My vote was for "not very important", but for the same reason as others who had the same vote of previously stated.
Self Defense is not what brings me back to class day after day. I train with intent and believe that my Aikido "works" and can be used in a self-defense situation, but *I* train for balance, focus, concentration and because Aikido is really, really cool. I like the people, too.
The self-defence part is there, but not very important to my training since other than avoiding dangerous parts of town I have never needed to worry about it.
Or maybe I just want to be like Chida Sensei and be interested in the principles, but lethal if push came to shove
Speaking of Chida Sensei...he was teaching a class in "self defence" one day and there was the big cop who was a sandan (maybe nidan?) in Judo and this other cop couldn't turn him over from his back to his stomach, so he could tie up the hands. He asked Chida Sensei what to do. Chida Sensei looked down at the cop on the mat, grabbed both his ears and twisted his head over. As you might expect the cop screamed and instantly flipped on to his stomach. That wasn't anything anyone had ever shown *me* previously in my Aikido training, but there were certainly Aikido principles involved...This might actually have been the year before or after AWP...not really sure now.