Ranking is awarded through a formal demonstration of specific techniques that you have learned. There are 6 ranks leading to black belt called kyu starting with 6th kyu and counting backward up to 1st kyu. After 1st kyu you begin preparation for shodan (1st degree black belt). Ranking is awarded separately for Aikido and Iaido.
Shodan is the name for a first degree black belt. Shodan literally means “beginner grade.” To those unfamiliar with martial art ranking a black belt might imply mastery, but this is not really the case. You will be very competent by the time you achieve your black belt, but shodan really means that you are ready to begin the journey. Kyu ranks might be thought of as preparation. Your real understanding of the art comes after shodan.
Rank testing is an important part of training. It allows you to measure your progress and be accountable for the things you’ve learned. Ranks confer seniority in the school and in the aikido community at large, but they are not for comparing individuals to each other. Factors of age, physical ability and limitations must all be respected among individuals. Aikido is for your own development, not a means to compare you to others.
Testing is by mutual consent of student and instructor. Testing is held on a regular basis and the test times will be posted at the dojo. Be sure to communicate with the instructor in advance if you intend to test so that you can be fully prepared. Getting a class partner with whom you can prepare is also very helpful. Be sure you are fully prepared to show each technique from your current exam requirements and all techniques from your previous exams. Prior to your test date you must arrange with another student to have them serve as your uke (partner). For lower level kyu tests you will need just one uke. For upper level kyu test and dan (black belt) tests you will need 2, 3 or more uke to assist you.