George S. Ledyard
I don't really know how to advise the average Aikido student who wants to take his Aikido to a different level. I do not anticipate that you'll get much support from your community. I also don't think that going off on ytour own and working in your garage going exercises given you by a teacher you see twice a year will do anything terribly worth while. You are going to have to move. Sorry.
Just wanted to make a personal observation on this.
I'm doing the distance training thing and it's working. It isn't as fast or as nice as being there every week, but it's working well enough that I see decent progress. I'm a 10 hour drive (each way) away. That's probably way more than most people would drive, but it gives people an indication of a distance that's working.
Money. Sheesh, it's like the movie, The Money Pit. Training just sucks it up. Time, distance, and money are all factors. I'm probably unique in that, so far, I've had all three. Not in abundance, but enough to keep me progressing.
You are right about 2/year, though. I think you'd have to make, at a minimum, 4 trips a year to progress satisfactorily.
But, now the good news. IT is spreading.
So, you may not have to go as far in the coming years. I know that anyone in my area is more than welcome to come train with me. I've trained two people up to my skill level and a third is progressing nicely. We're by no means great at this stuff, but we have a proven track record of advancement. Having a genius of a teacher helps.
Anyway, I think in the coming years, there will be quite a few places spread out in the US that will have IT methods. I can think of NY, OH, PA, DC as examples off the top of my head. But as you note, the interim is going to be tough.