Re: How effective is aikido in self defense?
Hey Matthew, agree with your assessment, about awareness and actions to mitigate or avoid prior to. Very important things. I think that a lot of what we learn and spend time on especially in aikido is what Boyd would call the observation and orientation phase. By doing so, there is much we can learn about ourselves and others, and you are correct, I think for most things we will encounter, concentrating on increasing awareness of ourselves, others, the world around us...expanding our ability to perceive correctly and respond with action prior to an violentand physical encounter is going to be the best use of our time.
I also agree that if self defense it your main concern then their is time better spent learning other thing that can help us.
However, that does not mean we should throw up our hands and say that empty hand martial training is a waste of time all together. Given a correct, sound, and foundational practice, we can do much to improve our odds and in the process learn how to deal with increasingly shorter and shorter "loops" of decisions and action cycles. Having the right type of strength and skills and taking the appropriate actions even when things are extremely not going our way can turn one persons failure into another's success.
Plus the side effects of training in this manner inform the other side, which allows you to observe and orient much better I think. Good budo in my opininon works that way.