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Old 10-05-2017, 06:40 AM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: Uchi deshi and relationships

Hello,

While you are deciding what to do and where to do it, it might help if you study some history. Here is a little morsel.

I was once in a conversation with Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. I think it was at some IAF meeting held at the Hombu Dojo and I had been living in Japan for a few years by then. Doshu told me he was very happy that he could communicate with me in his own language and invited me to ask him questions--any questions. In aikido, you never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially one with the stature of the founder's son and heir. So, I asked him if he had any uchi-deshi and was quite astonished when he said No. By way of clarification, he added that his father, Morihei Ueshiba had uchi-deshi, but only before World War II. After World War II, he stopped the practice and he, Kisshomaru, never had uchi-deshi. Of course, there were some students who trained intensively and lived in the dojo, but he thought it would be wrong to call them uchi-deshi. Only those students who had a close, direct, and intensive training relationship with the founder himself, at the Kobukan Dojo or at the Omoto dojo in Takeda, could be termed uchi-deshi. Even Morihiro Saito, who trained in Iwama, could not be called an uchi-deshi, since he commuted to the dojo from his house on his days off from work. (Saito Sensei once told me this himself.)

What Kisshomaru Doshu told me was an uncomfortable corrective to statements made by some of my own teachers, namely, that, "I was an uchi-deshi of the Founder." These teachers joined the Hombu either in the closing years of World War II or not long afterwards and were strictly deshi of Kisshomaru, since Morihei Ueshiba was holed up in Iwama and rarely visited Tokyo. Did they lie to me? No, since they were not telling me something they knew to be false. This became clear from a conversation a few years later with a shihan who regularly visited Hiroshima. His name was Sadateru Arikawa and he entered the Hombu around 1948. I told him what Kisshomaru had told me and he was quite uncomfortable. He did not want to tell me that Doshu had spoken falsely; on the other hand, he mentioned a few students who trained intensively and lived in the dojo and so were uchi deshi in all but name.

Are you good at stealing waza? There is an established Japanese term for this, so I assume that the practice was common. Another shihan, Hiroshi Tada, told me that this was Morihei Ueshiba's preferred way of teaching. Nothing was ever offered on a plate, with the result that you had to become good at stealing scraps from the table, in order to progress.

Before I came to Japan, none of the dojos where I trained accepted uchi-deshi and, in any case, I was a student doing a Ph.D. and had no intention of becoming a professional aikido teacher. However, this did not prevent me from taking as many classes as I could, usually once or twice each day. This daily training continued here in Japan, but I was a university professor, so I could not become an uchi-deshi anyway. In Japan, hardly any dojos accept uchi-deshi. The Aikikai Hombu does not and outside the Hombu there are very few professional aikido teachers.

In Morihei Ueshiba's time, students sought to become his uchi-deshi because of his reputation as a budo expert. This is somewhat different from becoming an uchi-deshi in a dojo.

Best wishes,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 10-05-2017 at 06:43 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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