The "tool" people view the "way" people as vague, impractical and deluded; the "way" people view the "tool" people as blinkered, narrow-minded and deluded. I think they're both missing the point. It can be both -- ideally, it is both.
Not just "ideally," I think. The paradox of aikido is that we sincerely try to do violence to each other to study peace. If I'm uke striking shomen, it's my responsibility to try to clock tori--within the limits of their skill level of course, and a beginner will get clocked more gently than a senior student, but clocked nonetheless. The honest attack is my gift to tori because without it, nobody can practice anything.
Same on the other end, of course. As tori, if I'm not in a position where I'm at risk if I do nothing, I don't learn anything. Only by putting myself at risk and learning I can deal with it do I progress on both a martial and spiritual level. And those are not two things, but one.
And, of course, if I'm fooling myself about whether my technique is effective then I'm not schooling myself in reality but in a lie, and I learn nothing.
The martial arts of the samurai, who were by and large not wussies, I believe, all seem to return to the idea that you don't win by striving to win, that you affect others by remaining centered yourself, and therefore martial success depends on personal growth. Aikido's just a field for practicing that.