Re: What exactly is an independent dojo?
I am an "independent kinda guy" right now. Mainly because where I am I have no organization around that studies what I want to study. I have a bunch of guys that we basically train MMA. Now it is not a free for all. We do train on our own in an informal arrangement with no prescribed curriculmn per se. But we are affiliate basically with the Modern Army Combatives Program (we are an active duty Army organization). We also have a Gracie Barra BJJ affiliiation through a Black belt in Italy.
On a personal note I maintain my ties with ASU through my dojo back in the states as best I can.
I am not one to follow the mold and path. Could careless about politics. Yes, I am also probably clever enough to start my own MMA Ryu style as well.
I have found there are some benefits to maintaining affliation with an organization. Also, very good reasons to pursue rank and testing through these established organizations. They offer a structure and standard, and mentorship.
My old karate sensei founded his own style based on the sum of his life experiences. He was somewhat of a prodigy in Karate. He truly developed and codified his own system! However, even he would travel to Japan to test for his promotions under JKA to ensure that he had a "check" on what he was doing.
I think it is possible to be non-parochial and have a mind of your own, and avoid group think, and be open to outside sources and still affiliate. If you are good enough at what you do for your art, you can isolate those skills to demonstrate them for the particular body that is evaluating you. If your chosen affliation is based on the right principles, then regardless of what you practice, you should not have issues with the affiliation.