I've found in my aikido training that it is not an effective martial art to counter real life threats. Let's face it, there's no way to predict how an opponent will attack. All this "sensing ki in your opponent" is a load of b.s. The enemy is not going to attack shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, mune tsuki, kata dori, katate dori, ryote dori, or kosa dori. Your enemy is going to attack in a quick, unpredictable manner which probably doesn't set the aikidoka up for any functional counters. Even if the aikidoka manages to lock the opponent in nikyo, sankyo, or kote gaeshi, the enemy will simply take the pain of countering the technique, not merely submiss. Fists will be flailing, elbows flying, and shoes kicking.
Having this outlook on the lack of combat effectiveness of aikido, I practice the art for its positive spiritual nature, the friends, the peaceful yet strong philosophy, and the sheer fun of countering idealized attacks with locks, pins, and throws. Besides, the fact of the matter is, I will never be involved in a dangerous physical confrontation (as long as I keep my wife happy).
This posting shows a complete misunderstanding of what Aikido is as a martial art. Based on the understanding level of you would be correct that your Aikido wouldn't be combat effective and that it wouldn't work.
Aikido like this is simply a form of dance and frankly I can't see why anyone would bother. Contact Improvisation is a better form of Aiki dance than Aikido is.
Of course your enemy won't attack with a formalized attack as we practice in our basics. But no matter what style of fighting he will come at you with impact techniques that are either linear, come from off the line, involve falling energy, or utilize grabbing. The basics of Aikido practice prepare you to understand how that works but it does not specifically prepare you to apply these principles. Application requires a different type of practice.
When you say that you do not know how an attacker is going to attack you are correct. That's why in classical style Aikido the defender didn't wait for the attack but initiated. The whole basis of Aikido is about moving to the center; in fighting it involves striking the center. Technique is created by the interaction between the two opponents at the instant they come together. I can effect how my opponent moves using my own movement, that starts to create the technique that will occur. It is the use of atemi that creates the opportunity to apply a technique such as a lock or throw. You don't decide before hand what technique you are going to do.
Yes it is true that in combat you are not going to see locking techniques used the same way that we do them in the dojo. In the dojo we are trying quite hard not to hurt our partner. When these techniques are applied in a more combat oriented manner they are designed to create dysfunction not get someone to submit. This is not the UFC in which a lock is designed to create enough pain to get an opponent to tap out. In combat these locks are designed as an attack on a joint but more importantly, as a way to unbalance the attacker presenting an opportunity for additional atemi. Nicky would only be applied after an atemi had created the opportunity. When the nikkyo breaks the balance of the attacker it is to bring him down right into a rising knee strike to the head.
Aikido is an art that people have used for fighting. Many of the interviews with the Sensei's from the prewar era that Stan Pranin conducted for Aikido Journal talk about their experiences fighting. The fact that Aikido has degenerated and is often practiced and even taught by people who have had no experience with practicing applied technique isn't the fault of the art.
A while back I had some friends bring a guest to the dojo. He was a karate student whose teacher had told him not to bother about Aikido because "that stuff doesn't work". When he left the dojo he was asking about where he might train in his own town. I don't think he had much trouble seeing what would work.
Here I have been speaking on the mechanical side of things. When you say that the Ki stuff is just BS you exhibit a lack of understanding that comes from inexperience. It isn't just Aikido that talks about these issues. Every Asian martial art has these elements at the highest level of practice. It is true that you can't get to that kind of level in five, ten or fifteen years of practice. But there are innumerable accounts of people who have experienced precisely that type of interaction throughout the history of martial encounter.
[Edited by George S. Ledyard on December 1, 2000 at 07:37am]