Part of my goal is to draw out the why an aiki model is somehow different than a ki model or a kata model, or any number of designed education methodologies. I assume that as practitioners of aikido, we would, on some level, concede aikido has ki. Yet... I guess the devil is in the details.
10 years ago, I would have told you aiki comes from years of training. Then I met aikido people with years of training and many of them were nice, good martial artists, but they did not have aiki. But, 10 years ago kata was what I needed in my training.
I think a real problem for people working in aiki models is developing the right balance of training. Modern aikido has had 40 years to refine the educational curriculum to find that balance, the most recent example of a major shift being the expulsion of weapons from the curriculum. Before then, many people began their aikido training with another art under their belt. This has been one of my more vocal criticisms of aiki training - the curriculum is almost a moving target because the instructors leading the way are in this flurry of renovation to make material palatable.
I think as the aiki pioneers improve their ability to communicate and share what they are doing, the world will get smaller.
I just attended the Aiki Extensions Conference in Palo Alto (and if you have any interest in exploring applications of aikido off the mat as well as how aiki informs our practices I couldn't recommend this organization more highly). There were many long time practitioners of aikido who come from what might be called an "aiki" background who use aiki principles in many ways including martially in aikido.
The host of the event was Sofia University which was founded by Osensei's student, Robert Frager, PhD., Shihan, who I understand holds the highest rank given by Osensei to a non-Japanese student. I can't adequately convey the depth of the inquiry into aiki on every level this weekend offered to attendees. There were presentations on somatics, aikido outreach, aikido in law enforcement, and how weapons can inform aiki practice from aikidoka from around the world. Many lineages were represented, and many participants had upwards of thirty or forty years or more in aikido. I came away with many insights into my own practice and study of aiki.
Coincidentally there was some discussion along the lines of your closing notion in your entry about communication and sharing our work along these lines.
Here's a link to the organization's webpage: http://www.aiki-extensions.org/