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Old 07-18-2009, 07:39 PM   #15
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: non-Japanese cannot become shihan anymore?

I think that (1) the title of the thread is not quite accurate and (2) this whole discussion needs to be placed in a proper context.

(1) As JO states, there are procedures in place for the granting of shihan titles to suitable persons in organizations that have been recognized by the Aikikai. The minimum conditions are that the person must hold 6th dan rank and must have been training and teaching for at least 6 years after this rank was bestowed. I think that a committee meets each year in January, with decisions & diplomas being conveyed to the organizations. Unlike dan promotions, they are not announced anywhere publicly. A practical consequence is that no one can become a shihan unless that person is recommended by the organization.

The real issue here (which I will not discuss) is whether the procedures put in place by the Aikikai are an adequate response to the general issue, long debated, of whether non-Japanese can become Aikikai shihan--and what this means.

(2) It is essential to see the historical context here. First, shihan is still an accepted title in Japan. It is a term in general use, in addition to being used in various arts, besides aikido. In some cases diplomas are issued; in other cases (including the Aikikai) they are not. Secondly, in aikido there are other titles that have far more 'clout' than shihan and these have to do with the organizational structure of aikido in Japan, that began when Onisaburo Deguchi created the wartime Dai Nippon Budo Senyokai, headed by Morihei Ueshiba.

After the war, it was in these remnants of old organizations that aikido restarted and these old dojos eventually became part of the new postwar structure headed by Kisshomaru Ueshiba. A loose territorial network of shibu (支部) was established, headed by a Shibu-cho, consisting of dojos headed by a Dojo-cho. These shibu-cho and dojo-cho were also regarded as shihan, but their authority came from the fact that they were shibu-cho and dojo-cho, not from the fact that they were shihan.

The Japanese pioneers in the US, like Y Yamada, A Tohei, K Chiba and S Sugano, M Saotome, would all have had experience of teaching in such dojos, mainly as a way of helping to create new organizations in Japan. Thus, the Hiroshima Shibu was created by a Hiroshima native, who often trained at the Aikikai where he was younger and who, when he became Shibu-cho, was supported by an Aikikai Hombu group (S Yamaguchi, S Arikawa, H Tada and M Fujita).

Now the US is a vast country and after the pioneers arrived there (I am thinking especially of Y Yamada, A Tohei and M Kanai--K Chiba arrived much later), they eventually set up a mutual-support group, which they called the Shihankai. The name was reasonable enough, but each really functioned as the 'Shibu-cho' in his own territory. Thus, when I trained in the US in 1973 onwards, Yamada Sensei would visit Boston occasionally and Kanai Sensei would visit Canada (Montreal and Toronto). Of course, in those days there were no non-Japanese ranked high enough to be shihan.

This has changed, however, and the maturing of aikido in the US has been paralleled over the years by an increasingly widening gap between the 'thinking' of the Shihankai and the 'thinking' of the Aikikai Hombu. 'Thinking' here covers a wide range of matters, from the 'physico-spiritual' dimensions of actual training and teaching to more mundane issues like shihan titles. The creation of the Birankai is one example of this gap, since K Chiba has in effect created an organization that is parallel to the Aikikai.

I am trying to be even-handed here, since I know well both sides of the issues, but there is much mutual frustration. On the one hand, there is frustration that the 'old ways' of training and teaching seem to be held in scant regard. On the other hand, there is frustration that Doshu is doing his best in circumstances that become more difficult with the passing of the generations and needs more constructive support (and advice) than he is receiving. The other, major, problem is that the way that the traditional Japanese master-student relation is set up, there is no accepted means of fruitful communication.

Finally, it is very clear from the youtube clip that Doshu was giving an Aikikai Shihan diploma.

I hope that this long post has cast more light on the matter. Ultimately, however, the questions raised by Don Modesto in Post #3 remain: the problem is that agreement on the answers is still far off.

Best wishes to all,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 07-18-2009 at 07:44 PM.

P A Goldsbury
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