As a martial artist, I've learned a lot. As a martial artist, I'm aware that there is a lot left to learn.
All too often, I've experienced (and seen) some craziness as relates to martial arts (including MMA), budo, being a warrior, respect (real, perceived & expected) and the like. I have found that the most likeable people in karate are usually the ones that do not go around crowing on about being respected or throwing their rank in the faces of others.
The flip side is, I've also dealt with some of the worst people in the respect department. I've had folks latch onto the respect of significant others, some who have contributed zilch expect their feet to be washed upon entering the dojo and a couple who couldn't best a chimp in kata, weapons and kumite feel as if their the savior of martial arts. As an extension of the adage, "Respect is not given, respect is earned", some guidelines should be framed around respect and rank. My stab is:
1). Your rank is not only based on the color of the cloth around your waist, rather everything that preceded you receiving it and everything you accomplish after.
2). Respect does not come with your rank; it is earned and maintained seperately.
3). There is one path to advancing in your rank: hard work.
This framework provides a fairly clear synopsis of how EVERY martial artist should proceed on their path. No individual is bigger than their rank. Their merits will speak for themselves and, if the individuals accomplishments are meritorious, then in due time those accomplishments will be reflected in the respect they receive.
Your rank is not only based on the color of the cloth around your waist, rather everything that preceded you receiving it and everything you accomplish after:
In most martial arts (that I know of...), there is a set rubric for kyu grades and dan grades. A shodan candidate that shows up to testing having not supported their organization in other ways, to me, is not a worthy candidate. Likewise, a candidate that supports their organization, but does not follow the "unwritten" tenets of said rubric is not worthy either.
Walk the walk AND talk the talk.
Ideally, a student with good attendance, comes to camps & tournaments (and PARTICIPATES!), exhibits leadership traits learned inside the dojo (implicitly and explicitly) and who supports their dojo (to me...) is a great candidate for advancement. That said, to a degree I believe in "what have you done for me lately?"; the student must keep working, keep learning, continually advance and step up. What you did last year might have been awesome, but what impact did you make last month? It counts...
Respect does not come with your rank; it is earned and maintained seperately:
You've been a student for 3-4 years and you're finally moving up the line. Good for you. Except, you treat people badly, you provide zero value and, as a person, you kinda suck. Don't be surprised when: that yellow belt, you know --the helpful fella...the first one in, last one out. The guy that blows the doors off of the gym during warm up and doesn't let up until cool down...yeah him. Don't be surprised when you realize that people respect him more than you. In fact, upon realizing this, fix it, and fix it fast...fix it fast with a double scoop of humility.
This also applies when you happen to have a tie to someone of higher rank; the respect of that person (or the respect that may be residual of their rank) DOES NOT APPLY TO YOU. In cases of married couples, you don't get half in the divorce. Understand of course, that you can forge your own bloom with the folks you have to deal with...in fact, it's expected.
There is one path to advancing in your rank: hard work:
Simply stated: As far as I'm concerned, there is no Happy Meal (TM), there is no toy (and definitely not a special one for children under three) and I don't care if the lid on your coffee isn't secured. Why? This is NOT a McDojo. As an instructor, I expect sweat; no sweat = no effort. If you wanted a rank handed to you, there is a dojo on every fourth corner that will hand you one --your gi will have stars on it and you may be one of the best "karate tag" players in all the land, but hey -what did you expect?
Do your best, try hard, continually improve (and show up) and everything else will take care of itself. A very wise man once said "Make efforts and you will achieve"; not a very hard concept, right?
In closing, there is a misconception that rank and respect are inextricable. I say bull. They are mutually exclusive. I've seen higher ranks whose advice on how to cross a street wouldn't be taken and I've seen blue belts win the favor of many of their senpai (seniors). It comes down to how much work YOU are willing to put in. The same path can be taken to both a rank and a level of respect, but it all depends on you.