Tuesday, June 28, 2011



Uchi - inside, within

弟 子
Deshi - pupil; disciple; adherent; follower; apprentice; teacher's student-helper

Uchideshi can more or less be translated to "live in student". Traditionally when students wanted to study Martial Arts, they would leave home and study at a dojo. They lived at the dojo and worked closely with their Sensei, working to build martial arts into all aspects of their lives. (There is a lot more to it than this, sometimes you had to get a letter of recommendation, and then the Sensei might make you do nothing but menial tasks like cleaning and cooking for more than a year to test your resolve. There is lots to it, but more or less, you studied, worked and lived at the dojo. Martial Arts was your everything.)

Since my post about find your passion and making a life of martial arts my goal, I have been doing quite a bit of research on the subject lately, especially into places that currently offer uchideshi programs. While my current plan/arrangement is move to OK to work for and train under Sensei Nick at Guinn Martial Arts, he has no existing uchideshi program, so we will more or less be making this up as we go along in hopes of being able to offer an uchideshi program to students in the future.

Here is some of the information I have found. (Keep in mind most of the these dojos are in the states, although some of them are owned/run by native Japanese practitioners, none of the dojos I looked into were schools in Asia. However, many of these uchideshi programs offered exchange or study abroad opportunities with schools in Japan.)

- Almost all of the uchideshi programs I looked into were for Aikido. There was one Karate school in Australia that has an Uchideshi program.

- Most Uchideshi programs allow students to live in the dojo, or very near by designated space. Rent is incredibly cheap, and sometimes includes food and amenities, such as laundry. Sometimes uchideshi are expected to share cooking expenses and responsibilities. Usually your privacy is limited, you have dorm style accommodations or a very small room with a common living area.

- Depending on the dojo, some uchideshi programs are very strict and rigorous. Some schools expect you to lead a monastic life style of meditation and practice. I found one program where you are only allowed to own clothes and martial arts equipment, and everything you own must be able to fit into a locker. Others give you time for a job and school.

- In general uchideshi are responsible for the upkeep of the dojo, assisting with administrative work, and once they are experienced enough assisting with teaching classes. Some dojos expect senior uchideshi to be responsible for new and younger uchideshi.

- Most schools have their uchideshi either attending class or practicing a very minimum of 14 to 18 hours a week. This is usually two to three classes a day and does not include special training time with the Sensei, cleaning, or administrative work. In addition students are encouraged to meditate, read and study martial arts related material, and bring the martial attitude into all aspects of their lives.

A lot of these aspects are keeping in line with tradition as I understand it. Obviously it doesn't work exactly the way it did in Japan back in the day, but the idea is generally the same.

One of the reasons I like the (traditional) Japanese culture so much is its so steeped in tradition. Everything has a purpose and a meaning and a specific way to be done. You dedicate yourself wholly to the perfection of your chosen art or path. You take pride in your work and constantly seek to make yourself and your work better.

Are there any people out there today who really understand what it means to devote your whole self to something? 

Do I?

I would say there are, but that those people are few and far between.

Maybe I'm just living in the wrong time period.

Either way it has been making me contemplate:
What does it really mean to be an uchideshi? What does it mean to live only for the study and perfection of martial arts? To put the needs of the sensei and the dojo before your own?

I feel like I experienced something similar to this when I attended art school. Since I went for a BFA instead of a BA I was in the classroom 30 to 40 hours a week instead of 15 like at a traditional college. You ate, slept and breathed art. Literally. I knew students that would get to school at 7:30 in the morning and wouldn't leave until the building closed at midnight. They had such passion and fire for what they were doing.

There were classes that made me feel that fire, but overall, just between you and me, if I had been an Illustration major, I would have had that fire for every class. Design is something I sincerely enjoy, but I prefer the more creative aspects of the job over the technical aspects. Could I devote my life to only art? I think so, if it were the right kind of art. Could I devote my entire life to martial arts? I know so. While I experienced maybe a taste of that kind of life at college, what does it mean to really, REALLY have that kind of passion, and to really live it?

