Hello Mr. Ledyard,
I agree, technology is definately improving. Might I ask when you trained with them (out of curiosity only)? I belonged to the WR from 1993-2001. Swear I always remembered the tsuba, but then could be wrong (certainly wouldn't be the first time). Also agree that it lends a level of safety, but also think it lends to a level of allowing nage to feel more comfortable going for a full-out attack (for someone like me who really doesn't want to hit anyone). What do you think about that?