Christopher Li (Chris Li) wrote:
Yes and no - in general Japanese use exactly how respectful the term is, who gets it and how they get it all depend on where you are and what you're doing.
Otherwise, the situation is pretty much as Ubaldo described it, it snuck into use at one point in the Aikikai and other schools but was, for the most part, never really formalized or systemized, which is where the problems came in.
I note that the current Aikikai regulations seem to state that one now has to be specifically certified by Aikikai hombu in order to use that designation - a number of non-Japanese were so certified recently. Despite that, however, I also note that just about any Japanese instructor with a certain level of status is referred to as "shihan" during the All Japan Aikido Demonstration put on by the Aikikai, and I'm fairly sure that they don't have the "official" certificates required for the non-Japanese instructors abroad...
The title actually snuck into use in the Aikikai when they created the IAF and issued international regulations governing the admission to the new federation of overseas aikido organisations. Up to then the use of the 'shihan' title was guided by aikido custom in Japan (anyone 6th dan and above was a shihan). However, the person who actually drafted the international regulations had something of an agenda and added conditions to the use of the title ("chosen from those of 6th dan rank and above who are adept at practice and teaching"). That is, he wanted to do a bit of gaiatsu and pressure the Aikikai into changing the Japanese custom within the Aikikai: all part of tightening up the training and teaching regime in Wakamatsu-cho.
The international regulations were adopted in 1976 and soon became controversial: if aikido was truly universal, why were there different standards within the IAF between Japan and overseas. The plan to change the regulations again was first made in 1992 and the idea of having shihan certificates was again resurrected. Kisshomaru Ueshiba did not touch the issue, but Moriteru has grasped the nettle and begun to issue certificates. But only for overseas organisations.
So there are still different standards. Overseas you have to have a certificate: in Japan, especially for the All-Japan Demonstration, being 6th dan is enough. And no certificate has ever been issued to a shihan in Japan.
I have some sympathy for Moriteru Doshu. As a knowing Japanese friend said to me, Moriteru being Doshu is like a new wife being married into a traditional Japanese family, but with about 20 mothers-in-law, who all watch his every move. Of course, it was probably even more difficult for Kisshomaru in 1969, coming after his father.
Anyway, for me titles like shihan etc do not matter, but fairness--Japanese and non-Japanese aikidoka being treated equally by the Aikikai--does matter.