Howard Dyke wrote:
I'm amazed that there are dojo and/or associations in which you do not have to test to advance in rank.
In Aikikai, rank advancement from shodan to yondan are either by testing or by recommendation. Recommendations are either made by the head of the recognized association or by a shihan to Aikikai Hombu. One of the common grounds for recommendation is the age factor; another is the individual's contribution/effort towards the growth and propagation of Aikikai aikido.
If an individual has been recommended for a rank, his/her subsequent rank(s) will be recommended too. I understand that if an individual has been recommended at shodan, he/she is not allowed to instruct professionally - this is reasonable under such circumstances.
All ranks after yondan are by recommendations. Technically yondan by testing is the highest graded rank, beyond that, ranks are honorary