Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Article: An Aikido Journey: Part 10 by Peter Goldsbury
I see that Mr Kimpel's questions have elicited no answers. As for the definition of uchi-deshi, I will pass, but I have a few opinions on the other question.
(2) How credible is it to associate one's self with Hombu dojo today
Can current students really gain anything at all from claiming to be an uchi-deshi from Hombu dojo now a day?
As stated, does anyone say I am uchi-deshi of present Doshi to lend credibility to their Aikido?
Just interesting to thing aboutE/QUOTE]
Well, on another site there is a report of a huge seminar given by Moriteru Doshu in Brazil. Why would one attend such a seminar? Probably for similar reasons that people attend the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration, held every May, which invariably follows the same pattern each year.
This year there were 7,500 persons actually doing demonstrations, over the space of about five hours. The demonstrations ranged fron the superb to the awful, but the fact that there were so many participants was publicized, as if it was a major sign of health in the world of aikido, as this is seen by the Aikikai.
One would not go to such a demonstration to find out how to practise aikido, nor, I think, would one go to a seminar like the Brazil seminar to pick up the latest tips about how Doshu now does irimi-nage. It would be impossible to see what he is doing.
On the other hand, the seminar and demonstration are both a sign of loyalty to Doshu and to the Aikikai. You will find that the same people demonstrate every year, which means that a substantial number of dojos in Japan do not participate and do not demonstrate, even though they are bone fide members of the Aikikai. My own teacher, for example, never attends, on the grounds that it is a total waste of time and money. It is not that he is not loyal to the Aikikai. Rather, the loyalty should be expressed in other ways.
We hold similar seminars in the IAF. People gather for the Congress and the politicians discuss the politics, but the other participants practise. For Doshu's class the mat is very crowded, because his seminar is held on a weekend and is attended by precisely the same people who attend, or participate in, the All-Japan Demonstration. It reinforces the sense of belonging to a large organization and there is a strong sense for foreign aikidoists of pilgrimage, of visiting the 'motherhouse' of aikido: the place where it all began. In this case, Doshu is the embodiment of an ideal taught to them by their own shihan.
I really have mixed feelings about this. Personally, I do not like demonstrations or large seminars. I prefer a summer school with lots of time to train, preferably in groups that are small enough to fit the mat space available. On the other hand, the people who come to Tokyo for the IAF Congress tell me that they have had a fantastic experience: the sense of training with other people from all over the world, who they would never meet in their local dojo, gives them a sense of belonging, that their hours of training is somehow 'validated'.
As for uchi-deshi, I have written elsewhere that there is always a major problem for an organization offer 'charisma' that has the same 'cash value' as it would for an individual. You have a charismatic individual who attracts disciples and the assumption is that the 'charisma' will be transmitted by this individual to these disciples, who give their lives for this purpose. But (a) the transmission can never be guaranteed and (b) the tendency is for an organization to be created to replace the individual and for a parallel process of ossification to set in. Thus an organization which purports to offer the transmission of such 'charisma', which in myh opinion is an intensely personal experience, has to renew itself constantly, since its charismatic 'health' depends on the health of the individuals who are part of it.
Some organizations have developed ways to transmit such 'charisma'. In Japan professional sumo is one (as are certain gangster groups) and the major monastic orders in the west are other examples. So, I think an uchi-deshi can be an uchi-deshi of an organization, as with professional sumo, because the training and the rules are very clear. Because aikido eschews competition, the transmission is much more difficult, since it has to be assumed that the individual will have the technical ability and the psycho-physical means to do this.
I think the uchi-deshi relationship with O Sensei was very clear. He was a pioneer and was creating as he went along. So, to be an uchi-deshi was to have a ring-side seat in a major process. His son and grandson are much more conscious of the need to preserve the essential elements of a tradition, but this immediately raises the question of continued creativity. Where will it come from?
The Aikikai no longer offer facilities for overseas students to become uchi-deshi for a limited period. I think one reason for this is that the uchi-deshi relationship is for life. You do not sign up just for six months or a year and then go away. Another reason is that the professional members of the Aikikai have so many activities outside the Aikikai in Japan (because of the size of the Aikikai as an organization) that inability to speak Japanese is a major liability.