Don J. Modesto
Have you talked with Saotome about his understanding of the term/title "SHIHAN"? That carving at the entrance to his house does say something like SHIHAN University, right? No one's graduated?! Or is it just assumed at some cut off rank (which would be...what?)
Saotome Sensei has always used the more traditional usage... as far as he is concerned, his 6th Dans are "shihan". But in the sense that the term is used by the Aikkai, with whom we are associated, none of us are "officially" Shihan in the sense that we do not have any certificates from Honbu dojo stating that we are. When I started Aikido it seemed to be accepted that 6th Dan and up was considered "Shihan". Of course, at that time the senior Americans in Aikido were 4th Dans. Later, when their were a number of foreign 6th Dans, the bar seemed to get raised and "Shihan" seemed to be associated with 7th Dan. Of course, since the Dan ranks are finite, raising the bar every few years couldn't go on forever, so now that there are foreign 7th Dans, there are finally, foreign Shihan, complete with certificates. However, the last I checked, if you went to the Hombu dojo website and looked under their list of overseas instructors, you wouldn't find any of these foreign Shihan listed. In my opinion the real meaning of this title is in the process of being defined over time by the membership rather than the organization which issues the certificates.