Jason,I agree with you. One analogy my teacher often uses is that of Shakyamuni Buddha and Fudo-Myo, the fierce one, who with his sword cuts through delusion and with his rope binds passions. Seeing the image of the smiling, serene Buddha, we generally forget that this serenity was achieved only after 6 long and arduous years of deep shugyo, and it was likely accompanied by the goading of Fudo-Myo.
The corollary in Aikido, to me, is clear. One can only build an "evolved, ki-no nagare" Aikido on a solid foundation. Absent hard, fierce training, I believe it is likely one's Aikido may become what many of its detractors say it is - a stylized dance.