I see Phi's suggestion that one should "be their own teacher" as a good one, since to me it implies that one should not rely too much on any given teacher and be responsible for one's learning. In other words "own the material" rather than simply emulate or follow someone. A teacher can guide and provide good information, but the bulk of the responsibility for learning has to be held by the student IMO.
In that vein, when it came to aiki-weapons, I reached a point where I stopped and asked what my understanding of aikido and my goals were. The second step was to disregard anything that separated me from those goals, and to look for training (weapons and otherwise) that could help me achieve those goals. I had to make those decisions myself. People are often too quick to drop Sensei names and say do this or that. I would ask, why, how, for what purpose? his and if possible try them out and do an objective comparison against certain goals.
First of all, I believe the reason must be to learn Aikido.
It goes without saying that the student have the responsability to show up in the dojo, but from there itīs the responsability of the dojo cho, the boss, to provide the prober invironment for learning- maybe even without the student realising this in the beginning.
A good teacher/ sensei will guide you and a bad one will misguide you.
By good teacher/ sensei I mean a person who is high ranking inside the traditional system, but still progressing, still evolving, still an open human being, still open for personal improvement. A person who is not lazy and absorbed in his personal achievements.
Aikido is also about letting your self go and just practise and for me personally there is no better way to do that than to put my trust 100% in my teacher and my teachers teacher and my teachers teachers teacher.
My goal is not to invent my own aikido, or to "own the material" like you say, but to train myself in this wonderfull Martial Art.
I think the idea of re- inventing Aikido and make it my personal "thing" is absolutely irrelevant for the teaching and the learning.
I had a teacher/ sensei once who said that itīs up to the student to internalise the aikido by himself, make it his own personal expression. This is a false goal I feel, even it can be obtained as a product of training but this is also irrelevant for the teaching process. Itīs a by-product.
The quality of Aikido relies 100% on the teachers and what they teach.
I believe itīs our seniors job and everybodys job to try to set the bar a little higher.
I have experience in teaching and I feel the above is true for all teaching.
I also know from personal experience that if the things you teach are not based on a solid tradition
they become superficial because learning stops when the teacher looses his foothold, that is the
I will allways say to beginners in Aikido that they should look for the lineages that have a close and longlasting direct personal connection with Oīsensei and there is plenty of historical material available to investigate who your sensei is, and what is his lineage.
I like this quote from Oīsensei: "Dress Aikido in fresh garments but build on the old styles."
I understand the "old styles" as being the traditional styles.
I have often come to a point in my training asking myself if the things I practise collides with my personal beliefs.. But my personal beliefs are just that: Personal beliefs... and as such they can be challenged and should be over and over again.
I feel this thread is wandering off topic and I am partly to blame for this and I apologise.