My answer to the big question..
This is my first day on this board and I see the old question being asked over and over "does Aikido work on the street?". Well I've read all the responses and I haven't seen any which share my view on the matter:
YES unequivocally and without doubt Aikido is THE most practical and effective martial art being taught today. Here's why:
Because O Sensei was a genius. While Aikido had it's roots in Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu and Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, as he progressed in his discovery of the Way, he moved farther and farther from those roots, until only the most basic form remained. This is what makes Akido a Do instead of a Jutsu, and this is why it became the straightest path to Budo. (even Jigoro Kano said so). What O Sensei did, his special genius, was that he used the form of the killing arts to develop a way of training which teaches the LANGUAGE of aggression in a distilled and incredibly efficient manner. The katas we perform in class are not martial arts techniques, which is why people look at them and say they are ineffective on the street. They are exercises intended to teach us the rules of aggression. How it looks, feels, how two bodies interact in a space, the flow of energies, balance, etc. It is the difference between learning a language by memorizing phrase books or by studying the principles, rules, phonemes, etc. of the language. The latter results in fluency. The former does not.
Seeing a conflict between people as a dialogue and the language used in that dialogue is aggression, I will draw a parallel with learning a spoken language. Take french for example. The students sit in class and practice conversing in french. "Hello" one says. The other responds "Hello, how are you?" The first responds "I am well." Now that student goes to France. He walks up to someone and says "Hello." The other person responds. "Beautiful day, isn't it? How may I help you?" Uh-oh, the student hasn't learned that question or it's response, and can not answer. "hmm" he thinks "I guess french works great in the classroom, but it's not effective on the street" That's EXACTLY what people keep doing with Aikido.
The aim of Aikido, and it's special genius, is that by performing the techniques as O Sensei intended with sincerity and dilligence, one will learn the principles of aggression. As one masters the basics, the exercises become less and less staged and more chaotic, "conversational" if you will. Eventually, as with a spoken language, the goal is for the practice to become free and without set forms. Just as with a spoken language, this will lead to fluency. Since all aggression works according to the same rules, be it verbal, financial, whatever, one who is fluent in the language of aggression, can apply Aikido equally well in any conflict. This would be effective even against a man 20 feet away with a machine gun. If you can speak to him or engage his mind in any way, you can use Aikido. What could possibly be more effective or practical than that?
Yes you can reach this level of mastery through any martial art if you approach it seriously as a path to Budo, But Aikido is the straightest, clearest route, because O Sensei made it so over a lifetime of practice.