Re: Aikido as an actual Martial Art
If you want to understand how to "use" Aikido as a martial art, you'll first have to understand what Aikido is teaching martially. That is to say, what is Aikido's context. Not all martial arts have the same context, and if you want to "use" a martial art you'll have to first understand what kinds of problems it's context is addressing.
Second, you'll have to train Aikido in an alive manner. You'll have to find a kind of active resistance training to practice your Aikido techniques within their proper context.
If you want to come to California, we do this at my Dojo. And we have an Uchi Deshi program. If you're interested you can find all you're asking about here in Fresno.
Best of luck, whatever path you choose!