Well of course, there were periods of time when Saito was out working - but I've been given to understand that it was fairly common. Then again, given Ueshiba's teaching style I wonder how much actual hands on there was for the average student even when he was actually the active instructor. Saito's main advantage was as a crash test dummy during Ueshiba's personal training and research.
You raise an excellent point! The main modality from learning from the teacher was what could the "crash test dummy" glean from the "crash"
! Still that way with my teacher most of the time. Direct questions lead to more examples (= crashes ) and few words. Stealing the technique was never meant to be easy......