Being an Uchideshi at Nippon Kan

By Jason Lowrey

I recently decided to become an uchideshi at Aikido Nippon Kan. I knew that this meant I would live in the dojo and be involved in all of the classes taught at the dojo. I was prepared to be physically tough but what I didn’t know is that learning how to fall down and get back up applied to a lot more than just Aikido. There are a lot more challenges in the world than just dealing with your own bumps and bruises. Aikido Nippon Kan has a non-profit organization aspect to it called A.H.A.N. (Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) that gives to an international community. It is this spirit of giving that makes Homma Kancho’s dojo a truly unique learning environment. There are a lot of things to be learned as an uchideshi involved in a large and diverse community that focuses on local and international humanitarian aid. It is an opportunity to learn from your own actions and your own intentions.

The most important thing I have learned at Nippon Kan is that nothing just happens. A lot of pre-planning, timing, and work go into the every day operations of a successful town dojo.Communication between many different people is essential to fluid group dynamics. When a class or a seminar goes smoothly it’s because of the people behind the scenes that create an ideal learning environment. As an uchideshi I had a great opportunity to learn how a large community based school is organized. The most valuable asset of a large community group is that there are so many people to learn from. The dojo has been going strong for thirty years and there are a lot of people who know how to take care of the day-to-day operations. Even though it would be easier to just let the same people run everything forever Homma Sensei allows a lot of new people to participate in the many events that take place at Aikido Nippon Kan. In this way people who are new to Aikido and a community dojo can learn a lot of skills that apply to every day life.

A large part of my experience as an uchideshi was what I was able to learn from day to day. I learned how to learn. I was being exposed to a lot of Aikido training from a lot of different perspectives. The biggest strength of Aikido Nippon Kan’s classes are the frequency in which they are taught and the diversity of it’s instructors. The diversity of teaching methods is as broad as the diversity that life deals out every day. It seems that the more you try to do in life the more you will encounter obstacles. How do you use those obstacles to expand yourself rather than limit yourself? Life as an uchideshi has taught me to never stop asking this question. On any given day I often found my self trying to plan my day out for maximum efficiency, thinking I could get everything that needed to be done so I would be able to have no worries or concerns for the next day. I soon found that this was an unrealistic expectation. At Nippon Kan I was never told what to do or how much time I had to do it, yet some how I constantly had things to do. The daily task of cleaning the dojo, attending classes, working part time and running errands proved to be a difficult balancing act. The thing I came to appreciate was how hard it was to find time for myself. As an Uchideshi I was not just eating, sleeping, and showering in the dojo I was dealing with my life. The life that I chose to live in the dojo was one that never stopped teaching as long as I was willing to keep learning. Anything worth doing always seems the hardest when it will make the biggest difference in your life.

When I first approached the doors at Nippon Kan I was extremely worried that I needed to change before I even stepped into the dojo. Those doors seemed a hundred feet tall and impossible to reach with dark looming eyes watching over the entrance. I thought that I surely wasn’t going to be able to meet the expectations that every one had on me. As I worked through the program I began to discover that the only person who had expectations of me was myself. The doors that I was now looking at from the inside didn’t seem so ominous. The more time I spent inside the doors I began to realize that the hinges needed to be greased and it was my turn to stand guard. I also began to understand that a lot of people have already and will continue to pass through the doors at Nippon Kan.