What is an uchideshi?

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Uchideshi means "inside student," someone who wants to observe an instructor at close hand. This is the traditional method of training for professionals in Japan. It is most common in occupations involving physical skills such as fine arts, crafts and martial arts. But even in the business world, trainees for high level executive positions must spend a certain amount of time in lower level jobs. The term is very similar in meaning to "apprentice" in the West. Although apprentice systems have largely disappeared in Western countries, with the exception of certain trade union programs, uchideshi programs are still quite common in Japan.

In certain fields, particularly arts, crafts and martial arts, the uchideshi may actually move in with the instructor and live in his dojo or home. I was uchideshi for three years in the Ichi Ju Kai Zen and misogi dojo, and at aikido world headquarters for another two years. A large percentage of high-ranking instructors in the US were at one time or another uchideshi in Japan.

For depth of understanding and rapid progress in the art, there is little that can compare with uchideshi training. Uchideshi are involved with every aspect of dojo operation, on and off the mat. Their contact with the instructor tends to be far greater than is possible for other students. I am convinced that this type of training — although obviously not for everyone — is important enough to offer it at AAA headquarters dojo. About 25 people have participated in our program since 1974. Most have not lived in as long as is customary in Japan; few have that much time to devote to martial arts in America. Nevertheless, in-dojo training, even for a relatively short amount of time, can be of value both to those who aspire to be professional instructors, and those who simply want to raise their kiai level to prepare for growth in almost any field. If you think you might be interested in joining our program, please write to the Chicago dojo.

Fumio Toyoda, Aikido Today Vol. 3, No. 3, page 1.

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