Last week I was informed that at the New Year's 'kagami biraki' in Tokyo, Hombu dojo had awarded me the title of shihan. It was a bit of a surprise. Not something I was expecting or bracing for. It has a little bit of history with me. I started aikido in 1969 with Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau senseis. At the time they were fresh off having trained in Japan at Hombu dojo. I consider them both direct students of the founder Ueshiba Osensei. When I went to Japan and started training at the Shingu dojo the term came into my consciousness. Anno, Yanase , and Tojima sensei's (top photo upper row) were referred to by that title. The last 2 held 6th dan. And Anno sensei was at the time 7th. So it was natural to assume the title came with an upper rank. I returned to the Shingu dojo several times in the early ninties. At the time I was a 6th dan and surprised to hear Yanase sensei, definitely one of my all time heroes, refer to me as Jack shihan. I later found out that at the Shingu dojo when you received 5th you had the title of shihan. But when the area leaders here received their upper ranks I found out that the title didn't come with a rank promotion. Sometime in the early 2000's Nadeau sensei received the title. I arranged a special dinner for him on that occasion and got quite a group of his longtime students to attend. He along with Frank Doran sensei and Pat Hendricks sensei now hold the title of shihan. It is an award that must be conferred upon you and not necessarily tied to high rank. Although you must hold a high rank to be awarded the title. Confusing?
The Japanese characters mean a teacher who is an example to other teachers. It is often referred to as Master Instructor. But when Tojima sensei visited in 1979 he stated that there was only one Master in Aikido, and that was Ueshiba Osensei. And I believe that to this day. So I prefer the first definition. Certainly the 3 Shingu teachers were definitely role models for me. Anno sensei does that to this day. And the 3 division heads of CAA also I find wonderful role models.
Along with my fellow CAA members Frank McGourik sensei, Michael Friedl sensei, and Cyndy Hayashi sensei also received the title. So I wish them the heartiest congratulations. I especially want to than Hayashi sensei for all the tireless work she has put into the Association. I am sure this award could not have happened without her effort and dedication.
It was December of 1969. I had just completed a quarter of training at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club. I went with Robert Frager sensei on a field trip to the Mt View dojo. Walking around the dojo I came upon this certificate
I wonder how many of even the Japanese instructors ever got awarded one of those? It is signed by second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and by none other than Ueshiba Osensei himself! Quite a document!
The only teaching certificate I hold was issued to me in April of 1973 by Master Choy Kam Man , certifying me as a t'ai chi ch'uan instructor. But this is definitely quite an honor I would like to thank all the instructors and students of Aikido of San Jose who have supported me over these many years. Without you none of this would have been possible!