Re: weapon training for lower ranks
Sorry for weighing in so late but Aiki-weapons is what I most enjoy. Both my sensei, Henry Smith(6th dan) and Nizan Taleb(5th dan) have come through schools that interpret Aikido as inseparable from Aiki-weapons. (Chiba Shihan and Icchimura shihan respectively) Taleb Sensei rarely demonstrates a technique without exploring it's interpretations ken v ken, ken v jo, jo v jo etc. Invariably different students get insights at different points in the process. It is the basic theory of multiple intelligences. More importantly, the organization of ones energy (musubi) is far clearer when holding a sword. The blade screams the absurdity of not focusing in the proper direction and adds enormous clarity when we return to open hand. I also have found that kata have helped identify weaknesses in my movement and balance. At our school we practice Saito's 20 jo suburi, 7 ken suburi, 7 awase ken and jo, innumerable variations of the 6 jo kata (including ken v jo), 13 jo kata, 22, 31 (you get the picture). Each teaches something different. Most importantly, we stress counter kata. Responding to a strike with the added energy of a weapon inspires self correction.