I've been reading your writing for years, Dennis.You had written a story related to an illness that you suffering from and how aikido was your present friend (my words). I am again in agreement and inspiration with your words. I couldn't care less either. For similar and different reasons.
As a woman I've had to accept glass ceilings for a long time. How long will it take for Honbu to award me a shihan certificate, should I deserve one? Based on ethnicity, politics, and gender, I'd say, I'm not holding my breath. Does that mean I'm not a Sensei? No. Does it mean my teacher isn't a shihan, no? It simply means I have to be satisfied with my life and training exactly for what it is in my life. I let my students and friends decide. Ironically, that realizaton is what happens to help me deal with this reoccuring issue as a woman in a modern world. My dance with this issue has created an incredibly powerful independence in my personal movement and has erased a lot of illusion in me and my colleagues.
I'm sorry other people have to deal with this on other levels, also.
On the one hand, I am with you and Dennis on this. But on the other, it does effect me. I am a professional instructor. This is how I make my living. Now once I get a chance to work with someone, my stuff will either speak to them or not. But until I get "access" people will hang on to whatever is floating around to place me in their conceptual universe.
It's very bizarre what makes a difference. People have treated me completely differently since the first Aiki Expo, for instance. It took me out of being an obscure student of a well known teacher to having some standing in my own right. Ranks and Titles are how people who don't know make decisions about things. Folks at some dojo will invite shihan to teach over someone who doesn't have one unless they are given some more tangible reasons not to.
So it's that matter of access... once you are in and people see what you can do in person, those ranks and titles mean very little. But for folks who make their living teaching, it does make a difference in how widely you get to teach. If it didn't make any difference at all, people and organizations wouldn't use the titles, but they do. So we do have some reason to care because it can effect getting equal access. This is the risk associated with following teachers who do not follow the political mainstream and are themselves less known. Once they are gone and you are on your own, no one cares where you came from. It's nice to have some tangible form of recognition which cuts across the lines.
You and Dennis and I don't really have to worry. We've been blessed to train with some of the finest teachers there are. For us, that is really enough. But I am 55, I just saw one of my fellow ASU seniors pass away, so I am sensitive to the issue of what will my students be able to say? When they tell people 25 years from now that they trained with George Ledyard, will that mean anything or will it not?
It's not that a Shihan certificate really means much but if there are no female Shihan, that does end up meaning something. It can be the fact that someone has one who has no more qualifications than you do but you do not have one that can be meaningful.
Our teachers will always be our teachers. But we need to carry on after they are gone and these issues can effect that ability.