Re: What is Martial Arts Rank?
Present ranking system is already deeply rooted into the consciousness of occidental people. It will stay, independently of its strengths and weakness, do we want or not. Most people must have some landmarks to situate themselves, where they are in an abstract scale of ‘progress’.
So one may choose to live in some kind of wishful thinking world (and ignore or fight against) or use it wisely to improve. One use of rank can be to express the relation with his/her own teacher. Other, as Michael stated, the degree of responsibility toward an art, dojo, students….I see it as an excellent tool to motivate people to continue a training and improve quality of their practice. Most beginners see ranks as very important in their practice, may be later they will change their motivation, but for the moment it keeps them coming to the dojo. Some advanced instructors see a rank as kind of recompense for many years of practice and organizational efforts and it keeps them coming to the dojo despite of injuries and age issues…
There is yet another aspect of ranks – preparation for tests. I haven’t seen it until I started my dojo. In fact, this preparation plays very important role not only for given individual, but for dojo as a group. Somehow, during preparation the relations between students are getting tighter, group become more and more consolidated, coherent, may be because they suffer together? In the same time, everybody benefice from advices of instructor, even people who don’t prepare the test. Beginners are being impressed by the fact that during preparation students are being push beyond the limits and start to believe that one day they can do it also. Also the true respect is earned, yes, it is not a test itself or rank, it is a suffering during preparation that earns respect. It reminds the rituals in the culture of primary tribes where a teen became an adults.
Also for the peoples outside of budo community, it is the only way to evaluate a student or instructor, we like it or not.
I’m far from glorification of rank but I can see its utility in the present society.