Beginners have to develop a strong grip that is coming from center, not from shoulders. Such development can be done i.e. with a lot of bokken/ jo practice. Of course always there will be somebody very strong that will be able to make you work hard, but that is a point -- there is no sense to practice always with complaisant attacker.
Without such basic mechanics, where students understand very clearly each stage of technique, and can reproduce it at their will, there is no point to go further.
Introducing Ki-like concepts only lead to distortion and watering down aikido.
Spot on. And not only for beginners - it's for everyone. Never stray too far from the basics as the further you go the further you get nowhere.
literally 'seems' to mean 4 directions to Westerners but in Japanese, shiho
is more like saying, NSEW - all directions of the compass. It means you should be able to throw uke
anywhere. Therefore, all talk of this direction and that direction adding up to a total of four is just made-up bunk. No harm done though, but the more directions the better. Best to stick with the basics though.
And I also agree with Peter - behind every good shiho-nage
is a good mae-othoshi
or ude kime-nage
(depending upon your school's terminology).