Re: The New Grading System
Very glad to have some feedback on this. I hope it's self-evident that this is not something to be taken literally, but rather as a light repast of food for thought.
First, the organizational comments are of interest to me, in light of the fact that I've been independent and working outside the official channels of traditional aikido organizations since... what, 2005? On the other hand, I do consider networking and increased global awareness to be a key indicator of advancement along this kind of track. Where I mention organizations or affiliations, one can easily insert the concept of larger interconnected networks or confederations, or meta-organizations like Aiki-Extensions.
The challenge that I'm presenting here is that a rank or grade should be an indication of willingness and ability to serve. Technical competence and acquisition of knowledge are only valuable to a community to the extent they are of service to the community. So, while rank can be an intensely personal thing, I think ultimately it is conferred by a community for the benefit of the community (which of course includes the conferree [is that a word?]).
I also would agree that this framework is incomplete, and certain orderings are subjective. There's nothing that presupposes that the "order" would even have to unfold in the given sequence. If a person can do the more advanced stuff, it would be silly to not recognize that. So maybe the numbers are not so much milestone markers, but valuations. If you achieve a number 10, then that's 10 points, but if you do the number 10 plus 1 though 9, that's (insert sigma math here). But again, really, I'm less interested in constructing a new dogma than I am in revitalizing the idea of chivalry in the arts.
Warriors should be servants. The new warrior is not, and should not be a mindless slave to the state or some overlord. But we should understand that we are not training only for our own aggrandizement, but to simply help make the world a better place for as many beings as possible.
Great question about who awards the highest grades. At some point, I think esteem (rank, grade, value, recognition) has to come from peers, and finally from the grass roots. Those "at the top" are (or should be) people worthy of us looking up to them, and the reason they're "at the top" is really because we lower-downs do in fact look up to them. So in a way, there is a democratization of higher ranks, a kind of market-driven mechanism of valuation. Of course, as soon as I say this, I realize only too well that here be there dragons, and we should all tread lightly in supporting such a system.
So again, the reader should understand I'm not seriously proposing a new system and certainly not expecting big organizations to adopt this as a rubric. I do aim to provoke some serious discussion, or at least thought on the matter. Why rank? Does it have meaning? Can we give it real meaning? What is its purpose in a socio/anthropological sense? Can we mindfully assess and improve upon this purpose?
Finally, well done Eva! Your service to the art has made my life better in ways I may never know. I bow to you in gratitude. May each new step be more joyous than the last.