Re: How effective is aikido in self defense?
I realise this is an old thread, but I wanted to write that I think martial arts are generally afforded too great a status for their role in self defence. The element of surprise is, to my mind, worth far more than a few years' training of any martial art of your choice. The greatest component of self defence, I believe, is one's awareness of dangerous situations and their ability to either avoid or extricate themselves from them. Given this, aikido is one of the more valuable practices because of its emphasis on zanshin.
If you find yourself in a violent altercation with a foe, most likely aikido's strongest assets have already failed - that is, the mindset to allow you to avoid such a situation. Once this happens, this is where cross-training may benefit you. The techniques practised in aikido are not what makes aikido aikido - it is the intention and philosophy they embody. The techniques learnt in aikido, once having reached this violent situation, may or may not be of benefit to you, depending on your technical proficiency. I tend to believe that technical proficiency in aikido to practical levels is harder to achieve than in other arts, so this is not one of its strong points. So my thoughts on the matter are that one should practise arts that have the strengths that are being looked for by the practitioner, because a person would be hard-pressed to find an art that is good at everything.