Re: A word on Time Trained and Ranking
"Last, I do want to point out, in regards to varying degrees of graduation/testing, that in Aikido, there is actually fairly straight forward rules to the testing. Head over to the Aikikai Hombu Dojo website, and they have a quite detailed list for the amount of training and time needed to take the different tests. The American Aikido Foundation (think it's called that?) also has a similar list, detailed hours of training needed, and skills that need testing for each graduation."
If you've looked at both of these (I presume you mean the US Aikido Federation? Unless you meant another one) then you have presumably also noticed that the two are completely different. The techniques are tested at different ranks, and one has less than half the training day requirements as the other (not a small difference), while also requiring people to submit essays.
And I would argue that neither says much at all about what skills or level of proficiency are needed. It's just lists of techniques, and most of those techniques can be done (awkwardly) by a student who has been training for a couple of months. It's up to the examiners to judge if the technique demonstrated in the particular test is being performed at a level they believe to be appropriate for the rank.