Particularly in the martial arts, this sort of apprenticeship is somewhat severe in flavor, in keeping with the urgent, life-and-death atmosphere of the martial context. The student is challenged physically, mentally and emotionally to overcome all self-imposed limitations. Attention to detail, strong energy, and a dauntless, brave state of mind are stressed. Training can at times be harsh, and little attention is paid to an uchideshi's personal feelings.
However, the ultimate goal of the training is not simply to transform students into tough martial art practitioners. It is to directly reveal their mental, physical and even spiritual weaknesses, and the way to overcome them. Uchideshi learn quickly that their capabilities as human beings are much greater than they had thought. Like a shining sword that is forged from rough ore through constant fire and hammering, the end result of uchideshi training should be something both strong and beautiful. A compassionate, focused and intensely energetic individual is the goal. These are the people who should be qualified to carry on the lineage of an art, and to help others using the wisdom gained from long years of self-forging.
Shinjinkai Uchideshi Program Details
Residence and Training
Uchideshi train at Shinjinkai Headquarters, in Chicago. Living facilities nearby are spartan; uchideshi do not have room for personal belongings other than clothing, training equipment and personal effects. A footlocker-size container must be sufficient for these things.
Uchideshi must attend all Aikido classes and seminars and Zen training activities at Shinjinkai H.Q. An average of four hours per day is spent training. As part of their instruction in dojo and organizational operation, they may be called upon to also assist in office and other activities. Other training activities at Shinjinkai may be open to uchideshi following the successful completion of their first year's residence.
Uchideshi must provide their own food and cook for themselves. In order to support themselves financially, time is granted daily for an outside job. Other than approved work schedules, all remaining uchideshi time is spent focused on training and dojo activities. Uchideshi may have leave to visit their families or take care of other out-of-town responsibilities with prior permission.
The primary focus of an uchideshi at each moment of the day is training. All other activities, personal relationships, hobbies, etc. are to be put aside. Guests are not permitted in the uchideshi residence. Personal relationships and free time activities are not permitted to interfere in any way with training and dojo activities. Uchideshi must continuously forget themselves, and focus solely on perfecting their art.
Honesty and direct communication with the teacher is fundamental to the success of this training. Disrespectful conduct toward instructors or others, excessive expression of ego, and other such things are not tolerated. Uchideshi must be willing to take orders from their teacher or seniors. Even when fatigued or injured, there are times when things must be done. Again, the spirit and energy of someone entering into a life or death battle must be maintained.
The minimum time commitment for uchideshi training is one year, unless otherwise arranged in advance. The complete period is three years, to which a commitment is made one year at a time. The three years of training follow a specific year-by-year schedule of instruction established by the late Aikido and Zen master Fumio Toyoda Shihan. For this reason, completion of three years is considered to be "graduation" from the program. However, completion of the three years is not itself considered successful graduation. Unless constant effort is maintained, it is entirely possible to endure the program, yet fail it. As described by Toyoda Shihan, it is very common for uchideshi to manage to reside for a certain period of time, but to never actually grasp what this training means. Nothing less than one's full effort, moment to moment, is demanded; anything less is a waste of time for all involved.
Upon initially entering the program, uchideshi are considered probationary participants for three months. At the end of that period, if their participation is not successful, they may choose to leave or they may be removed from the program by the Director. If the first three months are successfully passed, the uchideshi must then commit to remaining for the balance of the first year.
Uchideshi pay a monthly rent to support their residence (approximately the amount one would pay for a studio apartment in Chicago). However, they pay no fees for training or in-house seminars. Uchideshi are also asked to make a small donation according to their ability to for participation in Zen training retreats. Other than these fees, they must simply take care of their personal and food expenses. It is required that uchideshi have health insurance. Again, time for work is allowed to cover these various living expenses.
Is it for You?
If you are interested in uchideshi training, we respectfully request that you consider the following questions carefully. They are meant to point out potential obstacles to your participation:
1. Are you prepared to undergo severe physical training and fatigue with no reward or thanks other than the experience of the training itself?
2. Are you willing to undertake a long-term living situation in which you have no free time, and during which no value is attached to your personal feelings and inclinations?
3. Can you handle being and feeling alone or isolated for extended periods of time?
4. Do you have unresolved issues with authority figures?
5. Do you have a history of mental illness, instability or substance abuse which would make this kind of training potentially unhealthy for you?
6. Can you accept constant criticism?
7. Can you accept that from the perspective of this training (and regardless of what you have done in the past), you essentially know nothing?
Application and Interview
Uchideshi training is directed by the Shinjinkai Director, Meido Moore Sensei. Moore Sensei completed the three year uchideshi training under Toyoda Shihan in 1993, and went on to live for an additional three years in Toyoda Shihan's dojo as Ryo-cho ("dormitory chief"), the person responsible for training other uchideshi. He is one of only two persons acknowledged by Toyoda Shihan to have successfully completed this training, and to be qualified to conduct it.
Persons wishing to apply for uchideshi training should contact us. At a minimum, a face-to-face interview with the Director and a visit to Shinjinkai H.Q. to train is required before acceptance into an initial three-month probationary period. Letters of recommendation will also be requested, along with a written essay. If you are currently training with another Aikido and/or Zen teacher, letters of recommendation and permission will additionally be required from them. Finally, unknown persons and persons with no Aikido experience may expect to be required to establish their own residence in Chicago and to begin regular training at Shinjinkai for a period of time before being considered for uchideshi training.
NOTE: As we receive many requests for uchideshi program information, please understand that we cannot spend time answering casual inquiries. This page contains all the information available to unknown persons. If you write asking questions that are already explained clearly here, you will confirm that you are not suited to this training. If you are interested in this program and would like to begin the application process, you will be required at a minimum to come to Chicago to train for several days: please do not inquire until you are prepared to do so. We regret that Shinjinkai does not have the resources to support your living expenses: we therefore do not have "paid internships" or "work exchange" programs available. Thank you for your consideration.