Re: Masters of the Universe, the Aikikai and the Shihan Certification
For arguments sake I will - in this post - just talk about aikikai hombu dojo affiliated dojos here. The others can pretty much do what they want anyway disregarding what hombu dojo thinks.. which pretty much is the reason they broke away anyway.
Assuming 'shihan' means something along the line of 'Model instructor' it would be clear that a 6th dan and the title of Shidoin for a period of time are not the only elements necessary for the title to be issued. In my limited understanding of Japanese line of thought things are just not put together by that type of causality thinking.
First of all the whole concept of kyu and dan ranking is a very versatile system. There are a set curriculum for hombu dojo but everybody know that the national organisations and even local dojos more often than not have their own interpretations. Also the way we practice a given technique is far from uniform between each dojo, organisation or country. So.. therefore a shodan is not a shodan in the form of a 'template' that we need to fit completely, and that goes for all the other levels as well. Some grades are given for extraordinary effort in the organisation (partially) - some are given for other reasons.
The hombu dojo is basically a dojo like every other dojo in the sense that they have a number of teachers who each embodies aikido in their own way. It just happens to also be the place where we keep the records of all dan grades issued, but apart from those based on gradings within the same building, they all rely on the national, regional and local organisations. For such a trust to be earned you need to have people in each organisation / country that have demonstrated a personality and a level of aikido which will enable them to be the local representatives from hombu dojo. Dan levels have been used as a guide towards what needs to be fulfilled for an organisation to be able to perform their own gradings to a certain level, but again - a dan grade is a somewhat flexible concept.
The same goes for the title of shihan. Hombu dojo can issue this title to a person who has made himself visible as a 'model instructor'. That is - somebody who can teach aikido and pass it on to others in a good way and with a clear and understandable vision of how to develop aikido (this may vary a lot). Now - asking for the shihan title would probably disqualify you immediately. You need to be someone that somebody with the right level will see and recognize as shihan material. Of course you will be more likely to get this attention if you are close to those who make these decisions. For example by going to hombu dojo all the time, or by going to a lot of seminars and develop a close relationship to influential senseis/shihans. Of course such things as personal likes / dislikes matters - not to mention pure luck and the ability to be a the right place at the right time. This will favor japanese senseis who teach at hombu dojo, or who go there on a regular basis.
Some might think that this makes the system less than perfect. Especially if you have an 'organizational mindset' where you believe that people earn merits by doing chores within a system that records all activities. That is just not the japanese way.. nor do I believe the budo way.
Personally I prefer the title to be something given as a recognition for an extraordinary effort combined with at gift for teaching and transforming aikido. That - in my book - are the features of a 'model instructor'. If the title was handed out to anybody at a special age and with enough hours on the mat, then it would just be the same as say 6th dan. It has to be something special.
Just my thoughts on the matter...