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Live-in (?)
08-16-2002, 08:30 AM
I'm thinking about trying to become an uchideshi somewhere in the US sometime in the next couple of years.

So, open questions to anyone who's actually done it (whether for a month or a year or longer): what's it really like? And what should one have in mind when screening potential programs?

Thanks in advance for any replies. (I've posted this in the anon. forum because both negative and positive feedback would be helpful to me.)

Paul Smith
08-16-2002, 10:19 AM
Congratulations on considering a deep experience in furtherance of your budo. I was uchideshi to the late Fumio Toyoda Shihan for 15 months, 1996-1997. If you are looking for a current program, I would like to recommend the program offered by Aikido Shinjinkai, under the Direction of Keith Moore Sensei. (www.shinjinkai.org). Moore Sensei lived as Toyoda Shihan's uchideshi for several years, and ran the uchideshi program for several more. The lineage to Toyoda Shihan's style of Aikido is direct.

To say what it was like for me is impossible in this forum. I can say it was both more and less than I expected. More in that I was tested to the very fibre of my being, with each and every activity of my daily life. Toyoda Sensei's great gift was his ability to see deep into the self of each and every one of his students, uchideshi or not. As his uchideshi, he pushed, goaded, tested me in a way I would say was perfectly suited to my strengths and weaknesses, and he would not have done the same things with others. Others were tested in their own way; yet each of us (there were 3 others while I was there) were pushed to the limit. I can tell you there were times I thought I would crack, and I lived more or less perpetually with the Great Doubt - the deep questions which all lead to both a sense of utter failure, and a countervailing sense of perseverance to grab courage and push past the questions to a deeper, truer sense of self and of budo.

The experience was also less, for me, in the sense that there were no great, shining moments, no grand epiphanies, no "ah-hah! NOW I've got it!" Merely the next moment, under the intense tutelage of Toyoda Shihan. "Compassion," I learned, has many colors. It is not always gentle, but it is always true, and always resonates long past its first utterings.

To sum up my thoughts about the experience: to borrow what Chiba Sensei once wrote, Aikido training can be seen as a tree, with its roots and stems. Living as an uchideshi, I feel deeply, deeply honored to have gotten a selfless taste of the root of budo, as given by the gift of Toyoda Shihan. Though my Teacher has died, what he gave has forever changed me and will never die. Should you want to undergo this training, I believe you, too, will have this experience.

As to what to look for, the main thing I would ask myself is this: is the lineage clear? What I mean by this is that I feel it is important that the teacher offering the uchideshi training program has undergone this type of training in order to feel it, to know it, to be able to pass it on. There is no judgment on soto-deshi experience or training here. Indeed, as Chiba Sensei said, many people come to Aikido for many different reasons, and the "root" and the "stem" very much need each other to survive. However, the kind of day-to-day transmission of budo offered in the inescapable crucible of uchideshi life cannot, in my view, be replicated in soto-deshi training. So, if uchideshi training is what you are looking for, I would make certain the directors of the prospective program have this kind of training themselves.

Please feel free to contact me privately if I can offer any other thoughts. Of course, at some point, talk is useless. There is no way to know but to do!

Paul Smith

Unregistered
08-17-2002, 01:24 AM
I like the analogy of the root and stem applied in this case. It removes some of the hierarchy from the equation...instructors and uchideshi aren't an elite, they are responsible for nurturing the branches - the general students.

I trained for a brief time in a dojo that had uchideshi (though, on reflection after reading your post, I don't think the instructor had ever had that training himself, which is an interesting point). I couldn't see what they did that was so special, except live in the dojo for free. It sounds like what you experienced with your sensei was special.

It seems that, because the word "uchideshi" is widely known in Aikido, that now everyone and his brother has an uchideshi program. Some seem to charge quite a bit for it, so I imagine it's a useful way to pay dojo rent! That's not to pass judgement on such programs, but I do wonder at what point someone is qualified to have uchideshi.

Maybe in that case the bigger question is this: is uchideshi training something informal, just an "I want to live in the dojo and train a lot" situation, or is it a formal, systematized program that requires some kind of training and experience to conduct? What do various Shihan say about this?

- Chris

mike lee
08-17-2002, 05:50 AM
If one really wants to make such a commitment of time and effort, why not make the great leap to Japan and do it?

Chris Li
08-17-2002, 07:31 AM
If one really wants to make such a commitment of time and effort, why not make the great leap to Japan and do it?
In and near Tokyo (off the top of my head) there are uchideshi programs at the Yoshinkan (actually the 1 year senshusei course), Kobayashi Dojo, Shindo Dojo, and Iwama.

