Re: What exactly is an independent dojo?
I know of at least three independent Dojos in my country. I knew one of these guys, and he was a good Aikidoist.
The most interesting 'independent Dojo' is a style that they call 'Satori AikiBudo'. They use the same principles and basic techniques of Aikido, with other particular techniques they have, focused so much in real Self Defense as in spiritual aspects. They give the Belt after a person has been 'enlightened', that means when he understand the essence of the art and start being totally fluid. I find it a good stuff, though it hangs on the person, of course.
All the others are just streetfighting based on Steven Seagal movies. Not Aikido at all.
My opinion is that, if someone wants to learn something he/she likes and the independent Dojo teaches something that they like, go ahead then. But when dealing with the change of technical programms I I still respect tradition enough as to believe that a tradictional teaching is safer than the new inspirations. Because there is nothing new under the sun.