I think George has really hit the nail on the head. Sorry to back track or get off the spiritual note but I'd like to comment on some overall stuff earlier on...
On the other hand, and to go back to the thread subject, O sensei taught the traditional Japanese way, and I believe that he succeeded in forming a group of outstanding aikidoists who might have even surpassed in skills, starting from early pre-war students such as Mochizuki, Abe, Shioda, Tomiki... etc, untill the after war period students such as Tohei, Tamura, Noro, Yamada...etc.
Most of my opinion here is from watching various videos. The first AJ Tape O'sensei tape Aikibudo shows the founder to have exceptional ability, quite incredible. Tada Sensei seems to be the only one who comes close to that particular display.
I honestly don't think that anyone has surpassed the founder at his peak
. On the First Friendship Demo Tape, Saito Sensei says something like "I will now perform the Kumi Tachi that the founder left, but obviously not at that level" and smiles.
However, I find that Tamura (have been lucky enough to get on his mat), Yamaguchi, Shoida, Tohei, Saito, and Osawa are all inspirational to watch and with fantastic Aikido. No doubt he produced amazing students. He must have been a GREAT teacher. It is my personal opinion that as we get further away from the founder, generation by generation, the skill levels are becoming less impressive. Is anyone else of this opinion?