What about the day after your promotion? A week later? Five months? With time, the promotion means something very different even to you.
I can tell you what your rank means. But first, what does it mean for you?
It is important to answer that question every time you are promoted. Also, it is important to know what your teacher thinks it means. If your teacher is doing his job, he will find a way to communicate that to you.
The Bujinkan is not as systematic, or as definitive as other martial arts when it comes to rank. You can take two shodan level students from different schools and compare. Is their rank the same? Usually not. Teachers vary widely in their requirements. But does it matter? People usually answer YES! But I would say that it shouldn't. You cannot compare the two. Their history precludes comparisons based on rank alone.
In my own class, I don't give my students a lot of information about how I rank. I don't tell them what to study or when to prepare for grading. I know what I want them to learn and what I am looking for in them for each rank. But by not spelling it out for them it does some things which are beneficial to the process:
- They don't have tunnel vision to selectively work on what they think is necessary for learning our art. Cut and dried rank requirements inspire that type of narrow focus.
- Even though I know what I want to see, they may surprise me. By not telling them what to do, they can bring their own talents to the table. This way I don't box them in or try to make them fit a mold. These surprises keep our art alive.
- After the promotion, since they don't know exactly if they fit the standards, they will keep working to improve everything instead of moving on to the next skill set.
Most people I've met in the Bujinkan who have reached a certain level, stop caring about rank as a goal, and they focus on the TRAINING. That is what we should strive for. Hatsumi Sensei has said this loudly and clearly for years. And his ranking process should get that through to you as well.
So what does rank mean? To me, rank is simply a communication between you and your teacher. No one else! It is meaningless to everyone else. Anybody who judges or tries to compare is foolish. And most people who aren't in the Bujinkan really don't care at all. Especially if they are attacking you!
You and your teacher. Rank is a way for the two of you to place a value on your training within your own circle. It is your teacher saying, "Here is where you are at, and where you need to go." It is private.
If you wear it like a badge you destroy the benefit it has and turn it into something meaningless.