you also don't need to wear the rank of Shodan in the dojo. The main reason being is that most people come to aikido because it's a method of self-defense, albeit with a twist. the self defense part is still what draws most people. And those people are going to look to the higher ranks for instruction. Then you give people the opportunity to teach technique that doesn't work for them, which in turn means that it probably will not work for the student and this is why Aikido has picked up a bad name. Regardless of what style of aikido you train in, it's our responsibility to make sure that Aikido propogates the way O'sensei wanted it to propogate and he ALWAYS intended for it to be a viable, working martial art.
(note, this was not directed at any one poster on this thread, just an in general post of my own and my feelings on the matter)
I think you might want to peruse the poll dated on 4-29 before you state that Self-defense is the main reason why people train in aikido. I will also direct you to read Donn Draeger's triology (modern Budo, Classical Budo, Classical Bujutsu) to understnad that the main goals of most modern Budo's (aikido inclusive) is the refinement of the character, self-perfection. Self-defense practicality against shotguns and pistols was probably quite low on the list. Shodan means beginning step, this does not make them an expert in any way whatsoever. Especially at a "very competent level". We can't possilby train for every possible contingency that could occur. Nor would I want someone thinking they could handle themselves with a pistol toting assailant after spending a few classes doing pistol disarms(I am using this as an example) If you think an aikidoka even at nidan/sandan level could take a sword away from a equally ranked swordsman you are delusional. O'sensei did not want a bralwer win at all costs attitude, in fact he was particular moved about how paranoid and shaken Takeda was about his numerous victories and the spiritual loss he had suffered accordingly.