Re: Sensei role!
IMHO, before we can find "our" Aikido, we have to find Aikido. In that regard, learning the strict craft of your Sensei's Aikido is a good foundation for learning the art of your own.
IMHO, if you have chosen to learn from a specific teacher with a specific curriculum, style, organization at their specific school, then it is only respectful to do it their way. If they say strict, be strict. If they say choose, choose. When you get your own school you can do it your way.
Personally, I am glad I stayed within the strict guidelines of my teachers, there are always more subtle levels to learn that would take me far to long to figure out myself.