Re: weapon training for lower ranks
I am relatively new to Aikido, but I remember hearing - when training with a bokken, move as is empty handed. When training empty handed move as if you were handling a bokken. Weapons training has helped me understand Aikido greatly. My Sensei (Gleason Sensei) is a great advocate of weapons training early on. He actually has a video that will be available to the general public shortly that is great in explaining and showing the relation between taijutsu and kenjutsu.