Re: What is the big deal w/ testing???
My boyfriend has been a fifth kyu for something like 18 years. This is longer than I have been doing aikido. This is longer than a lot of people have been doing aikido. He never got around to testing for a variety of reasons that range from deeply philosophical to outright silly. In our dojo everyone fourth kyu and up wears a hakama, and so he routinely sandbags people who're new. He had me completely confused at first - I knew he wasn't a beginner as soon as he attacked me, but it took me a while to get my head around the fact that no, he was not a visitor, he'd actually been living and training in Boulder for three or four years before we met! He knows a lot of techniques. He does good aikido. However, there's been one drawback in his apporach, and that is his knowledge is spotty. Testing forces you to work on things you might otherwise not work on, either due to lack of interest or they techniques just don't come up in classes very often. Therefore, when preparing for a test, you're forced out of your bubble and must learn the things you lack the discipline and/or oppurtunity to learn otherwise. Testing is also a chance to see how you cope with pressure. Granted, it's not the kind of pressure you'd find yourself under in a street situation, but the pressure to perform is something you're more liely to encounter anyways. So you sort of cheat yourself by not testing. This is true for everything, not just aikido.
I say all this and yet I too am wondering what the point of testing is. :/