Re: Relation to sword?
This must have been discussed before. You should really do a search on aikiweb. However, I'll respond right here. I think this really depends on your teacher. I've seen aikido teachers who teacher horrific swordwork, and I wish they'd stick to aikido. I've also had some incredible breakthroughs from teachers who explained things in terms of sword and jo.
The problem is that you have to be careful to try to understand what the pupose of a weapons training session is (or any training session for that matter). For instance, I've seen people raise the sword over their head in a way that would totally get their wrist cut off if they were facing a skilled opponent - with their left hand arcing out and away around their right hand. However, the point of lifting that way gets people to open up their mid section in a really helpful way. If you try to lift someone like that for shihonage you will get jammed big time. I've seen a lot of people trying to force this kind of lifting because "it's supposed to be just like sword" - when the mid-section feeling would be the same, but the mechanics would have to be fundimentally different to have any degree of success.
Another good example that comes to mind in my training experience was when Sugano sensei did a really nice weapons class - which was primarily kendo as far as I could tell. I don't actually see much relationship between kendo and aikido (besides the taking the center line type training). However, the message of his class was break the distance (with tsuki) and then cut. I found that to be quite helpful in my taijitsu.
Saito sensei, Gleason sensei, Saotome sensei, Nishio sensei to name a few all teach aikido in terms of weapons.
As far as suburi goes, you can always practice happo undo (8 direction cutting with and without thrusting). Keisagiri and shomen unchi are really good ones. But again, it really depends on the quality of your instruction in class.
Good luck. - Rob