A nafudakake is a rank board, and is a common part of traditional Japanese dojo. Not all nafudakake are uniform, however; there are variations in the lineage recorded, and in board placement. In our dojo, we have reserved the uppermost left board, or fuda, for O-Sensei. In other dojo, the ranking fuda is reserved for the current Doshu.
Board placement can also vary. For our rank board, the fuda proceed from left to right in rank order, from dan to kyu. In other dojo, board placement is dictated by its position to the shomen. In those dojo, the ranking fuda is closest to the kamiza.
Although rank boards traditionally acknowledge O-Sensei, or the current Doshu, it is worth noting that neither actually have rank in Aikido. Rather, it is Doshu who confers rank on others, through the Aikikai Foundation, and ultimately through its shihan. In that sense, then, it may be more accurate to view a nafudakake not as a rank board, but as recorded lineage.
For most dojo, however, it is more than that. The nafudakake also serves to memorialize dojo membership. This is distinct from an attendance sheet. Typically, once a student achieves rank, her fuda remains on the wall, even if she takes a leave of absence or stops training altogether. The reality of limited wall space, however, does dictate some compromises, depending on student turnover. In some dojo, membership, and therefore fuda placement, is fixed only after reaching yudansha. At our school, we intend to permanently display fuda after a student passes their first promotional test. Time will tell whether that is realistic.
Since a nafudakake represents dojo membership, rather than dojo attendance, a student’s fuda typically remains on the wall even if she transfers or opens her own school. (Of course, much depends on the circumstances of her departure.) For example, on our rank board, we will continue to acknowledge one of our own, although she previously left the dojo and joined New York Aikikai as an uchi-deshi. In her case Seabolt Sensei introduced her to Yamada Sensei, who then accepted her into his dojo.
Lastly, as a United States Aikido Federation dojo, our intent is to acknowlege rank received through the Federation, either from Seabolt Sensei in her capacity as a fukushidoin, or from our shidoin and shihan.
Sensei would like to thank Kevin for his excellent woodworking skills, and Buck for his practiced script, for making our rank board a reality.