This is because he was promoted to a sixth-degree black belt, and is now Shihan Paul.
I had no clue this was happening, as Shihan kept it close to the vest. So last night, in addition to welcoming three new shodans (first-degree), one new nidan (second-degree), and two new sandans (third-degree), we also welcomed our new shihan, for which he deservedly got three separate ovations.
After class, many of us went to a local Japanese place for food, beer, and saké. The restaurant kindly stayed open well beyond closing to accommodate us.
As many people pointed out, I'm next. I'm hoping to be an advanced brown belt next month -- though that decision, as I've said, is Shihan's -- and that'll make me the seniormost color belt in the dojo.
But no pressure. *laughs*