I just wanted to get your views/experiences on what it takes to really excel in Aikido. There are only a select few who really do excellent aikido while I guess majority of us do not know (YET) what it takes to become an expert, even though we're training for decades.
Although we have the adage "practice makes perfect", I don't think this is enough IMHO. There must be some other ingredients to complete the "recipe".
The few can be fortunate enough to find what they are seeking in their lifetime but most would search and search but always lead to a deadend.
First, you need an excellent teacher. It's like any activity, if you want to get to the top level, you need a top level teacher or coach. Additionally, that teacher needs to have decided that his or her dojo is a place designed to take students to excellence. This is not a given. VERY few dojos I have seen look likely to produce any students who are as good as their teacher. If a dojo is set up to maximize the number of students, if the primary concern is to make Aikido accessible to the widest possible group of participants, it will not be a place which will produce top level practitioners. The two concerns are pretty much mutually exclusive, in my experience.
The teacher needs to be a good "teacher". There are a number of very skilled people who are not terribly good (understatement) at passing on what they know. The idea that simply practicing will will get you there is wrong and that can be seen quite easily by looking around at all the folks who have put in all this effort and time and money all these years and aren't very good. Only training correctly will result in excellence for most folks. The "geniuses" who made it without good methodology are rare and do not rep[resent a model for the rest of us.
Then you have to train like crazy. Everyone I know of who is truly excellent spent some substantial period of time training every day. In an earlier thread there was a discussion of "how much is enough?" I made a number of people upset by stating that, in my opinion, the average adult needs to train AT LEAST three times a week to become competent. That's competent, not excellent. Excellent requires almost every day. People who have done an uchi deshi
program have not only done every day but have done multiple classes each day.
You have to really want it. Aikido will have to be a primary focus of your life. In my own case, I had a demanding job, a family, and my Aikido. I did not feel I could do a good job on all three. So I combined my job with my training. That has been barely enough.
It is important to "get out" and train with people from outside your immediate circle. Set styles or slavish devotion to a single teacher seldom produces anything really top level, although it might produce a good "stylist".