Re: Blindly searching for the path of Aikido
I do a bit of tai-chi but I'm not convinced it relates directly to a practical response unless you do it with a partner. Like most 'kata' they teach techniques but not responsiveness. My advice for people practising on their own in order to achieve effective martial ability:
1. learn a few striking methods and good points to strike to and practise them relentlessly.
2. keep very fit (swimming, running, press-ups) and push yourself PSYCHOLOGICALLY when doing these exercises.
3. PLENTY of bokken cuts. I try to do 300 at a time, in sets of 50 so they can be done fast, moving off centre line.
4. Chi-Gung (stationary tai-chi) is EXCELLENT for producing relaxed power and it can be very intense. Buy the excellent 'the Way of Energy' (Lam Kiew Kitt?) or better, find a good teacher for a while.
5. Kung-fu conditioning exercises are good (catching bricks with finger-tips with arms outstretched but bent, press-ups on finger-tips, striking sand/punch-bags) Most chinese martial arts assume that the master only visits you very rarely and therefore solo training and conditioning had to be undertaken.
6. Visualisation of an attack when you step through techniques or do strikes is VERY VERY VERY important (basically you are conditioning you mind).
P.S. O'sensei head-butted a wall 100 times a day to toughen his skull.
I think any asetic practise can toughen the spirit, but ones less damaging (exercise or non damaging pain based) are good. He also did Misogi (purification) in cold waterfalls. Try cold showers or swim in lakes/the sea if you want this feeling!
P.P.S. there was a chinese martial arts expert who practised only 1 technique (cutting down a punch with his hand and striking jaw with vertical fist) and for a time was unbeatable (because he developed such a powerful strike he killed or at least knocked out his opponents every time).
Work on key areas:
3. responsiveness (this is really done with a partner, but you could try games like catching chickens (e.g. Rocky films), playing with cats/dogs or avoiding things thrown at you.)