Sure they will, until the other monkey gets physical. What then?
Oh for God's sake, this isn't "my martial art is better then yours", this is "how do you get a fricking high black belt Dan rank when you can't even use what you leaned to defend yourself against a slap". The attacker doesn't have to be a martial artist, he can be just some guy of the street interested in training in your art and decides to test you to see if it's actually worth it. You do know the stories of how people challenged O'Sensei's students in the Kobukan and how they were dealt with?
Would a punch (tsuki, atemi) be considered Aikido?
It seems a lot of people have a quarrel with your basic understanding that the purpose of Aikido is only to build ability to defend yourself.
Of course Aikido is a budo. A budo should contain SOME element of martial intent. Otherwise it is simply not by definition a budo.
I follow you that long
I also agree that we sometimes come across senseis who teach the spiritual sides of aikido more than the martial. And sometimes they just don't put any effort into the martial aspect. it happens. And yes.. being able to avoid an attack and to some extent handle it would be something that we should never leave out of our focus.
And I have also seen my fair share of videos where it is likely that the aikido instructor have groomed his students into being overly sensitive to the little signals, and therefore they are falling left and right with the slightest indication of a punch or a body movement. This can be very refined and skill at an extreme level - but also a little dangerous if you start relying on uke being able to pick up on such slight signals. Most muggers will not.
So yes - let's agree that martial intent is and should be a very important corner stone in Aikido.
I do NOT agree that being able to win a combat with another person is a goal in Aikido, let alone a measure of quality in itself. Some people are natural fighters - others are not. Those that are not will have to train how to express their way of martial intent. Those that have agression, speed and the will to punch other people wil on the other hand need to work with other aspects of their practice before I am willing to call it Aikido.
This brings us back to your initial question: How does one get a high degree in Aikido while looking like a 4th kyu (I paraphrase)
There are several possible scenarios:
1) The sensei is actually really good - and in a very nice sync with his ukes so that most people are not able to see the intricate details. (This is likely not the case you are talking about)
2) The sensei is working intensely on other aspects than martial intent. Maybe one day this will grow into his/her training
3) The sensei is in a style of Aikido that is desperate to grow, and will get up in the ranks fast. Maybe just to build the organisation and keep the sensei proud and enthusiastic. Maybe in recongnition of a huge effort in other ways than on the mat. Building and running a dojo is actually hard work
4) the main sensei of the style is running a McDojo and sell the grades regardless of competence - yes.. it happens
5) the main sensei need to boost his rooster of medium dan grades to position him/herself for an 8th dan or similar. Yes this also happens. All Aikido organizations are exactly that... organizations. With at least some elements of politics, hidden agendas, small minded people, greedy people and psychophants.
So your questions is valid. But the way you wrote it was bound to tick some people off.
My best advice is to focus less on those incidents and just focus on your own training, and be open for other peoples interpretations so that you can add it to your own understanding and build the version of Aikidot that expresses you the best.
Oh... and yes.. atemi is very much Aikido. But the different interpretations of WHAT Atemi is, and HOW it relates to Aikido are incredible. Maybe even unique for each and everyone practicing.