IME, if you get good instruction and feedback, it should -not- take many years to develop basic or rudimentary skills. I've seen people start to be able to "do stuff" within 6 months, under the right teacher.
Yes, you have to practice, and practice mindfully. And, there are infinite layers of skill that we'll spend the rest of our lives striving for as we refine and build on what we have. But that is not the same thing as being given the tools at the outset to start building your foundation. If it took years and years to get a foundation in, we'd all be living in grass huts.
As far as I have experienced it, I'm with Cady.
Independent of what I myself can or can't do, the young fellow I have felt earlier this year was able to use this stuff on whatever came up. Push hands, Aikido waza, Aiki-Age, Bokken, Jo, what have you. He could have fought with it effortless.
What I want to say here is that IME this stuff is quite independent of where you come from. Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French boxing, Liverpool nutter, what have you…
Look at some videos of Bill Gleason and if you have the eyes, you will see that he's doing very well with it in "mainstream Aikido", although I would hasten to add that he certainly isn't mainstream at all.