This was a great read for me! I started my Aikido training almost 13 years ago and am still rocking the 5th kyu status. Between college, deployments, relocations and general bad luck with missing gradings I have almost given up on the quest for shodan. It's posts like these that help me remember what it's all about and that the journey is more important than the destination. Although, some day I do hope to retire my old thread bare piece of white cloth!
Well... Kenneth.. if you've been practicing for 13 years you should by now have the basis of Aikido down pretty well.. come practice with me for a couple of months and I guarantee I'll grade you at least 4. kyu
The strange thing is that the coin has two sides. Sticking to it for the sheer joy of it is good, but forcing oneself to aim at the next grading once in a while helps put everything learned into perspective. I have a friend in Japan who practices kyudo in a very traditional dojo where they don't use the grading system. He's really frustrated since he would love to get a chance to test his skill and get that 'pat on the back' that one gets with every new grade. If handled correctly it is a great boost both before and after the grading. Also it contains a great chance to grow with the responsibility that comes with new grades.
I encourage my students to grade once they are ready. Formal requirements must be in order, and my personal judgement must be that they will be ready by the time the grading is scheduled. The higher the grade - the more I expect them to learn during preparation for the grading.
Seems to me that you haven't had the fortune of staying in the same dojo for long enough for a sensei to take an interest in your progress and forcing you to go that extra mile needed before a grading. Hope you will find it soon.
Great day to you all