In our dojo, nobody is forced to grade. But it's strongly suggested to. The reason isn't for the paper or for the rank but because testing force you to focus on different aspect of your training, depending on your level/skills... For example, if you're a beginner, you're probably better to focus on making a correct shomen uchi ikkio and learning secure falls/rolls than working on ushiro kotae gaeshi... In short, it helps you learn the techniques in a logical order.
As for association, again, nobody is forced to join. However, those that choose not to join the association are warned that their rank may not mean anything outside the dojo. Also, some seminars require a proof of membership to an association. Here in Canada, it cost only 10$/year to join the CAF, so most people joined for the "peace of mind" it gives.
Last edited by Carl Simard : 03-24-2003 at 08:34 AM.