Re: Poll: Do you think people should receive ranking in aikido for reasons outside of their technical ability?
Ian, why should a budo grading system be compared with anything that has to do with professions? That is beyond me.
What is the purpose of having a grading system? I say it is there because the Japanese likes knowing on a scale who is higher in status than the other. The way their society and culture works, it makes things easier for them. If you ask me, we could skip the grading systems all together - but that can not really be done, in an aikido world where everyone else is using them.
As I have understood it, it is we here in the West who finds this discussion of grades and what quality is required so important. I heard of a middleaged woman who was given shodan in judo, because younger people got high grades and she could not be left behind; it would have been not giving respect to elders. If that is the system, and everyone knows that's how it is - fine with me.
If you are grading your own students, not as a member of a committee judging people you do not know, it is quite OK if you want to take different people's different limitations into account - this is pretty much what James said. Ten years of training to shodan, in a line where people grade quickly (or more in a line where people take their grade fast) means the person is not the most talanted one. For him, he learned a lot during these years. Another person taking shodan after three years - let's say they train equally much - is talanted. He has no major limitations to take into account.
Character: for the major part I am not a major fan of judging students's "characters" but if your system is that the highest rank teaches class when the main teacher is away, then maybe there are people who you do not want to give the highest rank - because of attitude, and similar problems. Letting a student with bad attitude grade fast is also setting a bad example for the whole dojo. I have no problem with people not wanting to do that. Another possibility is of course that the teacher chooses who will teach in his abscence, regardless of rank. That is fine with me also.