It’s really up to you.
I was recently talking to an Aikido student and at one point of the conversation ‘rank advancement’ or promotion was brought up. He remarked, ‘It’s not up to me if I ever get promoted’ As a teacher and one who promotes students I thought about this. It got me thinking of the stigma of the old school martial arts. You know – sit outside the dojo in the rain and wait to be invited in. Train for decades without even thinking of advancement. Well, some of that thinking is good but I also realize it’s 2019 and the way we train today with busy lives, families, work, etc. is quite different so I thought I would elaborate a little. No matter what a student’s reasons are for training: exercise, meditative, martial, culture, camaraderie, etc. these three traits need to be present in your practice and mindset.
1) Attendance: You cannot learn Aikido properly without multiple training partners under the guidance of a qualified instructor. There is no video or book to contradict this point. The more you show up to the mat, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more success you’ll have in those reasons for training.
2) Skill: This can be defined in a lot of ways. Your ability to improve on the Kihon waza. Your ability to build on your Jiyu Waza. Your ability to help juniors before and after class. Your ability to remember what you’ve learned as you continue to learn new things in Aikido.
3) Attitude: You have to have the proper attitude (if you’re not sure what that is, just ask your teacher and/or in our dojo a recipient of the Budo Distinction) your attitude shows on your face on/off the mat. It shows in your technique. It shows in your effort. It shows in your attendance. It shows in how you receive correction. It shows everywhere.
So, there is no doubt that when a student is training for, let’s say, 4 years, he/she should easily have managed points 1 and 2, with point 3 being the variable. But assuming 1, 2 & 3 are there, as teachers, we recognize those students and a lot of time they are ready for their next aikido rank. On a side note, rank isn’t everything but it also shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sure, we don’t rush students through to Shodan in a couple of years like some other arts, but rank advancement is a measurement of your improvement in Attendance, Skill and Attitude. So whether you’re competitive in nature, competitive in learning or you are training towards Black Belt remember it’s really up to you.