Being an UchiDeshi
I was asked by one of my students about what a typical uchideshi program consists of and some information about short term and long term programs. First, uchi deshi can roughly be translated as live in student. The pronunciation is important when you say uCHI… and not ushi. A lot of people say ushi (with an “S” sound) which sounds like cow (ushi = cow) student, which may cause some confusion ;).
There are many different types of uchideshi programs out there, and each school implements it differently. Also, the length of stay will very and there are some programs that have short-term (few days – 1-2 weeks) where people can get a taste for the experience that cannot commit to a longer term. The longer programs usually go in blocks (3 months at a time for example) and you can re-sign up for further blocks or sessions.
If you decide to take on these types of programs you should think about if you really want to commit full heartily to the program. It is usally more intense training both physically and psychologically. In the right program under the right teachers I think these strict programs can really teach the students to dig deep, become humble and become strong Aikido students.
Most programs will have some sort of application process where you usually fill out an application form, get references, and may need references from your current instructor. It is good to check out the program over the websites or give the school a call to inquire more about the specifics.
A quick note about the training. You will probably have extra classes and be required to go to all the classes offered. Some schools may have special rules (e.g. like only working with higher level students, etc) and it is good to ask about any information you can get before you attend. Some schools though won’t do that until you enter the dojo.
–Be humble, be humble, be humble. You are there to learn not to teach. This includes if beginners ask you questions when you are there. Just play it safe and do your best to be the best “student” you can be. You will be surprised but the sempai just might ask you questions to bait you, to see if you will go into teaching mode. A good response is (and believe it!): “I have not had enough training to comment on that.”
–Be prepared for hard physical training. This is straight forward, but you can prepare ahead of time. Work out some before walking, running if can, and maybe some stretching and strengthening exercises.
— You may feel alone. It is not the schools job or the instructors/students job to entertain you or be your friend. They are there to teach you and provide a good experience. People may seem harsh and cold, but eventually when they see you are there for the right reasons you will slowly be trusted and brought in. Either way if you go only for entertainment or to make friends (which you make friends anyways) you may be going for the wrong reasons.
— Dojos are just like your own house is some ways. Even though you are there for training you are getting a great opportunity. You may be asked to clean the dojo, bathrooms, do dishes, etc. It does not matter who are you on the outside of the dojo. When you come in your are a new student and you need to put in work to help the dojo and do what you are asked to do. Yes, you are paying money also, but that again is just to get in. It is your hard work, good attitude and the way you act when you will really be taught and become a student.
— There are more, but I believe the above ones are the big ones.
I have done some shorter term uchideshi training (1-2 weeks) in Japan at Iwama and Akita towns. I really enjoyed the training and got a lot out of the training and also the more in depth time I got to spend with the teachers. You see a different side to them along with the Aikido training. It was also hard and pushed my limits, but I would not hesitate one bit, to get that opportunity again!