Re: Weapons training leads to good aikido.
I am comfortable with weapons. I use them as training aids in class. I believe that aikiken and aikijo have value as a training tool. They clearly illustrate timing, distance, posture, etc. and I feel I would not be doing my job if I left that curriculum out of my teaching. The founder used weapons, and my lineage of instructors use weapons.
That said, I think we need to clarify a couple of things. I think that weapons work for combat and weapons work for training are two completely different things. I think that ken and jo are great, but they are not fighting styles. A good kendo wo/man would wipe the mat with most aikiken people. Same for jo. I am speaking only of the training aspect.
I think that you can learn the principles illustrated by weapons work without using weapons, but it takes a different shape that changes how your aikido looks. I believe that aikido people that know weapons have an advantage in their education because they know more than the student that does not know weapons work (all other things being equal). Does that make them a better martial artist? No. Could that make them a better martial artist? Yes.