Perhaps the tide is changing.
When I first started Aikido (in the late 90's) the prevalent idea in the world of martial arts, was that martial arts came from Japan or China- oh, there were some martial arts from Korea, but mostly Japan or China. All martial arts required you to wear a special costume, and observe special unusual customs (taking off shoes, bowing, saying strange words). This was to be expected if you wanted to learn a martial art.
As time when on, things like MMA, other cultural martial arts (South American, European, and North American), and "reality based self defense" became more widely know, and popular. This changed the way people felt about learning a martial art- or learning to "take care of yourself".
When I started our Aikido school was very large, it was the largest martial art school in Fresno (pop. 500,000), and had a thriving student base. I left this school, moved and trained in other martial arts (MMA, South American, North American and European martial arts). When I returned to become Dojo Cho of the same Aikido school I started in, the school was much smaller. There were hardly and Udansha left, and practice was much more "humble". I attacked the school with my usual excitement, and we now have a very full schedule, there are more "skirts" on the mat, attendance is way up, and things are going well. I've had to work pretty hard, but I love Aikido.
At the beginning of the year, I decided that I would like to share some of the other martial arts I've done. So I started a "self defense class". It doesn't teach to any one system, but offers an general view of many aspects of martial arts training: striking, ground grappling, stand up grappling, multiple attackers, weapon use, weapon taking etc.. We wear normal "street cloths", we don't bow into class, I don't have them say "onegaishimasu" or anything else to each other before or after they work together- it's really laid back. This class has been a huge success from the start, it's all ways full. People are always laughing and having the best time during class, and after people hang around more and talk with each other more then I see after regular keiko.
These are all people who have been doing Aikido for some time. Most of them have several years of Aikido training. But they all seem more comfortable and eager to learn in a more relaxed "modern" martial arts environment. It's really strange to me, but it reminds me of how the Dojo used to feel after Aikido class back in the late 90's early 00's. When I advertise Aikido, I don't get much response from the community, but advertising the "self-defense" class has already had a better response.
It really makes me wonder how I should be structuring my class schedule...