Re: Weapons training leads to good aikido.
We do weapons. I do see the sword as relevant to the origins of the art. However, I would never say that one needs to do weapons in order to move right. To say such a thing almost contradicts itself since it posits an "origin" but negates it immediately by allowing for no distance from that origin (What is an "origin" if we cannot move further from it?). Do practitioners of the oar or the various "farming" utensils of other arts need to get in a boat and row or get in the field and do some farming before they understand these weapons and/or garner the benefits of training in them? I say, no.
Osensei did weapons, however, I would never say that because Osensei did something, we need to do that thing. Such a view is traditionalistic and thus adopting such a view is one sure way of killing your own practice with a kind of "museum death." Aside from the sword, Osensei also found the origins of his art/practice in the will of God. To that end, he practiced not only very sophisticated forms of mysticism, he also practiced and held many superstitions partial to his time and place, types of shamanism particular to spirit possession, and probably countless types of cultic exercises related to the talisman. Shall we do these things too in order to discover the will of God that is at the origin of Aikido? Again, I say, no.
Daren's point of meeting folks who have shown very high skill in body art with only little to no experience in weapons work should be placed side-by-side with those folks that have done weapons work for quite a while and still demonstrate relatively low skill at both body art and weapons art. This tells us that the relationship between body art and weapons art is not a causal one -- especially not one of a single direction. For me, the "reason" for bringing weapons work into one's practice cannot be satisfied by all the usual rhetoric. Every one of those usual reasons can be satisfied equally by something else or in many cases even better by something else. For me, the only reason why weapons work is vital to one's overall training is that it allows us to measure and cultivate something very particular to that type of human-to-human interaction (i.e. two folks standing at a distance with two inanimate objects between them). Such training allows us to measure and cultivate our capacity at Aiki at levels of no contact and often no sight.
Without the senses of touch or sight, the two senses of the tactile/visible world, the two senses nearly all of our Aikido practice comes to us through in body art, we are forced to take Aiki to the next (higher) level -- of the invisible world or the world of true "feeling" or "inner sensing." While we can and should measure and cultivate this in body art, we also do not HAVE to do this in body art. In weapons art, the luxury of choosing to do with or without this is not so readily available. In weapons art, things are moving too fast and the consequences for being unable too sense your opponent's actions before you feel or see them are too stern to allow for many of the "adaptations" or "corrections" you usually see folks (even of very high rank) having to make in body art when such sensing is absent. Weapons, being inanimate objects, do not give off the same cues as to their intentions -- the way an arm does or a leg, etc. To read the weapon properly, I must move beyond the mundane nature of the weapon to the Ki of the encounter (i.e. the overall collective of relevant elements that make up this particular time/space). Thus, like all forms of higher training, in whatever the endeavor, the lack of choice for opting between lesser and greater skills (i.e. requiring only greater skills) marks weapons training as both important to body art and related to body art. For he or she that can move to the Ki of an encounter in weapons art -- where it is required -- can certainly move to the Ki of an encounter in body art - where it is possible but not required.
Now, what does a solo form that has a some from a political organization attempting to archive it through prohibition to do with this? For me, nothing. Such a thing is just one more form, and thus such a thing is just one more reason why the weapons training I mentioned should be part of our training.