Re: Test Passing Standards - What is it?
Our organization tends to test based on the person's overall ability. For example, some of the most talented technicians in our group have failed tests, and failed them for comparatively (to the average, I guess) small infractions. Generally, for the Yoshinkan side of our organization, there is a specific curriculum and subsequent grading system. Each part/technique of the test is given a letter grade and, at the end, the grades are averaged and must meet or beat the passing grade. Of course, the individual grades are subjective, to a certain extent, and tests are graded to the individual's talent level. Less leeway is given to a testing student when they are in the position to teach others (particularly sandan and above). In theory, our organization won't promote someone either to, or above, sandan (I don't remember which) if they are not planning on being teachers. I'm not sure how much that is actually practiced, but that is kind of the philosophy (or one can attain the rank but not a higher teaching certificate. I believe there may be a godan in our group with shidoin certification/title, for example). Our organization likes to emphasize 'off the mat aikido (OTMA).' By this, I don't mean street fighting, but the application of budo principles to daily life (which is seen a lot in our kenshu classes through 'homework' and projects given out). With that in mind, sometimes we like to test someone stringently so that they can really work to achieve a knowingly difficult goal, thus creating in them the attitude and belief that they can achieve something they previously deemed unattainable (ie, confidence builder). I don't know if I'm explaining this well, probably not as it often seems I am misunderstood on web forums due to my poor command of the written language. The end result for our tests, in my opinion, have reached a good balance. Students enter a test, not knowing for sure if they will pass it. The teacher certainly knows if the student is capable of passing...he wouldn't be allowed to test if he or she wasn't. When a student tests is usually determined by the dojo-cho who either directly, or indirectly through the Renshi/Shidoin of the dojo, help guide the student to a decision to test (with the occasional polite nudging for those who have the ability but not the confidence, or vice versa for those in too much of a hurry to test).
Hope this post didn't suck and confuse everyone!
I would like reemphasize Mr. Karr's translation of 'shodan.' It is our belief that shodan signifies the first rank of "dedicated/serious" student. When aikido becomes a part of the student, rather than something he or she does.
...that being said, our teacher has the standing statement "after shinsa shurio is called at the conclusion of a yudanhsa test, a piece of the testing candidate's soul should be left on the mat" (that's a MAJOR paraphrase, but the idea is still there, I hope)