Re: Ranking systems in different countries
This topic isn't about whether or not anyone thinks ranking is important. There are other topics for that, or we can fire one up. This topic is about ranking systems.
Brian, you used the word "class." Where do we have classes? In schools.
I do agree, as Carsten stated, that even the ultimate purpose of education is not to "advance," but to enrich the life of the student.
Look at other enriching activities, such as skateboarding, skiing, tennis, etc.. People might take initial classes to get them started, but after that they're left to their own devices. Of course, being around people who are more "advanced" (there's that word) can certainly help them learn. But most of their participation is on their own time, and they freely enjoy the activity, and progress as they go along.
The way most people train aikido are in scheduled classes, dressed in regulation uniforms, the students sitting in a classroom formation, the teacher in the front demonstrating. The students, during the class, are told when to stand up, when to sit, when to stop, etc.. Most people do test and rank. Most people do find it important. And those who don't could be said to be doing a sort of "auditing" of the classes.
How many people here [obviously who might be reading this] regularly "play aikido?" Not "practice" aikido. But just get together with other people, whether on the mat, in their house, outside in the park - and just play around - like getting together to surf, or hike, or cook together. Where there's no "instructor," no "students" - just people enjoying the activity together. It could even be playing around with people from other martial arts.
Have you ever played around with your art in a business suit? A dress and high heels? While buzzed a bit on a nice wine or beer?
How many people freely enjoy the activity of aikido and martial arts outside of a scheduled classroom setting? Outside of the quasi-military, rank-and-file, structured educational system of aikido.