George S. Ledyard
Most Aikido practitioners who do weapons, especially sword, cannot adequately tell you how what they do directly ties into their empty hand. To my mind, if it's aiki sword or aiki jo, then the principles at work are identical to those at work in the empty hand. One should delineate what those are. If not, then probably what is going on is a bunch of "stick whapping" and really has no relation to the empty hand.
At a seminar I taught once, I was breaking down a set of Saotome Sensei's forms at a level of detail that the attendees were clearly not used to. One stated that he wasn't doing sword to actually be a swordsman, he just wanted to make his empty hand better. I challenged him to tell me how doing bad sword could possibly make his empty hand better.
Excellent Post Sensei and I agree Sensei that most cannot explain "Aiki-Ken"... Those who practice Shoji Nishio's expression of Aikido however understand the importance of "Aiki-ken"
Quite simply..our Aikido will not work without a firm understanding of weapons be it Bokken Jo or Katana
Every Aikido principle we're taught is based on the sword..From how to move all the way to pinning your uke. Our Tai-jitsu is done expressly as though you have a sword in your hand. In fact your arm and uke's arm are nothing more than extensions for the sword.
When I attend outside Aikido Seminars the difference in our approach to Tai-Jitsu because of our emphasis that "Aikido is the Sword" is really obvious.
So "in reality" our Aikido is an expression of our Sword not The Sword is an expression of Aikido.
Shoji Nishio's representative in the US Koji Yoshida Sensei continues to improve upon this philosophy.
As usual Stan Pranin's interviews with Shoji Nishio Shihan provide more insight than I can.
I really hope to get to one of your seminars soon. I have not seen you since the last Aiki-Expo.