I've been training for less than a year in aikido. I've found that my previous experiences and training have allowed me to grasp techniques and concepts relatively quick. I expected some form of benefit, at least, since I've studied how martial arts work from a ground level up, but not that great a synthesis. My thoughts on aikido at this point is basically that there are several compound locks used and favored, whereas I started with single directional locks for isolation and destruction from a theoretical and learning perspective. I was told there were compound and hybrid leverages when it came to the joints, such as combining a throw with a joint lock or vice a versa (that is the basic sankyou), but I hadn't yet begun training in it. Until Aikido that is, which started me off with nikyo, ikkyo, sankyo. The muscle memory is a bit complicated. Not difficult to learn after I've gone through it about a dozen times. I always push myself to improve after each repetition. So the first time may be confusing and not much good for training, but the second time has to show definitive improvement and a stronger grasp of the image or movement. As the movements become more complex and longer, I expect the learning curve to increase. At the same time, I am already looking to see how I can modify aikido techniques to use if I was actually planning on using them to achieve a goal other than training or demonstration. I cannot duplicate aikido's technique base 100%, so I don't plan to. Instead I simplify the movements, improve the leverage using body weight instead of wrist locking or using small joint manipulation grips instead, and plan on using the opponent's spinal reaction to injurious strikes to start them on the roll. Until I do some tests or see someone's skill, I can't really say whether they can or cannot use aikido for anything. Some people can copy techniques very easily, but do so without a mental conception of the context to which a technique can be used for. Thus they won't freeze when repeating a technique the same way they have done in the dojo, but they would likely freeze when confronted with a strange or disturbing situation and they had to adapt the technique use to an environment they weren't familiar with. These things cannot be detected by looking at the years a person has been in training or what rank they are. Even muscle memory is of no use, if the brain becomes incapable of making decisions at all. As well trained soldiers can attest to, when they go into battle the first time and their brain freezes for a few moments, even though they have trained very hard for just that moment. Their body knows what to do, but their brain is lost for a time. And their body will only follow the brain, where the mind goes first. Sorta like where the head goes, the body must follow. Only when the mind has reached a location, will the body be able to reach it as well. I don't subscribe to Morihei Ueshiba's philosophical focus of love and peace in Aikido. My school also prefers a more martial interpretation of such things, generally speaking, so we are agreed on this matter. More specifically, aikido hasn't prioritized striking in their training so it has lost a few things. For one thing, atemi isn't to soften someone up. It's to destroy vital anatomical targets so that the target is "FORCED" to move as the spine makes a reflex action, something totally independent of "pain" or "it hurts" or "will". ISDS once asked a question about whether people were exaggerating the effects of the kick to the balls vs a man. I replied that I wouldn't count on the pain or the knockdown. I would use it simply to change the man's body structure, setting him up for a broken ankle or a broken head. Because the posture where a person has been kicked in the balls, is momentary, but it is just enough time for me to lock in a technique to do those things. And if I was really coordinated, I could break his ankle while I threw him, break the neck, and then generate a concussion as his head hits the concrete. Now that's efficiency and what "atemi", in my view, is supposed to help achieve. So when I strike, I do not think of "softening up" a person or making them "react to pain" or making them less resistant to a throw or lock. The first thing in mind is to destroy his body or brain. Secondly, it is to take advantage of his inability to defend himself to then throw him or lock his joints to destruction. This is what I train with in mind when doing aikido. Even if we don't do strikes or the strikes we do are weak karate chops to god knows where (probably the neck, as that'd be about the only vulnerable target for a up to down chop with the knife hand. That's never mentioned btw), I always keep in mind what I can setup and what can be done given the circumstances.