||Wake up, put away bedding
||Begin morning cleaning (Front of shrine,
Inagaki Shihanfs Class (Tues., Thurs., Sat.)
Uchideshifs Class (Mon., Wed., Fri.)
||Daily cleaning (Shrine area, Dojo
area, kitchen, garden, showers, etc.) general grounds
||Afternoon training (practice by yourself)
||In the dojo, ready for training
came to Japan to learn more about the culture, but I had no
idea how much more I would learn about myself.
I started Aikido in Kagawa Prefecture and after just two years
I spoke with my sensei about training every day as a full-time
student. I wanted to learn more, and to develop my skills; deep
in my soul, I knew I needed authority and structure, and most
of all, I think I wanted to experience some kind of hardship.
I certainly got everything I thought I needed and so much more.
Uchideshi life is not to be taken lightly; taking care of the
dojo and its occupants is a big responsibility. The waking day
begins at 5:00AM and ends at 9:00 or 9:30PM; there is so much
to do in those hours, including training in the morning, afternoon
All that work is given a great deal of sincere effort, which
feels only right after all the sensei and other students give
us so much. The people at the dojo | the sensei and others -
are so pure, honest and sincere. I learned so much from them,
both in and out of the dojo. In the dojo we are taught to blend
with our partner, to protect ourselves and him or her from harm;
I have realised that we must blend with everything in life,
and must move with whatever or whoever comes to us. But I think
the most important things I learned from them are to know myself,
to understand how I need to be, to be honest in everything I
do, say every word with the deepest sincerity, and, foremost,
to think with a pure clean heart.
Since my initial stay, I have returned to the dojo once to visit
and when I did, I felt my morals had been slipping. I was reminded
to continually cleanse my mind and my heart to live as pure
and sincere a life as I can in this world.
For me, Aikido is not just a martial art to be studied | it
is a lifestyle.
got the idea from my father, but it was of my own resolve. I
had heard stories of decades ago, when my Papa was still just
Danny and he was in his early twenties | around my age. I suspect
he had similar feelings of being adrift in a life without focus.
Disoriented Young Adult Syndrome. He bought a one-way ticket
to Japan with no understanding of the language and not enough
money to return, and he entered a small martial arts dojo that
changed his life entirely.
Nonetheless, I had no intention of simply imitating him; I knew
my journey would be vastly different.
I've made many attempts to express in words the colossal, beautiful
things I have experienced here and how it relates to everything
I've ever done and my evolution as a human being. I've tried
to detail every aspect of my time in Iwama because all of it
has changed me. I could write an essay about awase (í¹), a
Japanese term and Aikido concept of blending and harmonizing
with an opponent, whether such an opponent is a physical being
or an abstract obstacle. I want to write about how on any given
day, I will take the role of a carpenter, gardener, plumber,
construction worker, electrician, cook, or anything else that
one of the sensei asks of me. It can get as cold as -8C and
as hot as 36C, which sounds much worse when you understand
that there is no internal heating or air conditioning | one
must get creative in battling the weather. I wake up just before
5am, every single morning, to rake the sand in front of the
shrine, and proceed to train three times a day, during which
time physical hardship, exhaustion, and pain are a certainty.
Push yourself, but don't kill yourself. I try to keep this in
mind. It is demanding, to be sure, but the sensei want us in
good health and spirit and do everything they can to help us
and teach us to help ourselves. I want to explain the strict
cleaning regimen - akin to that of any national army, but here
we clean not only our physical space but our psyches as well.
We must focus on what is present, yet be perpetually aware of
our surroundings. It is sung into my head the importance of
a clean body, mind, and HEART, because extending warmth and
love is a basic tenet of Aikido, especially to those who wish
to enact violence upon you or anyone else. They need it the
I want to articulate every single thing I've learned, but each
time I try, it comes out a cluttered incoherent rant. It probably
has something to do with the fact that every single day spent
at Iwama made an immense contribution to my evolution as a person.
