Re: The Way of Aiki
Yes, I believe aiki is real and reproduce-able. I think the origins of aikido contained aiki exercises that have been revised and diminished in their fertility to produce aiki. I think here in the States there are several instructors who possess aiki and a willingness to share it. Most of these people are in various stages of sophistication in the dissemination of what they know and I am excited to see what they will be doing in 5 years.
As the foundation of my beliefs above, I see this largely as an argument of dissemination methodology and a comparison of success as it relates to creating a succession of reproduce-able skills.
For Westerners, I think the Eastern neo-traditional style of dissemination is perceived as unsuccessful. I think this perception is largely based upon the duration of the "learning curve", which is many years under good tutelage and can be decades (if ever). That don't fly around here. From that perspective, Eastern-style (steal the technique) dissemination in the West struggles to produce students simply by attrition. Unless you start aikido at <30, you will likely die before you reach a point of self-proclaimed efficiency.
For me, I respond to study and Western education more than the Eastern style of kata and practice. I respect the tradition of dissemination, but I am looking to shorten the learning curve and retain as much of the budo as possible. But I got a (w/l)ife, kids and a job; aikido sits priority 3 or 4 tops right now and I need something less than 30 years of training. In this effort, I am looking to instructors who I respect and asking for help - I have yet to be told no. From that pro-action, I am trying to shut up and listen. This has turned into a bastardized style of inheritance; as I like to say, a buffet-style of picking out what I think is relevant. The danger here is to keep that inheritance for damaging curriculum, which is a real problem.
I think there are aikido people who several years ago reached out to sister arts to recover some of the fertility of aiki training in aikido. These people are now in the process of re-invigorating their instruction and I have yet to me one who has been resistant to sharing their experience. I think there are people in sister arts who have reached out to aikido to share their experience. The only people that have expressed prejudice and close-mindedness throughout my experience are in aikido.
Shameless plugs here, but Aikido South is going to have George Ledyard in December and Dan Harden in January. Come down and grab these guys. They are open, honest, concise and composed. I think understanding what is going (with these guys) on is a great perspective from which to craft constructive criticism.