A question that always seems to crop up around this time. Some people enjoy challenging themselves. Other's feel it's unnecessary in a martial art. So let's check out some of the reasons I've encountered.
In the spirit of the martial way, one must continuously challenge one's own physical and mental abilities, as well as one's perceptions of the way things are, and should be.
1. You test for the sake of testing
I like this one, but with one caveat: While the experience of testing is the reason for testing itself, one should not forget that the goal of testing is to pass. One should strive for and want this outcome. For if there was no desire for a final result, then the test itself is meaningless.
2. You test to get instruction at the next level
When attending large seminars, or even being in a large class, the ratio of instructors to students makes personalized attention near impossible. To allow the appropriate knowledge to be passed on, the students are grouped by skill and understanding = rank.
I used to subscribe soley to this point of view, but from experience, have realized that it's really not a necessity. If one is dedicated and committed to progress, the instruction will come. For example, the best time for learning at the annual Guelph Iaido Seminar is on Monday. All participants are given free practice, while the visiting Sensei look on.
Sometimes they may practice on their own, and when they do, watch them! There's so much to learn from watching the elite do their thing.
4. You test because you deserve the rank
This is a very touchy subject, so let me try to clarify the point. In my opinion, it is not one's place to claim they deserve anything. Martial arts should be mirrored in your life, and vice versa. You go about your training and your daily duties trying to improve yourself, help out others, and chip away at all the various weaknesses in your body and character. The judging panel and your Sensei will determine whether or not you deserve the next rank.
Try this primer:
If your Sensei asks you to test, do not argue your worthiness. To do so would show arroganc (assuming you know better), or a lack of trust. The Sensei-Student relationship works both ways. By showing their trust in your ability to test, and pass, you should reciprocate. Showing trust in other people and your own abilities. That's how you build character.
If your Sensei asks you not to test, do not argue. Like any challenges in life, there is a right time and place. Perhaps the focus on grading points will interrupt your existing progress. Perhaps they feel a lack of success may affect your confidence. Understanding your own weaknesses and accepting them. That's how you build character.So what are other reasons for grading the martial arts? I'd like to hear them.