I'm not sure where these impressions of Saito's weapon work come from. Looking at the video footage and his traditional aikido books (now out of print) jodan no kamae is done both stepping back and without stepping back - depending on which kumitachi you're doing. I've seen on some US sites that Saito's kumitachi also appear to differ to what I've seen in these books (maybe it was ammended after 1974) - this could be the cause of some confusion. In addition, I am always amazed at the similarities between sword school styles rather than the differences (from what I have seen anyway).
Apart from this I tell all my students that aikiken won't teach them how to fight with a sword, but it's purpose is for improving aikido; partly because it's not done regularly enough, also because they are fixed kumitachi and the fact that a steel sword feels quite different from a wooden one. Despite the limited amount of weapons training in aikido, I am constantly suprised by the strong sword/aikido linkages. What I've never understood is why the jo (i.e. jo vs jo) is used in aikido.