With that said, I'm curious as to what kinds of cultivating methods are out there, what they teach, what they do, and why
So I'd love some feedback on those things.
As for the final question: what practice has benefitted you personally
? What things should I look out for? What things should I experiment with and seek out, in your opinion? And, of course, why
Now, I realize this may be a bit much to answer, so feel free to leave out whatever question you want...
...except for the 'why'-questions
I'd say those are more than essential
As to which methods are out there, you will see seminar announcements within this forum. From my personal experience either with the people putting on the seminars, or from some of their students, there is a reasonable amount of similarity between each approach, that is to say that someone who attends one seminar will recognize elements in anothers material despite differences in exercises or focus. Its probably best to stick with one particular approach, at least initially than try them all out. That being said, after putting in some time, attending seminars by other people has filled in some things which I might have missed or heard before, but misunderstood.
What they all do is teach how to move and use the the body in a non-intuitive manner. This will make you feel different not only to yourself but to other people. This is not inherently or initially better (due to the effort required and level needed to pull some of it off), but different. As for the why, well once you are different enough, other people will have a difficult time dealing without because your movement and feeling is outside their frame of reference.
As for what I got out of it all, well like others have said, "My eyes were opened to budo." I understood what the various foundational exercises I had preformed over the years and thought were not particularly useful or realistic were intended to train. I had a better idea of what I thought was philosophy was actually referring to specific sensations. This in turn lead to better performance in terms of both "strength", endurance and the ability to off-balance people or pressure them from positions in which they feel strong.
For example, in BJJ I might still get submitted by a higher ranked opponent with superior technique, but they are much more winded than I am which creates opportunities for me, or I can put power back into them from places I would be considered weak or not particularly dangerous for them and regain an advantage. The same applies to kendo or karate as well.