Although I always post an announcement when members of Itten Dōjō receive promotions, I never do that with regard to myself. It’s also the case that we don’t typically display promotion certificates, believing the appropriate place for such documents is tucked away, out of sight, in a fire safe. The only certificate heretofore displayed in our dōjō, in my office, is for the final promotion I received in karate, from Ted Vollrath Sensei — and it’s only been displayed to honor his memory.

Recent circumstances, however, incline me toward making an exception to both policies.

In consequence of issues with a former organization, I have been for almost two years without documents certifying rank in aikijutsu, one of the primary arts I teach. This hasn’t really been any kind of practical impediment, since anyone can readily check into my history and experience. But the fact remains that anyone entering the office of a professional expects to see a credential hanging on the wall, whether it’s from a medical or law school, or a certification from a governmental agency or some other recognized authority. Even if I would not normally have displayed such a credential, I most certainly would prefer to be able to produce such a document if requested.

A few weeks ago, it became obvious that promised replacement certificates for myself and my senior students in the aikijutsu-kai would not be forthcoming from another, now former instructor.

The apparent trigger for both separations was our building friendships and relationships with instructors and arts outside a strictly-defined, organizational hierarchy. As I wrote recently, we believe relationships are the most important thing. Thankfully, we have developed a range of strong relationships — friendships that proved to be critically important when it became necessary to ask for help along other avenues.

Longtime friend of our dōjō, Miguel Ibarra Sensei of the Yamabushi-ryu dōjō in Bronx, New York, stepped in to issue me aikijutsu certification through his Yamabushi Jūjutsu Aikijutsu Association. This was not simply a replacement of former rank, but a significant promotion that puts me in position to support my students with the promotions they will certainly earn over time, for as far into the future as is likely to matter.

This was quickly followed by another dear friend, Salahuddin Muhammad Sensei of the Takeshin Dōjō in Salem, Massachusetts, providing certification endorsing that rank, as well as formal recognition of our aikijutsu-kai by the Nihonden Aikibujutsu Senyōkai. If developments continue as hoped, this recognition will be reinforced by accreditation from a budō association based in Japan.

While the original documents are actually in my fire safe, copies of these certificates are now framed and displayed in our dōjō. Not to celebrate me, but to ensure that the members of our aikijutsu-kai are reminded, every time they step past one of certifications, of the relationships with which we are blessed and the debts we owe to those that have gone out of their way to support us.

All three of the component groups within our dōjō are now affiliated with world-class, higher-level authorities. This latest support of the aikijutsu-kai completes the circle:

• Our kenjutsu-kai is an authorized training group under the auspices of Yabuki Yūji Dōshu, 18th hereditary headmaster of Ono-ha Ittō-ryū and chief instructor at the Reigakudō in Tōkyō, with future ranks and licenses he awards to be certified by the Ippan Zaidan Hōjin Reigakudō (the Reigakudō Foundation).

• Our iaidō-kai trains under the guidance of Nicklaus Suino Sensei, Director of the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the ranks he issues certified by the Shudokan Martial Arts Association.

I’m posting this to acknowledge the exceptional consideration and support I and the members of our dōjō have received, and the debt of gratitude we owe. As recently reported, the first thing I did after being promoted was to pass on long-overdue promotions to my two, most-senior students in aikijutsu. Next, I issued replacement rank certificates to the three other yūdansha (black-belts) in the aikijutsu-kai. We now train as the Aikijutsu Tendōkai.

Rather than lacking documentation, ours is now one of the most strongly credentialed dōjō to be found; a dōjō with direct access to some of the highest-level instructors in the world. We are profoundly grateful. #ittendojo #aikijutsu #kenjutsu #iaido


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