I don't know much about the Shindo Dojo setup, but Iwama costs (IIRC) 75,000 yen/month, which gets you a place to sleep, bread and peanut butter. With Kobayashi Dojo the living accomodations are extremely bare-bone. Foreigners should probably do all right, but they tend to work the Japanese students as instructors pretty hard - so much so that they often don't get much time to train themselves. I don't know the pricing for the Yoshinkan course, but IIRC it runs about 6 hours a day, and you have to work in addition to that if you want to support yourself. Of course, the same would be true at Kobayashi Dojo or Iwama, and Tokyo is an expensive place to live. Depending on your nationality you may also run into visa problems, especially if you're not working full time (maybe because you're training all the time...).

OTOH, there are a great number of uchi-deshi programs in the US now, many with highly qualified instructors - in some cases just as qualified as you'd find teaching the uchi-deshi in Japan. Plus no visa problems and maybe cheaper living expenses/easier time finding work that fits your schedule. Of course, you miss out on a lot of the cultural experience, so I suppose you have to choose which situation suits you best.

Best,

Chris

Unregistered
08-17-2002, 02:00 PM
What could you tell me about the uchideshi program in Hombu Dojo Tokio?

E-mail me at: orolles@yahoo.com

Kami
08-17-2002, 03:52 PM
What could you tell me about the uchideshi program in Hombu Dojo Tokio?

E-mail me at: orolles@yahoo.com
KAMI : I believe you're asking about the AIKIKAI Hombu Dojo. As far as I know, there's no uchideshi program at the Hombu.

Best

Chris Li
08-17-2002, 03:56 PM
KAMI : I believe you're asking about the AIKIKAI Hombu Dojo. As far as I know, there's no uchideshi program at the Hombu.

Best
None that's really accessabile to the public. OTOH, you could just go and take 5 classes a day 6 days a week, which should be enough for most people :) .

Best,

Chris

Kami
08-18-2002, 03:38 AM
None that's really accessabile to the public. OTOH, you could just go and take 5 classes a day 6 days a week, which should be enough for most people :) .

Best,

Chris
KAMI : Indeed :) But that would be just "intensive training", not "uchideshi training", in the strict sense, you know.

Good keiko

mike lee
08-18-2002, 03:57 AM
Uchi-deshi do not simply train intensively in waza. An important part of the process is building character by serving others.

Kami
08-18-2002, 04:20 AM
Uchi-deshi do not simply train intensively in waza. An important part of the process is building character by serving others.
KAMI : Or perhaps that should be understood as slave labor since, in most cases today, so-called "uchideshi" are really paying for intensive training, usually not done by the master but by advanced students.

Best

Chris Li
08-18-2002, 05:55 AM
KAMI : Indeed :) But that would be just "intensive training", not "uchideshi training", in the strict sense, you know.

Good keiko
Of course, but it does get you a lot of training :).

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
08-18-2002, 06:04 AM
KAMI : Or perhaps that should be understood as slave labor since, in most cases today, so-called "uchideshi" are really paying for intensive training, usually not done by the master but by advanced students.

Best
Sad to say, that's more or less the case with the uchi-deshi at some places in Japan. In any case, there isn't anywhere that I'm aware of in Japan that really offers the old-style type of apprenticeship that existed before the war, for all that a lot of places have "uchi-deshi" programs.

The "character building by serving others" stuff is touted a lot in the martial arts, but it has nothing to do with martial arts, or even uchi-deshi training, really, it's just the way that they run things in Japan. You see the exact same structures among restaurant workers and beauticians, and in any large company. Doesn't seem to build much character there, when you see the same apprenticeship system at a hair stylist divorced from the romance of "tradition" it ends up looking like just another heirarchical power structure.

Best,

Chris

mike lee
08-18-2002, 06:36 AM
Personally, I like to work hard AND I like my freedom too. I'm quite happy to train in two or three different martial arts, seven days a week, morning and night. BUT, I also like to have the option to do other things, such as climb Mount Fuji or visit the temples in Kyoto if I should feel so moved.

I think live-in programs are for the very young and very broke, or for fanatics.

It would probably work out better for a foreigner in Japan to use their free time to earn some spending money teaching their native language, learn some Japanese, and see the sights.

