Little House In Ise

Shihan — 師範
January 6, 2008, 12:42
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was interviewed by a reporter from the Chunichi Shinbun after hatsugeiko. It was an awkward chat and I found myself in the weird position of explaining the usage of Japanese words to a Japanese person. Having my own sensei, my shihan, standing by listening in did not make me more comfortable.

There are differences between typical Japanese usage of certain words and their Aikido (Aikikai Aikido in this case) specific terminology. She asked me if other than being an Aikido Shihan I had another job. 🙂 It is an understandable mistake but it made me uncomfortable. In Japanese “Shihan” means “instructor” or “teacher”. In an Aikikai Aikido context however it means something like “Master teacher”. It is a title that does not correspond to an exact rank but seems to awarded beyond the 6th degree black belt. When Aikidoka refer to “Aikido Masters” they are generally talking about shihan.

So, with my own shihan listening in, I tried to explain that “Shihan” meant a teacher of high technical proficiency who has also made significant lifetime effort to bring Aikido to the masses. Sensei laughed, told me not to get too complicated and then wandered off, which made the rest of the interview a lot easier. The reporter had seen me teaching kids and had heard Ueda Shihan call me “Eric Sensei” so she wanted to know what my title actually was in order to put me in context. “Shugyousha” didn’t quite cover her need for context but my need to NOT be called “shihan” (or even sensei) in a newspaper article trumped that.


6 Comments so far
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How about “shidouin” 指導員 as in “shidou
wo sasete itadaiteimasu”? Or the even more
humble”shidou tantou sha” 指導担当者? These
titles are very handy when the REAL sensei
is present.

Comment by Laurel

Howdy Laurel!

Thank you for your comment.

You have a good point. Shidou-tantousha would probably have been a good choice. In an Aikikai context, “Shidoin” is also an official, awarded, title. Beyond the regular belt ranking system, there are also three ranks of teachers that are awarded by the Aikikai organization.

副指導員 — Fukushidoin
指導員 — Shidoin
師範 — Shihan

As I have recieved none of the those titles, your suggestion would have been the best. Thanks!

Is there an equivalent “rank” convention for teachers in the Kinokenkyukai?


Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric,
In the Kinokenkyukai “shidouin” is a
qualification that is given by the
Shidouin, with the other qualifications
in ascending order:

The head of my dojo refers to his job
as shihan or sensei or dojochou (we call him
‘sensei’, or to 3rd parties ‘kanchou’), but
I don’t think these are titles that are
granted by the organization. In fact, I’m
not sure about the use ‘shihan’ in our organization.

Comment by Laurel


Is “shinpanin” the same as 審判員? That’s sort of like umpire or ref. Is it a teaching title or more managerial? Since it’s broken down in Japan by prefecture and country it sounds more like structural than educational thing. Am I totally missing the point?

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Yes, shimpan is more structural in that
it is the qualification to test for dan
ranks, it is not a ‘rank’. I looked around
on the net awhile, and I don’t find any
formal definition of shihan in Kinokenkyu,
seems like it is used to refer to upper-ranking

Comment by Laurel

Thanks Laurel! I haven’t been in a Shinshintoitsu dojo in 10 or 15 years. I wasn’t paying attention to things like organization or structure at the time.

The thing that struck me the most was the “Tohei Hop” I think you folks call it anyway. That very deep entry, almost a leap, on ikyo and maybe other techniques. I thought that was very powerful.

Take care,

Comment by Eric Holcomb

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