Re: History of Black Belt?
I'll point this out as I don't recall seeing it.. the whole belt system is a recent invention... If I recall correctly it was developed by Kano Jigoro for judo.. maybe in the 1920s? Before that, students were members of clubs or koryu's and each had their own ranking system.
As for a shodan in japan.. I came to japan a little under a year ago with almost 4 years of experience in aikido ( 3~4 times a week and ikkyu.) After training at my current dojo with some nidans and shodans and absolutely running them through the gauntlet, I realized that the training ideas in japan are completely different for a lot of people.. of course their styles are reflected in this (as anywhere else.) Also, you have to take in to account that japanese society, on a whole, is non-confrontational. With this in mind, watching a majority of native japanese people train and watching foreigners train, you can see a world of difference. This doesn't hold true for anyone I have seen above nidan though..
My current sensei studied closely under nishio shihan for quite some time and is high ranking in aikikai, and his style is very strong and what we in america would call 'street effective'. His shodans reflect this. After training with him for a while, he made the comment to me that as an ikkyu in america I could be a nidan in japan.. With this, it would seem even higher ranking aikido senseis recognize a difference between a majority of japanese shodans and american shodans.
As for the 'what belt is he question.' I think we can thank the Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies of the 60s and 70s for introducing america to the whole 'black belt master' idea.
thats my .02..