Welcome to the path of the Deshi.
"Deshi" means little brother, and "uchi deshi" refers to live-in students who are little brothers of the sensei, like a fraternity, seminary, monastry; learning through example and experience. Amongst yourselves, you are like siblings, and deshis, but to the other aikido students, you are sempai, or senior students. So, just like older siblings, you help and guide the "younger" (in age and/or belt level) students on their journey through Aikido.
Traditionally, this is how the art is passed on from generation to generation. It is a long process. Of course nowadays there are also female assistants and deshi, but the name "deshi" has stuck on for Japanese martial arts at least. There is so much to learn, and not everything can be told or taught. Much is through observation and practice over time. My journey with my sensei was about 13 years, and I'm still learning.
This is not an Uchi Deshi programme as we do not have the facilities nor the means to accommodate live-in students. Being selected to be Deshi is not a guarantee that you will eventually become instructors or senseis. Some may prove to have the qualities necessary to take on the responsibilities of being an instructor and perhaps eventually a sensei. Others may remain assistants.
Similar to an apprenticeship, through close observation of your sensei the values, teaching, structure, and principles of Aikido are passed on through to you. This is not a paid position, but one of service and assistance through which your own learning, development, and practice in Aikido are enhanced. You will be leading by example.
While serving as Deshi, you will be expected to attend other classes to assist while also having the opportunity to get in some extra practice. However, apart from assisting during designated classes, you are expected and required to attend and be officially enrolled into a class of your own grade-level. You must still be a registered Ueshiba Aikido Victoria student for insurance purposes. You must also be an UAV member to be eligible for your grading tests. So please ensure your dues are current: setting a good example of accountability and responsibility.
Two or three deshis at a class is preferable. It is also fine if everyone is able to turn up.
Unlike live-in students, who have a fixed schedule of responsibilities that have to be fulfilled in and around the Dojo and dormitories, you will have to observe similar duties and expectations in your daily life as part of your development and journey. This includes ensuring the general condition of your room and your home is neat and tidy.
- In the Morning:
- Spend at least 10 minutes of quiet time preparing yourself for the day; reflecting on areas of improvement, and planning the day ahead.
- Do a brief warm up and a few movements, remembering to breath deeply.
- Remember to greet everyone you meet with a cheerful "Good morning."
- Including your Quiet Time, give yourself ample time to also comfortably perform your morning ritual of making your bed, taking a shower/bath, brushing your teeth, dressing up, tidying your room and study, and having breakfast.
- Set up the breakfast table, if necessary.
- After the meal, wash your own dishes, cup; offering to wash for others as well.
- In the evening:
- Before bedtime, spend at least 10 minutes reflecting on the day: note achievements and successes, and expressing gratitude for the day.
- Note tasks that have not yet been completed, and commit to completing them.
- Prepare for the next day by packing your bags, tidying up your study, setting out the clothes to be worn the next day etc...
- Remember to wish everyone a "Good night."
While I do recognise and acknowledge that everyone has a different level of commitment given the difference in everyone's schedule, once you agree to embark on this journey, there has to be some level of commitment as the younger students you share with and practice with will eventually development expectations of you as well.
Respect your parents, seniors, and elders, no matter your mood or bias.
- This includes standing as they approach, to acknowledge their presence.
- Opening the door to let them pass.
- Giving up your seat in public transportation.
- Assist them if needed, e.g. with the groceries, getting into a vehicle, doing the laundry, carrying something heavy from the top shelf... etc...
Provide solutions, resolutions, and suggest, rather than complain, criticise, contradict, or argue. Be mindful of your thoughts, words, and actions.
Be alert to those in need and assist where necessary, within reason.
Be diligent, conscientious, thorough, and timely with work and study. Complete what can be completed as soon as possible.
Return a borrowed item or space/room in better condition than was received, where possible.
Dress appropriately. You are representing more than yourself now.
Serve without expecting reward, guide without expecting praise.
Mean what you say and say what you mean.
If unable to attend a class, perform a task, duty, or fulfill a schedule, please inform Sensei, and if possible, find a replacement.
· Arrive at the Dojo before Sensei whenever possible.
· Tidy the space and mats in preparation for class(es).
· Prepare the Kamiza, if it is not placed yet.
· Watch for Sensei to arrive.
· Assist Sensei with the carrying of equipment and bags where needed.
· After class, help with the clearing and cleaning of the mats.
· Assist with the carrying of equipment and bags back to the storeroom or Sensei's vehicle.
· Wait until Sensei leaves before leaving; unless Sensei says you may leave first.
Never feel redundant just because all the deshis happen to turn up at a class. There is always something to be done to help the class along. Look around to see who needs help, or who is alone; then go talk to them. Make the younger students feel comfortable and welcomed.
During class, participate in everything, and guide when necessary. At the same time, look around, observe, and be ready to help.
Look for opportunities to pair up with the very raw beginner(s). If in doubt, you can also wait to see if I pair you up with anyone, but generally you will know who the weaker or easily distracted students are, and who would benefit from your partnership during the class. Often, no talking is necessary as being physically guided speaks volumes.
When everyone participates, are engaged, and students are being guided along, they don't feel lost or confused. Then everyone benefits and enjoys the class.
Ensure that students know and perform Dojo etiquette both on and off the mats, e.g. bowing before entering the Dojo and before going onto the mats; ensure students do not run or speak loudly in the Dojo; etc...
Help students if they need help with their dogi or their belts.
Show students how to sit in seiza properly.
During class, stand on the periphery of the mats.
Allow students to try the techniques a few times before intervening.
Walk along the sides to go from student to student. Don't walk across the mats. If students are at the middle of the mats, walk directly to them, assist them, then walk directly back to the position you had come from.
Guide students through your movements and by demonstrating discreetly. Whisper if you must. There should only be one voice in the Dojo; Sensei's.
Remind or guide students to sit while Sensei is explaining something to them, and to bow in acknowledgement after the explanation.
Be alert to Sensei's instructions and be prepared to be called to take Uke for Sensei.
Be alert to students fooling around, being rough, or a potential problem building.
Embarking on this journey is by invitation from the Sensei. You may request to leave the programme at any time.
Thank you for your patience, interest, and dedication in the practice of Aikido.
- Nicole Oei (Ni Dan)
- Mitchell Gaucher (Ni Dan)
- Sean Oei (Sho Dan)
- Alan Getz (1 Kyu Black)