I have been speaking with many Bujinkan members since I arrived in Japan, and it seems there are a few misconceptions about the term Shihan.
It is understandable because the word “Shihan” has various possible meanings.
The two more common are:
1: selling on the market (in the marketplace, in stores, etc.); making something commercially available;
2: (No-adjective) commercial (e.g. software); over-the-counter; off-the-shelf; store-bought
instructor; (fencing) teacher; model (I guess this is the correct one).
A Shihan is then a teacher and/or an instructor, but the use of this title depends on the martial art you train. For example, it is different in Karatedō, Jūdō, Aikidō, etc.
Some say you need at least an 8th dan to be called a “Shihan”. I honestly do not know what is the rule for the Bujinkan.
The “Guidelines for Participation in the Bujinkan” by Sōke Hatsumi, say that “true Shihan can be given fifteenth dan” (1). So at least we know that a Jūgodan is a Shihan, but I guess we can use the term before reaching this ultimate rank.
Until recently there was no diploma for Shihan. But last year things have evolved as Hatsumi Sensei created two new awards of “Yūshū Shihan” and “Dai Shihan”.
Only Jūgodan can receive these titles.
A Yūshū Shihan (優秀師範) is an “important Shihan”. (2)
A Dai Shihan (大師範) is a “senior instructor”. (3)
Hatsumi Sensei has given several Yūshū Shihan awards but only ten Dai Shihan (so far), three in Japan and seven abroad. I hope this helps you to understand better how the Bujinkan works.
Whether you are a Shihan, a Yūshū Shihan or a Dai Shihan, it doesn’t matter because every Shihan is a Jūgodan. Respect those titles but don’t give them too much importance.
Sunday in his garden in Saitama, next to Takamatsu’s memorial, Sensei said: “we have created the Bujinkan dōjō in memory of Takamatsu sensei, and there must be unity amongst its members. No one is above the others, no one is the head of the Bujinkan, we are all at the same level. When people are competing, peace cannot be achieved”.
So as happiness is the goal of the Bujinkan, is it really important to know what type of Shihan you are?
2. 優秀 Yūshū: superiority; excellence
3. 大師範 Dai Shihan: master; senior instructor