... We have been exposed to internal training as a regular part of our Aikido practice since we began ...
This exactly was also my convincement when I first read about internal practice on aikiweb.
Having practiced with Endo Seishiro for a couple of years, having practiced with an active member of the Tempukai from the beginning, having practiced with my teacher who, with time, taught me a little bit of the teachings of the koryū he teaches, having practiced with students of Yamaguchi sensei ... .
Alltogether about 18 years of practice then.
This does not touch your expierence of about 40 years or Marie's of 25 of course. But 18 years, including many years with daily practise, made me think to "understand where I was heading and how I was training", as Mary phrased it.
So more than once I myself wrote in discussions here on aikiweb: "I am doing internal training. It is an integral component of what I was taught from the first day on. I know what you are talking about and I'm doing it also."
I was deeply convinced of that.
After about two minutes of practicing what is called "internal training" by people who belong to the so called "IP fraction" on aikiweb, I was disproved.
To be clear: Noone told me being wrong. Noone tried to convince or persuade me. I just experienced a way of inner movement, internal work (this is how I call it in German: "innere Arbeit") that I had never experienced before. Never. With no teacher from what style of aikidō ever. (And also with no teacher of qi gong.) This was completely different.
And that is true also for the results. I grew up with push tests and what is called ki-tests in Ki Aikido. How it is done and what it does is definetly different from the method and results of internal work.
It only looks alike.
I don't want to start an argument.
And I hope to not be disrespectfull.
This is just some part of my story. Nothing more. Nothing less.