I don't recall anyone in aikido actually being given the title "master," although some people have been refered to as such in formal and informal settings, and in media reports.
As far as I know, shihan means "teacher of teachers."
I think that this would mean, therefore, that if one is, for example, a 6 dan in a dojo, he/she, while certainly being considered a sensei, would not necessarily be considered a shihan, although it seems that Hombu Aikikai now does this somewhat automatically, with the exception of for foreign devils.
If, on the other hand, an individual had reached a certain level of proficiency, coupled with a sufficient number of years in the art, and had a large number of sensei and a number of dojo under his control, then I think he would either officially or unofficially be refered to as a shihan. In this sense, it seems to be a somewhat political or even militaristic title.
I think that it would sort of be like a division commander in the military.
Last edited by mike lee : 07-30-2002 at 09:54 AM.