Re: History of Black Belt?
Another thing to consider is that - and yes I may be wrong, but this is what I have been told - traditionally dojos in Japan have existed for the purpose of giving the head of the dojo someplace to train and someplace to show off their stuff.
Dojos were *not* there for the express purpose of developing students. Regular students were/are(?) just a way to pay the rent. However, a student on the uchideshi track and taking care of the master of the dojo is worth putting effort into. So the skill level between a "regular student" and an "uchideshi" is fairly pronounced for more than just the obvious time and dedication reason.
My impression is that elsewhere dojos are there for students and to pass on knowledge to the best of the instructors ability. This was certainly the case when I trained in Canada!
This difference might lead to the requirements for a regular black belt test being markedly different between Japan and elsewhere, in that the Japanese standards for Regular students is not as high as it is elsewhere. I would also submit that the standards for Japanese Uchideshi are *higher* than elsewhere, based upon my experience.
I confess that for myself, I do not care what a person's rank is as that I believe it is very subjective and changes markedly from dojo to dojo, instructor to instructor and (here in Japan) type of student you are. To me questions on lineage and then seeing/feeling your training are better to judge ability.
My few yen...