Re: Article: An Aikido Journey: Part 10 by Peter Goldsbury
If you are interested in the subject of 'deshi', you might like to consider the case or professional sumo, which offers some interesting parallels to aikido.
Professional sumo in Japan has an organizational complexity that aikido and the Aikido do not possess. However, the basic unit of professional sumo in Japan is the heya, or stable, run by an oya-kata (stablemaster). The oya-kata once did sumo professionally, but retired as age and physical decline took its toll. (Sumo is strictly competitive and one's standing (and income) ruthlessly depends on the number of bouts won during one's entire career.)
In the stable are the young men who have entered sumo as a career and are proceeding (inevitably painfully) up through the ranks. They are deshi of the stable and receive a small income from the stablemaster until they have progressed as far as the Juryo division. Their entire function is to practise sumo, look after their senior deshi and help to train their juniors. When they reach Juryo, they may live outside the stable and receive a regular income from the Sumo Association, not from the stablemaster.
If the stable is run by a famous yokozuna like Chiyonofuji (now Kokonoe Oyakata), the deshi might claim to be uchi-deshi of Chiyonofuji (they are inevitably 'uchi'-deshi at this stage). However, it would be highly presumptuous for any deshi to claim a 'special' relationship with Chiyonofuji. They are deshi of the stable and train with all the other deshi there. A particular deshi might have a special relationship with a senior deshi in the stable (the relationship would be that of ani-deshi / ototo-deshi: older brother / younger brother deshi), but this would be highly individual and depend on personalities.
It seems to me that the old prewar Kobukan was run like a very small sumo stable, without the presentday organization and with just one Oya-kata ( = O Sensei). Training was very intense and all the technical expertise was 'stolen' from the Master. In the postwar Aikikai, training was also very intense, but there was a growing organization and other senior members like Kisshomaru Ueshiba. The pattern has been repeated outside aikido and is usually called 'iemoto'. The presentday situation has further changed and in sumo, as in aikido, the anxiety is sometimes expressed that too much has been modernized and the 'old ways' have been lost.
Now this complexity is not usually discussed by postwar Japanese aikido deshi, especially to foreigners, but it exists all the same and the implicit training ideology will be understood by any Japanese male who has passed through junior and senior high school (where deshi, sempai, kohai relationships are first formed). In some sense there is something 'uniquely' Japanese about all this and it tempting to make the (false) conclusion that foreigners are incapapble of understanding such complexities. In this respect, it is interesting to read Terry Dobson's contribution to the book Aikido in America, especially at the time of O Sensei's death.
Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 08-26-2006 at 09:12 PM.