My reading of Ross' take on shu ha ri is that it does describe the relationship between student and teacher. If a dojo mate attacks with shomen and we respond with ikkyo omote, why do we do so? In the typical dojo, it is because that is what the sensei has shown and what the others practicing around us are doing. This is protecting the form of the teacher-student relationship. You tell me what to do and I do it.
The moving away from this relationship is typified by the individual doing the ikkyo omote because that is what is called for in reponse to that particular partner doing that particular attack. This is the ri that I think Ross is suggesting to start with..
What you describe doesn't square with my understanding of what shu ha ri is about even remotely. Doing what [appropriate technique] is called for in response to an attack is modeling exactly the sort of thing that should be taught while in shu in a proper teacher-student relationship.
Honestly, i doubt there are very many people out there training in a real shu ha ri relationship, much less understand what that really means. I know that most of my own knowledge of what it is pretty rudimentary, but from what I do know, I don't believe that most people are even approximating the real thing.