Re: Howdy from a Chicago Aikikai student.
Hello, Rod Y.!
Cheers to you, too, and thanks for the response.
For me, the flipside is being asked to test, honoring the sensei and the style but then failing. In a perfect world, a sensei wouldn't ask a student to test if he or she didn't feel that the student was ready. Yet, sometimes this is not the case. Some students will ask to be tested and, in some styles and some dojos, if a student has put in the time and practice, the sensei may feel obliged to offer the test regardless of the level of mastery. Just having a test date set forces many students to rise to the challenge. Some students will test horribly and still pass ("no uke left behind") while some aikidoka I've seen really amaze me in that they can test better than they actually practice.
However, I am not one of either those two categories.
I have test anxiety. My mind goes blank. It's that misguided perfectionist in me. It then becomes the opposite ego issue of the person who thinks that testing well to a higher rank and spiffier belt entitles them to a new respect not necessarily based on competency. The hard work and practice can dissolve away when mind and body suddenly fall apart under exam conditions. There's a commercial on for a show called "Sports Moms and Dads" that reminds me of my own experiences. If (the skater) lands his jumps, he's done a good job. If he falls, he sucks." In the dojo, a year's worth of study and suddenly, reality check, you are a dissapointment to yourself and your sensei and you don't get to wear that nice, new belt and you have to explain to everyone what went wrong...
Okay, all of that is ego but different than shodanitis. If you are right (and I believe you are) if a person chooses to study a martial art like aikido for mastery (unlike a sport which is done for contest and trophy) why do so many senseis and students treat rank like a prize that is won? Even in sports, winning a prize is limited to the best of one contest. If you don't consistently win over time, you're not considered a true master of your sport (for example, Michelle Kwan couldn't get Olympic gold but she is a master of her sport because she consistently wins top events.) And once you stop winning, you retire. In martial arts, a student can promote and then stop practicing but still outrank all those below him until they promote above him. The reason I really enjoyed coming back to aikido was because of the lack of contest but I've found it's still there... in the form of tests and ranking and ego battles.