One of the most astounding facts in all the martial arts is that Aikido does not work well in combat. The reason this is astounding is because it is derived, to large degree, from Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu, which is one of the most combat ready arts in existence. Interestingly, it doesn’t take much to make Aikido into a formidable combat ready art.
To understand why the ‘Gentle Way’ is not good for the street one must understand the founder’s purpose. Morihei Uyeshiba, who designed the art, designed it around his enlightenment. This is to say that he designed it for people to love their neighbor.
In traditional aiki classes the attack is exactly prescribed, and they are designed to feed the flow, and therefore the ‘spirituality’ of the defender. What one should do is, after delivering a flowing attack designed to fit the technique, is apply an attack in a more ragged manner that is not designed to fit the flow. Thus, the defender must solve the problem of being attacked in more real terms.
If an attack is offered, say a lapel grab, with the arms straight out, one must explore that attack with the arms crooked. Further, the attack must be explored with the motion of the attack to left or right, or in conjunction with the movement of feet in any directions. Thus, the defender learns to not just go with the direction of the technique, but to make the flow work no matter which way the technique is flowing.
The procedure I am describing here is nothing more than exploring all the potentials of motion, and not just the politely described entry techniques of a Zen shaped art. This is the procedure we used in rough and tumble karate schools, and we managed to stay polite, and yet became aware to anything and everything that could happen in a real fight.