Mark Freeman sensei (or Mike Haft sensei or any Ki-affiliated sempai/sensei),
Could you describe how your skills developed? Like, first you felt like this, then eventually you felt like that... Sorry, vague question, I know.
But it's helpful for us newbies who currently see the path ahead as:
1) Year 1: Do aikido waza and ki-development exercises as relaxed and correctly as possible while listening to sensei, keeping in mind the 4 principles.
3) Year 10-20: You can now redirect force back to your attacker just by thinking about it.
How did my skills ( such as they are ) develop? Simple, I kept on turning up and diligently tried to do what I was being shown/told to do by my teacher. In the beginning I felt stiff, awkward and pretty un co-ordinated, but over time, this has been replaced with a better more solid feeling in everything I do (not just aikido).
The most important part of the training equation is the teacher, if they can really walk the walk and teach how they do it effectively, you have a chance of learning from them how to do it yourself. But this is not guaranteed as the student has their own demons to conquer. To counter full on force with total non-dissention is no easy task.
My advice is to:
Year 1: Do aikido waza and ki-development exercises as relaxed and correctly as possible while listening to sensei, keeping in mind the 4 principles.
keep doing this for every year that you practice.
At some point teach what you know to others.
Then at some point you may be able to redirect your attackers force back to him by using your total mind body co-ordination. It is not right to think that it is done by 'just thinking about it'
Good luck with your training, if you want it bad enough you can have it. There is nothing superhuman about all this, just correct application of the art.
p.s. please no 'sensei', I am only sensei to my own students, to everyone else I'm Mark ( to thankfully very few, I'm "that miserable old git"