I came knowing that I would experience what I needed - discipline;
willpower. But I am coming to realize that approaching adulthood
in this environment is perhaps the most sensible decision I
will have ever made.
had been living in Tokyo training aikido at hombu dojo. One
day I went to visit a friend in Ibaraki, and I brought my dogi
with me , thinking I would visit the Ibaraki Shibu dojo and
hoping that I would be allowed to train. The dojo is set in
a beautiful landscape of trees and flowers. It was easy to feel
the energy of the universe concentrating in that area. That
day we did weapons training outside. When I pictured myself
doing aikido in Japan, it was this image of training amongst
nature that I had. But, ultimately, what convinced me that I
wanted to make the Shibu dojo my home, was Inagaki Sensei. He
is an amazing teacher, and an amazing person.
Uchi deshi life is not an easy one. We wake up at 5 AM, whether
you are soaked in sweat because of the heat and humidity, or
shivering as you see the snow falling outside. It is a bit like
camping. As uchi deshi, we have a schedule to follow that involves
the up keep of the dojo grounds and the Aiki Jinja. This, of
course, is very rewarding in itself. Sensei explains to us that
O Sensei would say the daily rituals of cleaning on the outside
lead to the cleansing of the inside. Polishing the spirit is
our ultimate goal.
We train aikido three times a day every day. The dojo is available
for us all day, so you can train outside the training schedule.
Like any other discipline, what you get out of training is what
you put into it. When you open your heart to this life here
in Iwama, you can truly learn about the philosophy and aikido
of O Sensei.
August 2009-August 2010
Why did you want to come here?
Japan and the Japanese culture always attracted me and made
me want to keep learning and exploring them. Coming from a
place with such a different mentality made me even more curious.
I knew that I would go to Japan, but I did not know I would
find a place such as Iwama. I went to Ibaraki because of the
farming in that area, to try to learn about the local farming
ways, and the people's way of life. I was volunteering in
a place not far from Iwama without knowing how close I actually
was. I only read about Aikido and the Philosophy of it when
I was in Israel but I was very excited to find out that I
was so close to its birth place.
One day I went to Iwama just to watch a Keiko on a Thursday
evening; it was an Inagaki Sensei Keiko. The energy of the
Dojo and of Inagaki Sensei and his Keiko were so special and
pure, and the experience that evening made me think that I
want to spend as much time as I can to learn about Aikido
and from Sensei. I thought about changing my plans and move
to Iwama and start practicing and learning about Aikido. Inagaki
Sensei offered that I will think about it a few days and come
back to talk to him after. Those few days I really was thinking
about it and the next week I met Inagaki Sensei again and
asked to stay in Iwama. He was so kind and helpful. I moved
that week to Iwama and started Aikido. Every Keiko and moment
in Iwama made me want to do more Aikido because it exposed
so many things that can be learned.
2. Why did you want to practice the Aikido here?
The first time I read about Aikido was when searching and
reading about different approaches and philosophies for solving
conflicts. At the time I was studying about different views
and peace philosophies from around the world. At first it
was just a few words I read about O Sensei. It made me curious
so I found some more and read. The reality of life in the
place I come from gave me a strong desire to seek and learn
about different approaches to conflict situations. The philosophy
of Aikido seemed amazing to me because it combines keeping
our strong center while still blending; those two things combined
together seemed to me like something that is so important
in my personal life, in the place I come from, and in general
for all of us. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of
the things I read about, and that is why I decided to actually
start practice and dedicate as much time to deepen my understanding
of the way of Aikido. It also made me grow a strong will to
share and help the Aikido in my country grow since it really
is a way to show people another view and way to deal with
situations that automatically lead us to disharmonious situations,
and with an Aikido view we can make those situations much
more harmonious. I hope to see it grow and to share it with
more people in this country. The endless things that Aikido
is teaching me everyday make me have a constant will to study
and learn more and that makes it a way of life that is always
in movement and growth.3. How was your impression of Uchideshi
The life as an uchi deshi is something that is so full and
fulfilling and gives an amazing opportunity to develop our
self. The amount of things that can be learned from the Senseis
of the dojo is endless. And, living in the dojo gives the
opportunity to learn from them every day. The members of the
dojo are all one very connected family and the relations between
the uchi deshis become very strong. It is so enriching to
learn about people that come from such different places with
different views of life, and learn how we are all the same
despite all the differences. I am so thankful for the chance
I got to be part of this amazing family in the dojo. The uchideshi
life style is not easy and there are many mental and physical
hardships. But, whoever does decide to live it has a strong
will to learn, and to develop in the way of Aikido. When you
can share with the others and grow with them makes it such
an enriching experience.
