By Erik Hofmeister
In 2012, I received a small raise due to salary compression. This was nice, but not necessary- we have the lifestyle we want, we save a bit of money each year, so I didn’t have anything to do with the added salary. Since we like to give back to the community, and the amount was close to the amount we get from people renting from us, I thought I could comp the rent for a karate student interested in more in-depth training. Sensei McCandless, Sensei Dawkins, and I would talk often about martial arts topics, since we lived in the same house. I thought the environment could be enriching for someone else. Furthermore, Sensei Dawkins would be leaving in the summer of 2014. We could either replace him with a generic roommate or with a karate student.
Shihan Garduque had introduced me to the concept of an uchideshi years ago. An uchideshi is a live-in student who usually takes care of the dojo and lives at or near the dojo. He was an uchideshi for Shihan Torruella, and he also was an uchideshi for Soke for a short period of time. After searching online, I found many uchideshi programs, but they were all for-pay setups, and not like the more traditional setting I imagined for my dojo.
I finally found the internship program at the Shiramizu Japan Karate Dojo. They have a blog with a lot of information, have had several interns over the years, and seemed to have a good structure for their program. I communicated with their program administrator and discussed the idea. He suggested I not use the uchideshi term, since that implies a kind of servitude which I certainly did not want. I made several changes- mostly to formalize some of the agreements- and then distributed the idea to the world.
Summer of 2014 marks the start of the Instructor Apprenticeship program for Athens Yoshukai. It was born out of my desire to make the world a better place and help out students who may be in financial straights. I was also passionate about sharing good conversations about martial arts with more people, now that I didn’t regularly have Sensei McCandless or Dawkins to talk to. The program will hopefully serve the dojo, and the Apprentices, in a fulfilling manner going forward.