In my experience I believe it's possible to be taught to swim by a non-swimmer. I was a qualified swimming teacher in the early seventies. (I do swim). However, in my view, it's not possible to teach aikido in depth without being able to do it.
It's to do with interaction. Swimming is self-contained but aikido involves a partner.
Basic moves are taught by watching. As these outwardly physical movements are grasped what is then needed is fine tuning and you receive that by direct transmission - as the fine adjustments come from feeling the technique. Martial arts are hierarchical you may have heard that before - it exists on a grade structure so that sensei passes to sempai the finer points through doing and correction. Then to Dan grades - Dan grades to high kyu grades and high kyu grades to low kyu grades and variations on that theme.
But it's not just tweaking and refinement that is necessary of it at a technical level because we are all different and you must take ways that are natural to you and adopt or adapt. Steve Magson a visiting Sensei to the Lancashire Aikikai says "pinch with pride". Aikido is personal – my aikido is not your aikido although we tread the same broad path and have identical core attributes.
Andrew Baird (Not previously published 2017)