Are gradings important?

From time to time, one hears a hearty debate between dojo students as to the merits of grading in Aikido.  Indeed there has been many an article on Aikido and other martial arts websites about the benefits or otherwise of gradings in traditional martial arts.


These debates typically discuss such matters as the need for uniform standards, the origins of grading systems, commercial influences that may impinge on integrity of the grading process, martial arts elitism and like matters.  What is often overlooked, is the personal benefits that gradings offer the student.

Ian Black belt HQSome years back, my Sensei at the time sent me an email that really brought it home to me as to why I should always step up to grade whenever invited.  The correspondence came about after I was invited to test for my Aikido 3rd kyu grading (green belt) and was having personal doubts as to whether I was ready.

The email included the most eloquent and persuasive statement that I have yet heard as to the personal benefits that gradings offer the Aikido student.  It went as follows:

Preparing for grading makes you review what you are learning.  And puts a little pressure on yourself.  I see it like this …  A plant in a pot will grow to a certain height. Only when it is transplanted into a larger pot will it continue to grow.”