Dojo: Yamashina dojo, Kyoto and others
Join Date: Sep 2015
Re: The purpose of Aikido?
Ah yes, the question of Aikido's "street effectiveness" again. It's a complex one.
There is a lot involved in self-defence, and much of it is psychological. Do you radiate confidence? Are you able to resolve a situation in its preliminary stage, without anybody getting hurt? Such will go a long way in keeping you and others safe. And yes, ideally, "the way of harmony" will enhance your skills in this regard.
But of course, people asking this question usually want to know what happens when the proverbial shit hits the fan. Well, as far as all-round self-defence training is concerned, Aikido does have a number of problems. I will outline only two of them here; let's call them "beginning and end".
Attacks in Aikido are not realistic
In a real altercation, when people grab you, this will often be immediately followed by a punch, knee, head butt, or violent push. And they certainly won't keep holding on to your wrist forever, allowing you to do a nice ikkyo on them! Some folks will maintain that this is just the way we practice; it's for getting proper body mechanics down, and so fourth. But take my word for it, in a real situation, you will fight the way you have trained! No time to think, you will simply do what comes most naturally to you: What you have ingrained in your subconscious mind by countless repetitions. So if you want to be functional, better make sure that your training is functional - right from the start.
When real world attackers strike, it will most often take the form of a roundhouse punch delivered with the hand that is further away from you. I have heard people say they could defend against it the way they defend against a yokomen-uchi, but that's quite a different kind of attack. So again, if you want to be able to handle a wild 'haymaker', by all means, have them thrown at you in your training. How about using protective gear to make your training more realistic?
Not to mention weapon attacks. No knife fighter will be idiotic enough to 'step through' with a hyper-extended thrust, allowing you to do your neat tenkan evasion, followed by a kote-gaeshi. A series of stabs from close distance is much more likely. Or, if they have been influenced by a Filipino or Indonesian style, they might come at you drawing tight curves with the knife that you will quickly happen to be in the way of. How are you going to deal with that?
Finishes in Aikido are not realistic
In fairness, that depends on the situation. Sometimes, that submission armlock is in fact all it takes to resolve a situation - especially, if the situation is not that serious, or you can rely on quick help from others. But consider what you would do if that were not the case. You can't hold an aggressor down indefinitely. Plus, once he signals that he is in pain, you will likely release the hold, simply because that's what you have been training countless times. He might even go: "I give up, man!" - and you will believe it because you have only been dealing with nice, cooperative people so far...
Let's not forget, on the street (or in a bar), aggressor often have buddies. So there you are, safely pinning your opponent to the floor, while his friend demonstrates to you the effect of a whiskey bottle when used "externally".
Sure, we have our atemis. I have met advanced practitioners seriously claiming that their totally untrained uppercut would surely knock out an aggressor, and their yokomen-uchi delivered to the side of the neck would kill them! Well, practitioners of the various striking arts work long and hard to achieve that kind of effectiveness, using various kind of equipment. Surely, they must be doing it all wrong...
So, in conclusion, yes, Aikido principles and techniques can be part of your self-defence art repertory, but only if they are trained as such, which means, with attacks that are as realistic as it gets, done as effectively as possible with speed and power, and supplemented by techniques and training methods used in other arts.