My point is... actually... I'm not even sure what my point is or where I was going with this... Other than, I have been thinking a lot about what this life change is going to mean and how my perspective will change. This goes back to the bushido post I think. Deciding what values you want to live your life by and what kind of life you want your life to be.

Its a lot to think about. I know these things will change and grow over time as I change and grow. Sensei Nick and I have already started planning out a potential schedule and material to cover and such, which I may share if anyone is interested.

For now, suffice it to say I am excited, scared, nervous, and in general looking forward to starting this journey.  I will post more thoughts on what it means to be an uchideshi and related topics as they come.

If anyone is interested in any of the links or information regarding uchideshi programs, let me know and I will be happy to share what I have gathered.

Sorry for such an odd, stream of consciousness post, thanks for listening all, have a great week!


  1. http://classicbudoka.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/18-want-to-do-martial-arts-get-a-job/

  2. From Miller's blog:

    " ... In one section, the author states that there are 'Yes' people and there are 'No' people, and that 'Yes' people are rewarded by the adventures they have and 'No' people are rewarded by the security they bring into their lives.

    So much in that little statement. He writes that there are many more 'No' people, and you see this soooo much: people who have always wanted to write a book but never got around to it, people who go to the same vacation spot every year, people who hate a job and stick with it. It's natural, organisms tend toward homeostasis. "The over-grazed pasture here is my ancestral homeland, we will not leave for those green hills..."

    There are always a few who take challenges, a few 'Yes' people, and they drag civilization along behind them, otherwise our species would have died an embarrassing, boring, entropy death long ago. And there are always 'No' people who specialize in trying to rein in and control the 'Yes' people. "

    I understand what you're getting at. And I do intend to keep a job while I study Martial Arts in the evening. Not just any job, but a design job, one that is in my field. However, this is my passion and I have to follow it. Things may not work out, but I'll never know unless I try.

  3. Terrible article. He is very much a "No" person. Dragging the dreamers down doesn't make you smart or wise. It means that this guy has a total lack of insight.

    It is so easy to shoot holes in the ideas and dreams of others. It is a much harder road and many times leads to far greater rewards to try for a dream. Even if we fall short of the goal.

    In the end, I want to look back and know that I have succeeded because I followed my dreams. Through both success and failure I will have lived the life I want. Not the life others dictated to me out of ignorance and a can't do attitude.

  4. As the other hand, you can go all in ...


  5. You said, "Traditionally when students wanted to study Martial Arts, they would leave home and study at a dojo. They lived at the dojo and worked closely with their Sensei, working to build martial arts into all aspects of their lives."

    Do you have a source on this with note of "traditionally" and "leave home and study at dojo."?

  6. Mac's take:



  7. Rick - Now that's more like it!

    Charles - I read in a few different places that students would do this, I'm not saying this was what every student did all the time, but I know a few of them left home to study and some even traveled to other countries to study Martial Arts, I have not done enough research on the historical aspect of this as of yet. So please take what I say with a grain of salt. I'll try to find the places where I read about certain people leaving home and studying abroad and link them to you.

    Joshkie - Do you know Nick? Thanks for the link! I think he has an interesting take on it and I will roll it around in my brain for a while.

  8. Nick no I don't know him. I was trying to understand where he was coming from. He seems to have a 180' view of what I got from the article. I was wondering if we had read the same article/post.


    Ya, Mac posts alway get me thinking.


  9. Good for you, SGS, for putting your dream/passion into action. Takes a lot of guts to do that, and I admire you for it :-)

    Please keep us posted!

  10. Oh, I figured out what Nick was talking about. It wasn't your comment right above but Rick's linked article(I think?).

    I still could be confused.

  11. SGS: Thanks, I will ... appreciated your answer.