The everyday routine is more or less the same every day from
before the sun rises to after it sets. But because in the
life of Aikido there is a constant study and endless things
to learn, every day is so different and exciting. The farming
that the uchi deshis do in order to grow the vegetables and
the simple lifestyle shows how much it is possible to harmonize
with what nature offers and create with it what we need.
The uchi deshi experience opens us to learn from what is around
Due to constant work in the daily routine, the experience
forces us to rebuild, re-examine, and polish what we have
till that moment and to do it every day. The two years in
Iwama made me grow more awareness to my inner self and to
Since the beginning of my Aikido practice, I was interested in the life story of its founder which led me to Iwama and Ibaraki Dojo. When I discovered that the dojo still had the tradition of accepting uchideshi, just like in the OfSenseifs time, I decided to strive myself in order to achieve this experience someday. My desire of being an uchideshi grew up together with my Aikidofs development, but as military, I was not allowed to stay away from my country for a long period of time. After many years, my dream of being uchideshi at Ibaraki Dojo came true. I got a special license which allowed me to stay in Iwama as uchideshi for 6 months. My first contact with the dojo was through Inagaki Sensei, who gave me all the support I needed to travel. I was aware it wouldnft be easy to live in another country, with a different cultural background, far from my family and having to carry out all obligations of an uchideshi, but I also knew it would be a great opportunity to strengthen my body, mind and spirit. I went to Iwama with the purpose of doing the best I could. I clearly remember my arrival in Iwama and the first time I saw the Aikijinja. My eyes filled with tears and I could feel the energy emanating from the shrine. The uchideshi were always kind and concerned for me. They welcomed me and gave me all the instructions in order to adapt me to the dojofs routine as quickly as possible. Gradually, I got in touch with the dojofs sensei and deshi who I had the pleasure of living. Time passed by and I realized I was feeling myself as part of the group and these people had become so beloved to me as if they were my family. The uchideshifs life is simple but intense. It requires discipline, humbleness and dedication. It has the power to touch our hearts. We practice three times a day, seven days a week, which allow us to improve our techniques and strengthen our kokyu ryoku. During the rest of the time, uchideshi dedicate themselves to take care of the dojofs whole area. Raking the front of the shrine, cleaning the inside of the dojo and the Aikijinja, taking care of the garden, mowing the lawn, pruning the trees, taking care of OfSenseifs house, preparing the dojo for classes, welcoming new students, accompanying the sensei and being always ready to help in whatever is necessary are some of the routine tasks of an uchideshi. These activities develop a feeling of love for the dojo and make you feel at home. To me, help preserving the Ibaraki dojo was very rewarding. I arrived in Japan two months after the earthquake that struck the country and let the dojo deeply damaged and because of that, I had the opportunity of assist in its restoration and reopening. Being uchideshi also provided me the opportunity of attending seminars, demonstrations, religious ceremonies and get-togethers. When my time was up and I had to return home, I was very sad to have to leave the dojo. By the time of my return, it was organized a farewell party by the sensei and deshi, where I received many honors and I could notice how I was loved by everybody. It made me very proud and I felt sure of having done the best I could. I left Iwama with the feeling of coming back again. I donft have enough words to thank all these people for everything they did for me. With aikinokokoro, domo arigatogozaimashita.