I would like to reiterate that Bernath Sensei, Donovan Sensei and Demko Sensei are not the only 7th dans in our organization. (You can see a full list on the AikiWiki here on Aikiweb.) They are just the most recent promotions
. They are also not the only Shihan. The Shihan of the USAF, outside of Yamada and Sugano Sensei, are:
Eddie Hagihara Shihan, Long Island Aikido Association
Harvey Konigsberg Shihan, Woodstock Aikido
Clyde Takeguchi Shihan, Capital Aikikai
Claude Berthiaume Shihan, Aikido de la Montagne
Peter Bernath Shihan, Florida Aikikai
Donovan Waite Shihan, Aikido of Center City
(Also, this list doesn't include the shihan of the now Birankai [former Western Region]. Remember, when the Aikikai Hombu dojo recognized the Birankai it also recognized their shihan, too.)
Are new promotions an indication of the choice of an "heir apparent?" I don't know if I would use the terms "heir apparent" as there is a natural tendency to think that this means one person is selected over others who may be equally qualifed. Actions in the USAF have been taken, however, to prepare for "the future." Unfortunately, meaning a future without Yamada Sensei. These promotions are not recent developments, they are a continuation of what started at least two years ago.
About two years ago with the Shihan promotions there was the creation of the Technical Committee and the Board of Advisors. It's my understanding
that the Technical Committe will be made of a certain group of people - the shihan, I believe.
The Board of Advisors will change through elections and each sensei (Shidoin and Fukushidoin) will get a chance to sit on the board at least once. There will be staggered elections every two years.
Technical Committee members will discuss standards expected for testing and they will sit and grade testing. If you haven't been to a major USAF seminar recently you will seen the newer Shihan sitting with Yamada Sensei at the examiners table and you will see new requirements being thrown out during the tests. The Advisory Board will be an opportunity for the non-shihan to have leadership within the organization as well, so they are not totally left in the dark, either.
So, the recent promotions are just a reflection and a moving forward towards this goal that was already set in motion a couple of years ago.
Also, if you want more detail about the "goings on" in the USAF, you can to www.aikidoeast.com
. And I suggest perusing through the, "Messages from Yamada Sensei" found in the archives.