Charles Hill wrote:
Could you comment on this a little more? I have heard this in more recent years at Honbu, meaning that the young men living and working at Honbu are not uchideshi but are referred to as shidouin, etc. However, the shihan who lived at Honbu after WWII while the founder was alive commonly use the word uchideshi to describe themselves. Is there any evidence to indicate how the founder thought about these trainees?
Hello Charles, Hisashiburi!
Yes. When I was a beginner, I, too, often heard from my Japanese teachers that, "I was an uchideshi of the Founder", but when I came to Japan, this was often denied by my teachers here. I was rather perplexed about this and now believe that the term was being used rather loosely.
In the years that Kisshomaru Doshu was alive, I had occasion to meet him quite often and, as a foreigner, was able to ask him questions that my Japanese teachers would probably have refrained from doing. Two such questions were, "Who were the Founder's uchi-deshi?" and "Did you/do you have any uchi-deshi yourself?" The answers were that the Founder had no uchi-deshi after World War II and that he himself never had uchi-deshi. The explanation given was that the intensity of the relationship somehow changed, as the Hombu Dojo progressed from being a single dojo to the focus of an organization.
Clearly, this was also happening in the Kobukan, as the Founder gradually increased the sphere of his activities, but after the war Kisshomaru Ueshiba became a major factor in the Hombu organization. He was given the job of Hombu Dojo-cho in 1942 and this position was never taken away from him. Thus, when the Founder returned to Tokyo in the late fifties, he did not resume responsibility for the running of the Hombu, though whenever he taught in the Hombu or travelled, a deshi would be there to look after him and take ukemi.
I think there is no direct evidence from Morihei Ueshiba himself as to the relationship he had with these special students, though, to judge from Mr Saotome's book, it was pretty intense. I once had occasion to discuss the question with the late Sadateru Arikawa and his response was that the postwar student with the closest relationship with the Founder was Nobuyoshi Tamura, who was an uchi-deshi "in all but name".
With the third Doshu, things have changed again. Although comparisons with the iemoto system are somewhat frowned upon, it is the system that counts, as much as who is at the top. The tendency is to regard oneself as an employee or stakeholder, rather than a disciple.