Re: The black belt Issue (thoughts)
Tiyler, nope, at least not to those who should matter - you and your regular training partners. The actual belt colour (or lack) is often only used as an obvious marker by organisations to denote where someone is in their hierarchy. As such, it only denotes your competency in aikido if you accept the ranking system in the organisation you belong to.
Now if you never actually grade, one of several things may happen.
1. You get mugged by your association into grading
2. You get given the grade despite your best intentions
3. You sort of drift out of aikido if you have no other goals as "getting better" is often a bit too nebulous to normally stimulate learning.
Seen all three, done two of them and am currently trying out option 4