Although many would disagree, I think bokken work is extremely important, especially for beginners (well for everyone really, just that if you start early aikido makes much more sense far more quickly)...
I don't disagree, but...visiting a local Shin-Budo Kai club to see if I would be interested (I just moved), it was the first time I had a jo in my hand, let alone do a kata with it <presently ranked sankyu/preparing for ikkyu>. I was pleased to see, though, that as with all aikido, if you dont have control of your center, nothing else "works" i.e. sloppy. When I got the chance to do a whole day of bokken at another dojo, the same thing happened. It was interesting to note, many "beginners" (like me )had no idea what to do with their feet...they were all fixated on that big, hard, woody thing in their hands.
However, I am sure it would have helped clarify the notion of extension and ma-ai if I would have been introduced to the bokken earlier.