Re: weapon training for lower ranks
Our current regional head feels only advanced students should do weapons as if they start early they learn bad habits which are hard to correct later. I don't understand this--you have to start somewhere and wherever you start there may be bad habits, why worry particularly about the weapon bad habits?
I have done a little weapons work anyway and find it helpful--my teachers often say "Hold the arm like a bokken" or "This is a bokken strike, from the center, straight down" and those of us without weapons training find these corrections less than clear! I think some faults are amplified when you add a big wooden stick to them, which may make them easier to spot and correct. And a weapon attack when you are unarmed gives a "fear factor" which helps you learn to be calm under increasing pressure. Even a tanto tsuki elicits a much worse flinch than a bare-hand tsuki, and this lets you work on the flinching more easily.