Interesting read, Peter.
The idea of an "art" opens up a new can of worms. What is it? How is it defined? Who decides how it's defined, and does that even matter? Is an art static, or is it something that's in a dynamic evolution?
Art seems to be a personal expression. There's also the idea of a "craft," which is really the nuts and bolts and processes that one would need under their belt before they could approach the idea of "art."
I do agree that on the level of learning what we might call a "martial craft," that one would need to subjugate themselves – or, as you say, "...mold yourself..."
But possibly, we take this idea of martial "art" way too seriously. It also seems that we often see examples – in just about any area – of an "art" having an initial spark, and then slowly and progressively being diluted to the point where it's obvious the "craft" has been lost, or at least not respected, along the way.
The "craft," to me, would really be the essence, and not the art itself. The emerging artisan movements we're seeing in so many areas – food, beer, farming, etc. – show countless examples of people knowing that they were being fed, and drinking, crap, and decided to get back to basics and the "craft" of producing something with some real substance.
Yamada (who was my first teacher) himself has stated that Aikido has the quantity but now it's time for quality. Aikido was admittedly – and we all know this for an absolute fact – renamed, slapped together, and presented as an "art" after WWII. It was tooled up for mass production.
We're in an age where we not only have access to more information, more people, and more ideas, but we're also in a place where those who want to contribute can do so, irrespective of politics, ranking, lineage, etc. And if you're looking at real evolution and a return to quality and underlying essence, you're going to find – in many cases – the people involved in real innovation are going to be the ones who have removed themselves from the product line, and have the freedom to explore and re-examine.
I think many see modern Aikido as something that has not only lost the "art," but also hasn't retained the "craft." It's something that was boxed up and packaged for mass consumption, and day by day more people are finding that Aikido has become something of the corny Smooth Jazz of the martial arts world. It's like trying to pass off Wonder Bread as real bread, and telling people that it's nutritious and part of a healthy diet. And people, in droves, just aren't buying it anymore.
So, to reference your article: How are we supposed to "mold" ourselves to an "art" that reached a point in its evolution where it has become plastic, bloated, and – all too often – just plain out-of-sync in an age and culture to whom it's obvious the Emperor is naked?
On the upside, it does appear that while the essence of the "craft" of Aikido and related martial arts has not been completely lost; it's been widely scattered. And similar to the rise in microbreweries and the re-adoption and re-assembling of classic, time-honored principles and practices – we're certainly poised for something along the lines of a renaissance. Whether the "art" will re-emerge as Aikido or something else is anyone's guess.
For now, I'll take the road of those who have a desire to remold, reform, and reshape, rather than be molded by something that is but an incomplete shell presented as an "art."
So how do you adapt an art to yourself? You don’t. You mold yourself to the art.
Another view might be: So how do you adapt yourself to an art? You don't. Initially, you mold yourself to the underlying essential craft. Then the art will mold itself to you and become your own free expression. You define the art. Don't let the art define you.