Hmmm Larry should we air our dirty linen in public.
I have heard from many sources, even outside the JAA, that the Shodokan Shodan is the most difficult of the Aikido styles within Japan. This of course may have to do with the time requirement rather than blood, sweat and tears although I seem to remember plenty of all three.
That said you put in the time eventually you will make Shodan - it might just take a while longer than the gung ho types.
Shodokan Honbu is special even within the JAA. For example all the students I started with at Tsukuba Univiersity had Shodan while I was only Nikyu even though I trained more than twice as much. I left that dojo after a year when I moved to Osaka. There was no question whose Aikido was better - I was even asked to take part of the class during that visit.
Internationally there have been some excellent Aikidoists produced and they are recognized at Honbu as such. There are, sadly to say, some real embarrasments. This is the source of a relatively new rule in which only one of the two JAA shihans can award yondan and up. This has stepped on a few toes, including people who have produced people to a high standard. I really am not sure how the rule will help but who am I to question.
At Honbu you train regularily with advanced Dan grades even from no-kyu level. In our small dojos we have to compensate for the lack of this by a lot more individual attention and yes it is a point of pride that all of my students would be in the better half of a Honbu grading. It is actually not so difficult since the curriculum is well laid out but quality is in the execution - not so easy to mimik.
Of course then you have people like me that return to Japan for a top up and end up tossing it all in to move back.
Peter, is it me, or do International Shodokan Sensei who train extensively in Japan put a lot of extra effort to maintain (even surpass????) the Japanese standard?
A major high point for me after the grading was my Sensei's review of it, telling me that it was done to a standard that would have passed even in Japan. I couldn't stop smiling after that This being a small club in a little island in the Caribbean and all.
I've heard a few stories of how hard it is to get a Shodokan Dan grade in Japan, so that really made my day