The first uchi deshi in Norway

This weekend, Saturday 23., Sanna invited to a seminar in SunyataDojo. The theme is flow in aikido and use of use of psychologicalskills for optimizing training experience. This is something sheshould know something about, at a daily basis she is a student atNorges Idrettshogskole, where she is studying coaching and exercisepsychology.

A week ago she graduated for 2.dan in Stockholm, for Endo SeishiroShihan. In Finland all the clubs she has been practicing with, arefollowing Endo sensei. She was recommended Sunyata aikido dojo byher club in Helsinki, when she decided to be an exchange student inOslo. She came to Oslo for the first time in summer 2006.

Photo: Erlend Hove Lillebø

How did you come to know Mouliko and Sunyata Dojo?
When I came here in summer 2006 for a Norwegian language course Ihad been asking in Finland if they know any aikido clubs in Osloand they recommended Sunyata Aikido Dojo to me. I also contactedMouliko by mail and he welcomed me to visit the dojo. From webpages I also saw that it was possibility to practice here everyday. The more the better J. I felt very welcomed to the dojo rightin my first visit here, people were very welcoming and nice andtraining atmosphere was relaxed but encouraging for development andawareness. Later in the autumn I visited Sunyata Aikido Dojo forone week, during which I stayed in the dojo. I took also part forthe seminar of Jorma Lyly, that I found very interesting. Duringthis week I talked lot with Mouliko about aikido and how to developin Aikido and life.

Why did you decide to apply for uchi deshi by Mouliko?

I have wanted to try out to be an uchi deshi since I started aikidoand now I felt I found place where I wanted to try it. I felt I hadlot to learn from Mouliko and putting my studies and uchi deshiperiod together sounded like a good idea. One reason was also thetraining atmosphere in Sunyata: feeling in the training isconcentrating to communication between people and awareness of whatis happening inside and around you.

How did he react?
He was considering it very carefully because I was the first one tobe an uchi deshi for him. Mouliko thinks that he doesn’t havestudents, but training friends, but when you sign in as an uchideshi that means becoming a student. To be a student in a dojomeans a lot of responsibilities both for the student and for theteacher. You have to be very dedicated to be an uchi deshi andsupport the dojo and work for the dojo all the time.

Finally he said that if I really want to do it, I am welcome.

How was your agreement?
Agreement was for one year. Uchi deshi program was a model forwestern countries, so it is different from Japanese uchi deshiprogram. In the agreement I was supposed to live in the dojo, takecare of the dojo and people training there and attend all classes.Mouliko follows Kobayashi dojo but is also inspired by Yamaguchisensei, Endo sensei and Tissier sensei. He wants uchi deshi tolearn how he is doing but inspires that you find your own way ofdoing aikido.

What did you do as an uchi deshi?

I took part to every training. I could have also some free days butI always took part to Moulikos trainings. I helped with childrentraining and beginners. I took care of the dojo (cleaning, fixingthings etc.) I took Moulikos trainings when he was away. I gotpossibility to test my ability as a trainer and have two seminarsand one training a week. I tried to help people practicing in thedojo as good as I could. Mouliko has studied coaching andleadership so during a uchi deshi period he worked as a personalcoach and because of my studies in coaching and exercise psychologywere working very good together.

Photo: Sunyata Aikido dojo

Do you know any others being uchi deshi in Scandinavia?

I know that there was a possibility to do few weeks or months uchideshi program in Finland with Petteri Silenius 6.dan Aikikai. Iknow some people who have been there for few weeks.

Do you recommend other people to do be uchi deshi?
Yes, I recommend very much to take part to uchi deshi program ifthere is a possibility for it. I feel that longer period is betterthan only few weeks. It is good way to get to know yourself better,to go more deep into aikido and learn to be an active part of theclub. Of course to be an uchi deshi is sometimes very hard. To bean uchi deshi means to be ready for a change. During this periodyou should be prepared for challenges in all levels of life. I feltthat I changed a lot in positive way during my year as an uchideshi. And if you want some day to have your own dojo, I reallyrecommend it because you will see really what it is to run a dojo.

For how long will you be staying in Oslo?
I don’t know yet. I like it in Oslo so maybe I will stay for longerperiod.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to combine aikido and my studies ofexercise psychology and coaching. I would also like to studynatural medicine and combine aikido with my experience in outdoorlife. In few years my plan is to work with aikido and have my owndojo. Where, I don’t know yet.

I wish everybody welcomed to practice to Sunyata Aikido Dojo! Wehave trainings every day and also some very interesting seminarscoming: Mouliko has a one day seminar every month. Jorma Lyly 5.danAikikai comes to Sunyata at 7.3-9.3, Summer School in Moelv withMouliko, Jorma Lyly and Jan Nevelius 5-8.6.

I want to thank Mouliko very much of the possibility to experiencea year as an uchi deshi! I want also to thank all the peopletraining in Sunyata for creating a good atmosphere and welcoming meas a part of the club!

