Re: Formal Dan Test vs. Dan Promotion without Testing
Even within the 'aikikai' there isn't a firm rule. In my experience in the ASU, shodan and nidan are technical ranks with straightforward tests (in front of Saotome or Ikeda Senseis). Sandan has a few more requirements in terms of camps/seminars attended, etc., but is still a test. After that promotion is by recommendation of Saotome Sensei. I did hear of some 4th dan tests a few years ago but they were requested by the candidates due to the cost issue.
I do know of one long time aikidoist who was sandan for many years longer than normal. He started in one organization, then was out on his own for awhile, and now is another. Over the last few years he has been promoted twice and is now 5th dan, which is really correct for his many years of training and fine abilities.
I have another friend who has been training about 40 years who is only shodan. For the first 33 years he never tested (was never interested and nobody forced him to do it). He joined another dojo and the sensei said he had to start testing, and now he's worked his way up to shodan. He's a pretty darned good shodan!
Anyway, all kinds of things can happen so the rank seems 'off.' Ah well, it's really more about the training anyway....