George S. Ledyard
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.
There are interesting reasons why no foreign shihan are listed on the Aikikai website, the primary reason being that the title is official but confined entirely to the organization in which they are a shihan.
In Paris last March at the IAF meeting, several of us had a very interesting conversation with Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei. He was surprised to know that he was a sort of super-shihan, able to award dan grades to anyone in the world, regardless of organization. Yamada-shi was one of the first group of shihans who went overseas at the request of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. There is a second group, also on the Aikikai website, but not distinguished from the first group, comprising those shihans whose activities are confined to a particular country. The third group are the foreign shihans who can give rank only within their organizations.
The ASU has no shihans in this third group because it is not an organization officially recognized by the Aikikai. If you look on the English section of the Aikikai website, you will see a list of organizations in the US officially recognized by the Aikikai, but the ASU is not on this list. I asked the present Doshu about this once and his answer was that all the grades were handled though Saotome Sensei personally, who, in effect is the only shihan within the ASU (though Hiroshi Ikeda might qualify, since he is Japanese and was Mr Saotome's deshi in Japan). And this leaves all the other people in Japan who are, or who are regarded as, shihans but have nothing to prove it.
As you can imagine, this is a labyrinth even for the Japanese...
Anyway, there is some pressure on the IAF to stop being a Mr Nice Guy to the Aikikai Hombu.