This is a fairly old topic but I thought I would give my two cents on this subject. It's seems you walked away from Aikido for the same reason several other's have in the past and for the same reason that seems to be claiming more practitioners as we speak. I would like to think I understand where you are coming from because I have had much of the same type of journey. I started practicing back around 97' and really enjoyed the beginning of my training spending 5-6 days per week in the Dojo. However as you pointed out, after some time I began to question the validity and practicality of what was being taught and of course asked myself the million dollar question, would this ever really work? Would what I was being taught actually work in a physical altercation outside of the Dojo?
During my journey I have had the opportunity to practice with several different teachers and in a few different styles and In my opinion (and thats all it is) not all styles of Aikido are created equal. In my search I have come across some styles and teachers who of course have a rather large false since of security (and worse) that teach just plain passive BS and then stroke their own ego by claiming it would work. They have their black belt and hakama and they are on the job and unfortunately, these are the same people that have probably never been in a physical altercation in their lives.
Without sounding like a complete pompous ass here, they seem to think that the passive BS they have been practicing is going to actually get them out of a situation that has turned physical because their verbal deescalation techniques or worse yet their "In Aikido we don't believe in fighting" escape tactic didn't fix the issue. They seem to think that out in the street their beautiful techniques that they display in the dojo while their students are in awe and taking falls for them is going to actually work. As a former police officer, I can tell you unfortunately in the real world, that isn't at all how this game is played and all those beautiful techniques are going to get you monkey stomped, folded up, stuffed in a box and mailed back to your momma before you even know what happened.
I completely understand that there are many reasons that people practice Aikido and they are all wonderful, legitimate reasons. However, where I have an issue is when people are told that what they are being taught is self defense when that couldn't be further from the truth. If you want to train the mind, body and spirit, I don't think there is a style of Aikido that can't take you on that journey with wonderful results. However if you are training for martial or practical reasons, I think you need to seriously stop and look at what and how it is being taught. Of course we always get the, well there isn't really that much difference between all the different styles being taught, Well I beg to differ and having had the opportunity to try a few different styles can again tell you (in my opinion) that is not the case. Tenshin Aikido is by far the most Practical style of Aikido that I have ever had the pleasure of training in and I really think that you would have found what you were looking for. Whats the old saying, "rather than spending ten years of arduous training with one teacher, spend ten years to find the right teacher."
I remember the first time I ever experienced Tenshin Aikido. We were training and lucky enough to have a couple of visitors from the Los Angeles area on business that decided to practice with us during their stay. To make a long story short this gentleman and his son where like dealing with badgers in a sack! They were so fast, efficient and powerful that you were on the mat looking at the ceiling before you even knew what happened. I had the opportunity to talk with the father after one of our classes where I asked about their approach and techniques. It was brought to my attention that they both were students of not only Tenshin Aikido but direct students of Matsuoka Sensei.
Of course I immediately began researching and looking for a Tenshin school but quickly realized that there were very few of them around and I just wasn't able to get to one of them. It took many years for me to finally get to the Tenshin instructor and school where I am at now and I wish I would have been able to train there with him from the start. It's funny because I remember leaving the school where I was training at the time and the head of the school asked what style I was leaving for. When I replied Tenshin, he quickly made the comment, "I've trained with Seagal and Matsuoka and all that their type of Aikido is going to teach you is how to get you a lawsuit"!
It took a minute for my brain to register what had just been said and I really wanted to ask him, did you just strain every muscle in your head making that comment? What does that even mean? Does it mean I should I stay here with you and learn techniques that don't have a snowballs chance in hell of ever working because with all due respect thats just about all this style teaches! I mean I get the whole idea behind "only use the amount of force needed to put a stop the situation" but come on!
Last time I checked we have four very simple rules, do not get grabbed, punched, kicked or taken to the ground and with very few exceptions, just about everything your style of Aikido teaches allows one or more of those four things to happen readily. Ok, I'm done with my rant but at least I said what I needed to and hopefully you realize you are not alone in this struggle. It's frustrating my friend to hear that you have made the commitment and reached a level that you should be proud of only to hear you say you are walking away because you don't believe in what you have learned. Whats worse is that it wasn't the art that failed you when in fact it was the way you where led to believe it was something it wasn't. If you are still around and practicing consider looking into Tenshin Aikido. I truly think you would be happy and would continue your great journey with a since of accomplishment for your particular set of goals.