>KAMI : Oops! Initiated the "teaching rank" in USA? Not extending to Shihan. Shihan, up to this year, was an exclusive indication of Hombu itself and there were NO non-japanese Shihan. So Chiba Sensei couldn't have "initiated the teaching rank" (at least concerning Shihan). The only "teaching ranks" available for indication to non-japanese were Fukushidoin and Shidoin, but definitely NOT Shihan.<
Which is why I wrote "Teaching rank system". But bringing the system to the US was, so I've been told, Chiba Shihan's doing. The problems arose because there seemed to be a "glass ceiling" at the rank of Shidoin.
I believe the recent confusion over the title of "Shihan" arises, as Kami says, from its dual meaning of "Exemplar Teacher" and "Senior Teaching rank".
People who use it as a teaching rank object to it being applied automatically to teachers who don't have a certificate from the Aikikai Hombu. I've seen the term "Dai-Shihan" used by the AAA (and, I think, the ASU) as a way of honoring teachers without causing the confusion that the "shihan" title might engender.
As a side issue, it is considered improper to refer to yourself as either "Shihan" or even "Sensei", such as, "Hi I'm Baker Sensei". The title is one that the students use to honor their teacher. Yamada Shihan said that "Shihan", when used as "Exemplar Teacher", must come from the students own recognition of the qualities of their teacher and shouldn't be automatic.
Personally, I've met Shihans who's morals "weren't worth what a pig could spit" (to quote Sondheim) and are hardly an "exemplar" except as a model of how not to act. (And no, I won't say who.)