Learning Aikido to be able to defend your self is good, but it is not the whole story. Self defense is a secondary result of Aikido. The primary result of Aikido is your personal development.
Hi Rob, I respect your thoughts, and I think your right for some people, but for me this isn't true, and is quite the opposite. This may be because Japan might not be an aggressive society like America is.
Aikido is for self defense first. For me, I'm not as eager to get in a fight as I used to be, because I know how serious one can get hurt, and I'm a lot older and wiser than I used to be. This can be seen as personal development, but it's only a by product of my training, not the focus of it.
I come from a Punk-Rock background, and was really put off by all the philosophical, religious and political things that have been crammed down my throat as a kid. So my views are still rather cut and dry on most matters. Once I hear the buzzwords of spirituality etc. my bull$h!+ detector goes off.
I have seen aikido packaged as many things like, spiritual, cardio, self-defense, classical, true budo, etc. etc. but it all comes down to that if you are attacked in a parking garage, no amount of spiritual essence given to you by your instructor will help you out, but the fast reactions and good technique you learn will.
I do see a few aikidoka who seem to not share my views and think aikido is some sort of spiritual endeavor, and that's cool, but I don't see it that way. It might indirectly happen, but it's on a subconscious level.
I've know some painters that paint and think it's a spiritual event. They might have gotten this idea from their teacher, but for me I want my teacher to show me the painting techniques and tools, and let me take it from there.