Re: Traditional vs Non Traditional training...questions
Tomiki (Shodokan) Aikido is a training system as much as anything else and originated primarily with university training in Japan. The idea is that you have Black Belt after the 2nd year or so. You see that with other Aikido styles also. At Shodokan Honbu it takes about three years on average but that also reflects on how much you train.
Shodan (1st Dan) really means beginning level not Mastery but in any case I never get wrapped up in comparing what one blackbelt means to another.
Sword and Spear are part of the requirement for Sandan and not tested before that - but you know that does not mean it can not be trained before that. Knife kata are tested as Nidan and of course used in randori training almost from the beginning.
How much weapons training and when depends on how a particular club constructs its training. I certainly taught sword and spear kata from very early to those who were interested in my club in Himeji.
International affiliation has I think a good effect on standards - I am a little suspect of the claim that they hold back progress if you measure progress by rank which I don't.
The other thing is that even if this club is not affiliated internationally - it is important to understand the path it took from Tomiki. There are quite marked differences.