Ron Ragusa wrote:
...Aikido moves outwardly from the student rather than being fed into the student....
And for me, this was the clincher. This was a delight to read. I have long been toying with the idea that expertise in Aikido is not only a matter of concerted effort, the honing effects of long, careful practice, but that it is, at least as much, the result of getting out of the way of whatever it is that is preventing the expression of Aikido, but I never would have thought to say it as plainly as you. If I understand you correctly, self-discovery of the art is not the same as creating it by one's own notions; the art is already innate, and only awaiting its unique expression in that individual. Formal training surely is an essential context-provider, yes? I mean, perhaps convergent evolution would eventually lead someone to the same technical curriculum, but a solid framework, so long as it is actually the result of genuine, optimized motions, can sure cut out a lot of needless reinventing.
This morning, we were practicing good ol' shomen uchi/ikkyo. I was uke, and my partner was having a hard time blending. As why shouldn't she? It's clearly impossible to blend with a strike coming in and down on your head. I suggested she forget about the technique for a moment, and just dance by, as close as she could, with the sole proviso that she bring her arms up towards me at the start. We did that a few times, with me also dancing, not even attempting to strike. Then without warning her, I did strike. And she just danced by again, not even attempting to do ikkyo, and I landed on my knees, utterly bewildered. It was one of those perfect moments, and informed the rest of the class for both of us, I think. The trick was, of course, to turn that perfect blend into a technique, but that was pretty clearly gravy. In other words, studying technique is how we can get to the essence.