Mouliko Halén (6th dan Aikido, Aikikai)
Photo: Sunyata Aikido dojo

What did you think when Sanna asked if she could be anuchi deshi (live-in student) with you?
Sanna initially approached me for the uchi deshiprogramme after she had visited our club and trained here for anumber of weeks. Sunyata had been recommended to her by her ownAikido club and several people in Finland. She spent several weekstraining here and during this time we got to know each other a bit.This gave both of us a chance to evaluate each other and to decidewhether or not an uchi deshi deshi relationship would work. Putsimply, having an uchi deshi means for me that I am a personaltrainer and coach 24 hours per day.

I also asked Sanna if she really knew what an uchi deshi was. Itwas important to establish a clear understanding of the situationshe would be entering from the outset. We also needed to considerwhether we would adopt a Japanese style uchi deshi programme ormove more towards a Scandinavian style. This was important giventhat I am Swedish, Sanna is Finnish, we are both EU members and weare living in Norway (Norway is after all an EEC country). Wedecided of course that the programme would have to be egalitarianin some ways and reflect the values of our culture- it couldn’t bewholly Japanese (because we are not Japanese people). We needed toagree on a programme that was acceptable within the context of boththe Japanese martial arts and broader Scandinavian values. I alsorecommended that Sanna participate in a Japanese uchi deshiprogramme at a later date so that she could experience this too.Our club has very solid connections with Kobayashi dojo and theyoffer this type of programme.

What did you take into consideration when deciding whetheror not to accept her (for and against)?
Initially I needed to decide if I really wanted tohave a student. I consider the people who train in Sunyata to be mytraining friends. The decision to take on an uchi deshi alsorequired that I take a decision to accept a student. This impliedsignificantly more responsibility for me as a teacher and coach.

I also needed to know if Sanna understood the demands ofparticipating in between 12 and 20 training sessions per week. Thishas an effect upon you. I wanted Sanna to participate in all thetraining sessions offered in the club as part of the uchi deshiprogramme. I wanted her to receive many different people and trainwith them in a joyful and happy manner. I wanted her to connectwith as many people as possible. I also wanted her to support theclub. A big part this was keeping the dojo clean all the time. Inaddition to all of this, I wanted her to attend all her sportspsychology classes at the Norwegian Sports College (Norsk IdrettsHøyskole) and get good grades.

I saw that Sanna was a young lady with a lot of focus anddetermination. In addition, she had very good teachers fromFinland, for example Juhani Laisi (6th dan Aikido), Kari Tamminen(6th dan Aikido) and Miranda Saarentaus (5th dan Aikido). Iconsidered this when deciding whether or not to accept her. Inaddition, I knew that her sports psychology training and studieswould be beneficial to the club here in Oslo. I also felt there wasgreat potential in Sanna as an Aikido instructor. Participation inan uchi deshi programme is a great way to see how a club runs.

I wasn’t sure initially if I really wanted a student or not,particularly one that was going to be so close to me 24 hours perday.

What are your experiences from the year?
We are both creative people and the programmechanged slightly underway. We clearly saw that some rest time wasneeded for both of us. It was taken care automatically when Itravelling and conducting seminars abroad. Sanna had to take careof the dojo for me when I was away, but she also received time freefrom me.

Was it as you expected it would be?
The programme went more or less as I expected itwould. The programme was very challenging for both of us, but weare still happy, and we are still friends. Sanna is still trainingand teaching in our club. She also used the time to prepare for her2nd dan grading. She completed this recently and it went verywell.

What challenges present themselves when you take on an uchideshi?
A person becomes very close to you during an uchideshi programme and they see you very intimately. It is also aphysically and mentally demanding programme. Eat, sleep, train,study, hard workout every day, seven days per week. You think aboutAikido all the time.

Why do you think it is so rare for people participate inuchi deshi programmes in Scandinavia?
There is no tradition for uchi deshi programmes inScandinavian culture. I also usually recommend that people do thesetypes of programmes in Japan. With Sanna, I decided to test theprogramme out and see how it would work here. She was my guineapig! Hehe!

Do you encourage more people to participate in uchi deshiprogrammes or offer such programmes to students?
I support people who want to participate in uchideshi programmes both in Scandinavia and Japan, but only afterclearly considering the nature of it. In addition, I believe uchideshi programmes have a clear value and therefore uchi deshisshould pay accordingly. In our culture, paying for an uchi deshiprogramme ensures an individual’s commitment and generally resultsin them valuing the experience more highly. This is how it is donein Japan also.

I mainly see Ushi deshi programme like a intensive instructorprogramme where there is a chance to pass on my ideas and style,values, tactics, focus, goal settings, and preparation in bothinstructing the art and performing it. The main challenge is to notcreate a copy in the student but to create a situation that thewhole being can come out and be shown in Aikido. Aikido displaysthe beauty of individuality. In my eyes all Kyu grades have value.A Shodan has value and so do all Dan grades. I believe the day theydon’t have any value, it’s time for us to pack our bags and dosomething else. In my view, uchi deshi programmes have a clearvalue. Students that take uchi deshi programmes are special for mebecause they develop a deeper understanding of the art.

Lastly, Aikido has great value. It is up to us what we make out ofthis art. Lots of serious Aikido practitioners and instructors workhard and are constantly practicing, perfecting, polishing,evaluating, relating, and connecting to incorporate Aikidotechniques and principles in daily life. Life values are importantfor our development and Aikido practice supports this.

Gudrun Sylte, redaksjonen

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