Re: How long does it really take?
I think the difference between "us" and "them" as to why their advancement is quick is priority, dedication and the intense search for understanding what aiki truly is.
AIkido and martial arts in general is their livelihood. They live and breathe aikido. We have day jobs, family, kids, other priorities.
I believe anybody can attain their skill if we had aikido as our livelihood and have the right intentions. This also holds for other endeavors as well. I also believe aiki is inherent in everybody but that somebody just needs to draw it out of us since Aiki is the invention of nature.
Unlike any other martial arts that I have tried which aims for perfection, what has drawn me to aikido is the search. IMHO, for aikido, it is not the search for perfection of techniques but the search for what true aiki is. I am challenged by what I do not understand.
If you are going to search anyway, then why not dedicate a lifetime seeking "it"? I do not mind the time spent no matter how long it will take since in the end I feel it would be a worthy exercise.
For me it is not the instant gratification that I can apply aikido to a real fight situation and win but of what I am really capable of once I scratch the surface in understanding what true aiki really is.