Thread: Uchi Deshi?
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:07 PM   #30
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Uchi Deshi?

Uchi Deshi training was not "legalized slavery", it was rather like the old Western "apprenticeship system" crossed with being an officer in the military. On the one hand, one did serve the needs of the teacher. The sensitivity required to know when something is required by the teacher almost before its need has consciously registered has a direct benefit in the development of a martial artist. This is VERY demanding training. Saotome Sensei has said that the kind of uchi deshi training he went through wouldn't be approriate for most Westerners because they are too individualistic. This wasn't a negative value judgement, just a statement. It does explain why he has never attempted to form an uchi deshi program in the States despite his being here for over thirty years.

The uchi deshi also had teaching responsibilities for the non-uchi deshi and that placed them in a special place within the dojo community. Saotome Sensei had quite a number of dojos and clubs which he oversaw at the request of Honbu dojo to whom they had applied for an instructor.

Like the modern military ones family was tied into the structure as well. Ones spouse would be junior to the spouse of the teacher and would have responsibilities relative to the welfare of the junior deshi and their wives. The teacher's spouse would be the senior spouse. Probably not much fun to be the wife of the junior uchi deshi, that would have been low point on the totem pole.

Actually, many of the wives of the teachers who conducted uchi deshi programs are the unsung heroes of the early days of Aikido training. Often they functioned as surrogate mothers for the young deshi, many barely out of their teens. So the responsibilities didn't just flow up hill. The deshi were "family" and the teacher and his spouse were responsible for their upkeep and welfare.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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