Kami
08-18-2002, 08:23 AM
Personally, I like to work hard AND I like my freedom too. I'm quite happy to train in two or three different martial arts, seven days a week, morning and night. BUT, I also like to have the option to do other things, such as climb Mount Fuji or visit the temples in Kyoto if I should feel so moved.
I think live-in programs are for the very young and very broke, or for fanatics.

KAMI : You are, of course, entitled to have your own thoughts...:rolleyes:

It would probably work out better for a foreigner in Japan to use their free time to earn some spending money teaching their native language, learn some Japanese, and see the sights.

KAMI : If you say so...:rolleyes:
From a "poor ignorant" foreigner... :straightf
Best

Live-in (?)
08-20-2002, 06:56 AM
To Mike Lee, about why I don't just make the leap to Japan: a lot of reasons. Money, for one. But also, the Japan bug just hasn't bitten. I love aikido, but unlike a number of aikidoka, I have no particular desire to live in Japan - sort of like how I love Bach, but have no particular desire to live in Germany. And a few years of experience have taught me that living in a foreign culture, even a relatively homey, Western one with a relatively easy language, can be brutally lonely and difficult. (Rewarding and fascinating and wonderful, too, of course, but very hard.)

To all who posted here (and in wanderingwraith's "Who has and who hasn't?" thread), thanks very much for your replies. [Happily mulling and chewing my cud.]

mike lee
08-20-2002, 07:09 AM
Sold my old car and stereo and flew to Asia on a one-way ticket with US$100 in my pocket on Sept. 28, 1987. Studied three martial arts, zen, and now have a very fat bank account. Young ladies e-mail me weekly. Just my experience, but maybe I'm merely an old fool. ;)

Live-in (?)
08-20-2002, 02:31 PM
Your entering & blending skills must be way better than mine, then. :)

Unregistered
08-21-2002, 06:04 AM
Whilst our dojo is Aikikai, a student and friend with around 6 years training (he had never sat a grading) travelled to Japan around 18 months ago to attend the Senshusei Course. He's coming back this week on Friday as a Nidan and with the permission of our Sensei will be taking our class and giving us an insight into Yoshinkan. Not quite Uchi-Deshi but his commitment and stamina is quite an inspiration. COME ON FRIDAY!!!

mterebey
11-27-2005, 04:25 PM
I am currently an uchideshi at Nippon Kan Aikido in Denver, Colorado. I cannot say anything about uchideshi programs in any other places, of course. It is very difficult training, but it is clearly not 'slave labor' since we are free to leave at any time. Homma Kancho takes a very close interest in the training of his uchideshi, but it's up to the student to make the most of his time here. In the beginning, I had thoughts of leaving, but now I'm happier than I can ever remember being.
I am not making an official response from our dojo, but personally if anyone is curious I will be happy to answer any questions to the best of my humble ability.
Good luck with your training.

Kevin Kelly
11-28-2005, 10:09 AM
Too bad the thread has been dead for over 3 years.

dj_swim
11-29-2005, 12:59 PM
Is this type of thing even possible if you're married? Not to make it sound bad, but I'm not sure I know of any spouses (male or female) who would be down with their mate being gone for a year... let alone three.

Any married people out there been through this?

-Doug

Fred Little
11-29-2005, 02:48 PM
I can think of a number of people who trained intensively at Aikkai Hombu Dojo while married, at least one of whom is generally thought of as uchideshi. Whether the marriages lasted is another question.

Even in America, there's usually some difference between being a single student living on campus and a married student living off campus, even if both are extremely serious students. I imagine that would be somewhat more the case in this instance.

FL

markwalsh
11-29-2005, 09:17 PM
Being a live-in slave, cleaning, looking after the whims of someone else, subject to intense pshysical demands, and often abuse, is too much for many people - that's why they get divorced and become uchi deshi! Boom-boom, thank you, I'll be here all life :-)

Neil Mick
12-05-2005, 12:14 PM
Being a live-in slave, cleaning, looking after the whims of someone else, subject to intense pshysical demands, and often abuse, is too much for many people - that's why they get divorced and become uchi deshi! Boom-boom, thank you, I'll be here all life :-)


Don't believe Mark: you can't trust people of his ilk. Why, when I went up to visit him at his curent uchi-deshi job: he was served by a cadre of six scantily-clad all-female ninja's who insured that he was well-stocked in clean gi's, (non-British) food, and daily shiatsu massages.

He just wants to scare away all the applicants who realize that he's got it, so good...

:freaky: :D

(...ok, just kidding)