Homesick Here and There

Early hours of November 3rd in Ataturk Airport, I was thinking to myself about what I was doing.  Perhaps feeling a little homesick.  I’ve heard that Uchideshi program was a tough one.  There was nothing mandatory for my attendance but I was feeling compelled.  Earlier in 2005 I came to Nippon-Kan as an assistant to my master Ali Uludag for the seminar he gave.  It was different this time.  Without my Sensei, all by myself I was on my way to become an Uchideshi.

For those who do not know what uchideshi is, let me tell you a little about it.  Uchideshi is a boarding student at dojo, taking care of all dojo errands and attending all exercises.  Regardless of your rank, it is, starting all over again in a system completely new to you.  Knowing this fact in the first place came to my advantage.

If you are coming from a different culture, I think fitting in is also a part of the uchideshi program.  Because Nippon-Kan is a dojo connected to traditional Japanese culture and applying this in the American way of living. It is important to know how to accustom to yourself to the environment you are in. The faster you fit in, easier you will fit in the uchideshi program itself.

My journey was a long one.  I arrived at the dojo by the afternoon and settled in my room.  Speaking of which, if you are an uchideshi at Nippon-Kan you really are lucky because you get to have your very own room.  Homma Sensei once said at some dojos uchideshis are sleeping on mattes.  The day I arrived was the day of Hakama Kai class. After placing my stuff in the room, I went for the class.  Homma Sensei summoned me to class so that I can meet my classmates. Since I came from halfway around the world, they did not ask me to come to the exercise, however being in the class just blew my exhaustion away.  Next day, I was in business right after I knew what I had to do and had the training program in my hand.  Beside the daily routine, there were things I had to see or do.  This is really about your approach to dojo.  If you can internalize the reason you are there, it is easier to catch up with things.

Everyday, before the classes in the schedule I had an uchideshi class and I got to study with a different instructor every time.  Aikido is a martial art which shapes by the soul of the practicer, and I had the privilage of working with instructors with different soul characteristics. I was lucky that there were no other uchideshis and I could study with instructors one on one. From time to time, I felt my boundaries were being pushed way too much that I could not make it anymore.  There were exercises even I could not believe I was accomplishing.  Every class I attended was educational for me. I never thought “I know it already” and tried to learn as much as I can from everybody around me.

During my stay at Nippon-Kan, I also attended the monthly homeless dinners. This activity is only one of the cultural and humanitarian activities of AHAN.  Even though I took part in 2006 Taiko Drum shows in Turkey held by AHAN Nippon-Kan, I was really enthusiastic about taking place in this humanitarian event.

Althogh it was a short period, duiring my one month stay in Nippon-Kan, the things I had seen and practiced thought me a lot. The things that I have earned from my visit was not only aikido but also things far beyond that like precious friendships and great experiences. There is lot more to learn from Nippon-Kan, so that in the future I am planning to visit Nippon-Kan again. I wrote this article on the day I have returned back home and I now feel the same homesick this time for Nippon-Kan. First of all I want to thank Ali Uludag Sensei for his support and permission for my practice in Nippon-Kan and Homma Sensei for accepting me to his dojo. And I want to thank all my instructors for the very fruitful classes that I really enjoyed.
Hope to see you again.

December 4th, 2008