“Masters of the Universe, the Aikikai and the Shihan Certification,” by Christopher Li

“Who gets it, who doesn’t and would you want it anyway?”

One of our readers kindly sent a link to a very interesting article written by Christoper Li of the Aikido Sangenkai. It has to do with the title of “Shihan” and the differing standards for referring to oneself as Shihan within the Aikikai system. I highly recommend that you read this piece.

“Shihan” – most often translated as “Master Instructor”. Sound pretty important?

The term wasn’t used much when I first started Aikido, but it seems to be the title to have nowadays.

In Japanese, the Kanji for Shihan (師範) break down to “instruct” and “model” – or “model instructor”. This makes sense, especially considering normal Japanese methods of instruction – this would be the guy that everybody else copies, or hopes to copy.

The regulations appear to be fairly straightforward, as is Tani’s clarifying statement – until we get to this section:

Click here to read the entire article


  1. Titles, hierarchies, chains of non command, paper tigers, lots and lots of meetings and talk, and concepts and ideologies makes you wonder if these dudes find time in-between prissy strutting to actually train!

    Epaulettes, coloured cloth and titles cannot stop arrows and bullets in the field. Skill does. Skills is not found in meetings, politics, talkfests, new ideas about how to find ways to engage empty boastings. We already have the Vatican for that, but even they for two thousand years provided a viable reign of terror and domination subjugating Europe into serfdom and destroying and slowing down science, discovery, education, thinking and culture as best they could manage. Let’s not repeat that idiocy, heh? Let’s learn from the mistakes of the past and laugh at unskilled idiots who serve nothing and no one, only their own gross, ridiculous, overestimated opinions of themselves.

    Why give away your power to a bully who will abuse it and take from you when you can instead reclaim yourself and give light to the world? Why the chimp behaviours? Just because baboons red arses confer rank it should mean nothing to an intelligent thinking being.

    Skill is found in training with a questioning mind seeking answers and refinement. And serving in a field of endeavour where actual high risk exists. Developing skill is a never ending pursuit. Serving with that skill is a rare privilege. Manufacturing meaningless ranks to feel important is a psychiatric illness throttled by massive insecurity. It is the pursuit of fools. Fools can be no role models unless the blind leading the blind is the goal. To what end?

    Whom do you serve? Who are you protecting? In the real military, or other services, chains of command have viability because a soldier is expected to serve whatever it is he is deemed to be protecting. Orders are issued hopefully intelligently and with purpose. Imaginary “rank” for purposes of lording it over, on the other hand, is the epitome of immaturity. Empty titles, the limelight disease, pedestalitis, is a very dangerous thing as found out when it recoils as invariably it will.

    Make yourselves useful instead.
    I for one don’t give a hoot for any fake rank no matter how or by whom bestowed.

    The measure of a persons worth is whether they can make themselves useful in improving the world. More so when real risk is involved in doing so and instead of running with their tail or expensive hakama between their legs they meet the challenges and make a difference for good..

    Budo is for protecting life not egotistic self image.


    ps. The Japanese dictionary translates “shi” as “death and “han” as “mediocrity.” Apropos I think. My suggestion is this. Stop being dead and mediocre. Get a job. One serving life where there is risk involved. Then train and get some modicum of skill. Then share this skill to the best of your understanding with others. Serve. Make yourself available instead of hiding behind imaginary ranks than have no meaning and ridiculous connotations. Give something unconditionally. Stop being so damn afraid of everything that you need to use the futile amor of titles to hide behind. Then you will cease being both dead and mediocre. You will live, shine and excel. Then start over. Keep starting over. Leave a trail of goodness instead of ridiculousness.

  2. Well…yes, I was making some jabs (especially with the first graphic) at the folks who scramble over this kind of thing.

    OTOH, whether the title has any real meaning or not is immaterial to the fact that the two-tiered system is discriminatory.



    • Bottom line is if a person has something to offer, then they should simply offer it. The catwalk is best left to the likes of Flavia Oliveira, Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.

      Budo is for warriors!

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