I understand your comments very well, since I have had a number of teachers, all of whom go back to O Sensei (though with varying degrees of closeness to him).
I think that one of the biggest problem with postwar aikido is the question of ideology: what we are supposed to believe about both the art and the person who founded it. Do we follow an organization like the Aikikai Hombu, the IAF or the ASU (with all the problems that organizations can cause), or do we go our own way?
Any large aikido organization will tell you that orthodox aikido can be found at the respective Hombu and satellite organizations--and there only. Thus, for the Aikikai, orthodox aikido is to be found at the Hombu and affiliated organizations (such as the ASU). But this was not enough for some IAF delegates at the last Congress. One delegate in particular wanted a clear and authoritative--and restrictive--statement concerning aikido's uniqueness. He did not receive it and the matter is pending.
Orthodox Aikikai ideology can be found in the vast number of books and DVDs put out by the Hombu Dojo, including the English versions of O Sensei's discourses written by Prof. Stevens. Now, I myself have found / am finding that the 'orthodox' Aikikai ideology has some serious cracks. O Sensei was not, in fact, the kind of person we are expected to believe he was and he did not, in fact, do exactly what we are expected to believe he did.
In Japan, there are two ways (at least) of dealing with this. One is to vote with the feet and leave; the other is to go through mental contortions persuading oneself that it really is orthodox, despite all appearances to the contrary. I know many Japanese aikidoka have have done both. However, I cannot do this. So what I do is to keep the three 'hats' I wear as separate as possible.
In terms of training I see aikido as a much more general 'waza-related' art. I would include in waza everything being done by Akuzawa Sensei, Ushiro Kenji Sensei, Dan Harden and Mike Sigman, insofar as it directly relates to aikido. It is no longer 'sensei' related, at least for me.
In terms of writing / translating, it is to do what Stan Pranin and Ellis Amdur are doing: to present as honest a picture of Morihei Ueshiba and the history of the art, warts and all, as possible.
In terms of leading a large international organization, it is to be a major communication link with Doshu and the Aikikai, in a way that Japanese shihans despatched abroad by the Aikikai, could never be.
Of course, there will be some overlap. For example, people who come to the IAF Congress know very well that I write provocative articles--and have no problem with this.
It is very instructive to compare aikido in this respect with Shorinji Kempo, which is much more centralized than aikido and had a founder who expressed his ideology in a much clearer fashion.
George S. Ledyard
This is really why I stated in another article I wrote that it's really hard to say that there has ever been any one thing that constituted some sort of orthodox Aikido.
Shirata Sensei would certainly be considered one of the Aikido Greats but his training was far different than Saotome Sensei's.
People on the mat at precisely the same time saw, heard, and understood what was taught completely based on what they were prepared to see based on their individual natures and natural talents which were clearly quite divergent.
Saotome Sensei tried quite hard to understand the Founder's spiritual teachings while attempting to translate them for his students into something more contemporary.
I have read interviews with other deshi from the same period who said that, at the time, they mostly day dreamed through the lectures and waited their turn at ukemi. Now, after a lifetime of training they've decided they missed something valuable and irreplaceable, regretting that, in their youth they hadn't been ready to hear the message.
Some deshi didn't care then and don't care now.
So whatever we learn about the Founder through the efforts of people like John Stevens. the Bieris, and our own Peter Goldsbury, what we end up understanding will be completely informed by our own practice. You will have a different take on it than I will. Koichi Barrish will have a different take on it than either of us. People with deep backgrounds in non-Aikido arts will have a different take on it all as well.
In the end Aikido will be as we make it. Personally, I want to do an Aikido that O-Sensei would have respected, whatever that is. My studies help me guide my training. But in the end, my Aikido will be mine and no one else's. I don't expect the "fuss" to stop any time in the future. But since the info we have about the Founder keeps increasing, ones perspective can change over time so I don't expect in ten years to understand things the way i do now nor do I think I will understand the Founder the same way either.