for beginner, there is no such thing as doing the "right thing". assumption of all you doing are wrong would be a good place to start. if beginner can do a few things, then do a few things, but work on doing it well, don't try to compete with experts.
some thought for you. there are hundreds (maybe thousands, don't have the roster) of aikidoka in ASU, yet, very few can do half the stuffs that Ikeda could. they have been doing what you suggested, worked with what they have and tried to do the stuffs that Ikeda sensei did. not many focus on building the body. it's like trying to build the foundation underneath of an erected house.
I Think it is important for folks to realize that there are really two aspects of this training and it is not necessary to be doing both at the beginning.
To have the kind of power that Dan. Mike, or Ark can display, you have to do quite a lot of conditioning of the structure. To do what Ikeda Sensei is doing does not require doing a lot of solo conditioning work. It would only help but it is not strictly necessary.
Ikeda Sensei is showing exactly what is necessary at every seminar he teaches. He is pretty much doing the same work at every seminar or camp. He has two components which, while not actually separate, can be given individual focus. First, is how to make center to center connection on a physical level and how to use your body to give direction to that connection. You can start this work externally, using small adjustments of the hips and pelvis and eventually start moving things internally whereby you accomplish the same thing with very little outside movement at all.
The second component is where and how you place your intention. Where you put your attention effects everything. He also plays with how he can change your ability to stabilize your structure using his intention. This is an important part of what he got from working with Ushiro Sensei.and it is something the Systema folks do as well.
Of these two components, he can explain the connection work much better, in my opinion. Every time I have seen him for the last few years his explanations have gotten better. If you have any idea what he is doing, I think his explanations can help you get better. For someone who hasn't any idea, I don't think his explanations are basic enough. There is stuff going on he doesn't explain and some of that is crucial.
In my opinion, the mental work, what the Systema folks would call psychic energy, is not really explained at all. He shows it, has everyone try some simple exercises, but I see very few folks who have any idea how to go about thinking about what they are trying to do. You really need to work with someone who can do it and feel what they are doing as they explain it. Since most folks don't get to take much ukemi from the Shihan and if he is throwing you, he is never explaining what he is doing at the same time, it is extremely difficult to understand what is happening. Ushiro Sensei has a more explanatory method on this stuff and the System folks have a very gradual and systematic methodology for developing an understanding of this work.
To really do what Ikeda Sensei is doing, you have to be able to do both, but the good news is you can make some substantial progress just working out the physical connection side. I think that as one works on that, some of the mental side will naturally start happening because it really isn't separate. Doing one will at least begin to produce the other.
The more connections one can make in the body and he better one understands how the intent and the breath effect those connections, the better the stuff works. That's why the IP skills guys are so helpful. They have a FAR more detailed description of these connections than we find within the Aikido community. Get a bit of that instruction and suddenly Ikeda Sensei's classes make far more sense. But the most important thing is to do some work with a partner who does understand what he is doing and can make you feel it and also give you detailed feedback while you try.