Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

Aikido, My Way.

Part 3 What an Uchideshi Needs is Management Skill

Becoming an uchideshi involves far more than one’s own practice and instructing others; it requires the maintenance and management of a dojo, so all kinds of financial and other tasks are a necessary part of the job. This calls for an ability to manage, for if you open a dojo and enroll students the office work begins. Uchideshi who hate paper work would complain “I never imagined it would take all this clerical work; I thought uchideshi just practice.”  Ringing up the cash register, making announcements, all kind of tasks can’t be neglected.  Small things can add up and these tasks are connected to trust.  Many deshi have trained under me in these kinds of things.

Mr. Kazuo Igarashi has built the Hashimoto Dojo, Mr. Horikoshi the Kasukabe Dojo, Mr. Kengo Hatayama the Sayamadai Dojo, and Mr. Hiroyuki Hasegawa built a professional dojo in Ibaragi Prefecture. I was deeply moved when they all built their own dojos. Even now, if something comes up,

they still help me out.  In this sense, if deshi are to be successful, you need to let them go and be independent, send them off to do their own work.  Not only that, in spite of the fact that many of the young people who’ve lived in the dojo think I’m strong, there have been invertible clashes with people who have different ways of thinking and different personality than mine. We’re living and working together; there is no escaping these complications.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they want to establish their independence as soon as possible – to escape conflict.

Whether a deshi can be independent or not is not the sole deciding factor about who can become an uchideshi.  If the person weren’t a considerate person, he or she wouldn’t make a good uchideshi. A person who understands one point but misses three or four others is also a problem.  There are people who can look inward but can’t deal with the world.

It’s not a problem if someone wants to continue Aikido as a hobby, but promoting someone to be the head of a dojo is quite different.  You will find people who have little ability to accept and work with people of different ages and personalities.  In those cases, I tell them straight away “I’m sorry, but you’re not working out here” and dismiss them.  This is really the best for all.

Then there have been the uchideshi who’ve become depressed or frustrated because of sickness or injuries. Unfortunately, I really have no other choice but to dismiss them as well.

Anybody who continues to practice with a passion will eventually reach a certain level.  From there on upward it’ll take a fair amount of ability.  Leadership also requires a person who is uniquely individual and is able to move others. But in this world of budo there are many brilliant masters who have great technique but have problems of personality. There are people who don’t care what they say who make enemies with others and create bad karma.

Maybe that’s one way of living, but at Kobayashi Dojo that’s not the kind of martial arts we’re trying to develop.  We are teaching people to have more common sense.  There are so many things you must be aware of and take care of when running a dojo.  One thing we must be careful about is instructors’ relations with women. There have been many stories in the past of how one married shihan went too far with a single female dojo member.  We warn our deshi not to make these mistakes.

And then there is drinking – of course sake is to be drunk, but we don’t have to drink or insist others do. One reason is that some people get violent or use foul language.

If you do only one thing for a long time it may seem respectable, but there are peaks and valleys in life. In the beginning a dojo has no members so there are going to be financial problems, but we take that chance. Continue without giving up.  If we try hard and hang in there, someone will come forward and help out.

Even if there is no member as yet, we must be in the dojo. If just one person is there practicing ukemi his interest will grow with support.

I learned this lesson in my uchideshi days in Hombu Dojo. One time when I played hooky from teaching saying, “I came to the dojo, but none showed up for practice”, the Hombu office reported that someone did come and said there was no teacher.  Kisshomaru Sensei scolded me severely, “What are you doing?”  It was a horrible but important lesson; no matter whether anyone comes or not, you have to be in the dojo at the scheduled time. I pass this understanding on to my deshi.

I instruct my deshi to clean, to greet people, and to become courteous people, but rarely give instruction on Aikido technique.  Everyone’s body type and way of thinking is different so I leave it up to the individual’s ability.  If we look at life there are people in Aikido who demand obedience of their deshi, who are doing weird things.  They fall into an egoistic superiority and if we look objectively at what they do at demonstrations we can say that it is strange. Theirs is nothing to be happy about if this kind of behavior is accepted.  I worry that they can create a misunderstanding of Aikido.

The Aikikai is a free association that accepts the individuality of all types of shihan.  It even accepts unusual techniques.  We need to respect the way other shihans think; I do not feel like it’s my place to say anything. Martial arts should be healthy, productive, full of passion, and easy to understand.

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