In Japanese martial arts, A Shihan is a master instructor. In Aikido, a Shihan is someone who has devoted themselves full time to the transmission of Aikido knowledge to the hearty and willing to learn. Aikido is their full time job.
In Birankai, I have have been fortunate enough to learn from several different Shihan (Mike Flynn, Elizabeth Lynn) regularly, and have had seminars and instruction from a variety of other Shihan at least once (Archie Champion, Darrel Blumn, and Gloria Nomoura). I have also attended seminars taught by Yamada Sensei (One of the last living direct students of O Sensei), and Hori Shihan. Everyone of these classes has been rich and rewarding.
While in Bangkok, I took the metro to Renbukan Dojo. Renbukan Dojo is one of the oldest dojos in Southeast Asia, serving up Aikido since the 1960s. I had the privilege of learning from Shihan Suwanee Paekhao.
Like most Shihans, her class was well put together. All the stretches worked directly with the techniques we practiced. Then the techniques flowed into open hand defense against weapons. She approached her teaching with alacrity and worked with all students helping them hone their ukeme as well as their technique.
Like all sensei’s before, a central message was: “Stay Alive”. Paekhao Shihan took it one step farther and showed 3-4 variations on each technique where the uke, in the process of staying alive, could reverse the initiative on an unaware nage.
Another core message during this class was position. Paekhao Shihan had us do the same technique using 4 slightly different positions.
The class closed with a 20 freestyle techniques and rondori. It was supposed to be an hour class, but Paekhao Shihan kept the fun going for nearly 2 hours. I was exhausted at the end.
Even though their lineage was different, they welcomed me in the dojo and treated me equally. Many of the movements were familiar with some very minor variations.