By Nick Soloway
The role of a udansha in any dojo, in any part of the world, is a very privileged and honoured one. It is a role that should be looked up to by developing martial artists and respected by those who have achieved and earnt it. To wear a black-belt and hakama, entails certain understanding and responsibility, all of which is valid in the Field Aikido Iwama Ryu dojo.
It is a role based on several different levels; ranging from the physical, to the mental, and also the social. A role that is a conglomeration of skills that have been honed from the first day of training.
A udansha in the Field Aikido dojo must maintain a high level of skill, agility and precision in respect to his or her Aikido techniques. These techniques must remain true and exact to the way they were taught. For if they are altered, then the teachings of O'Sensei are lost in a monopoly of variations and ineffective martial art. It is the role of the udansha to have a keen eye and an open mind. This is especially relevant, as udansha are often teachers to beginners and developing kyu grades.
An important role of any udansha, is the ability to communicate successfully the teachings of Aikido in a manner which is friendly, practical and socially appropriate. Respect must be given to all persons that a udansha trains with. Irrespective of their age, race, disability or social stance. The aim in the Field Aikido dojo should be to develop a universal art which anybody can master. Training at the dojo becomes more fun and enticing when it is taught with enthusiasm and encouragement.
Udansha are often thought of as intimidating people, as they possess a high level of skill which is not visibly seen, unless demonstrated. To the uninitiated, they may appear as demi-gods, to others as pretentious macho-men and to some as self-contained, highly capable human beings. It should be the role of udansha, once they have reached this level, to be humble, yet elegant and powerful. A task which requires personal commitment and endeavour.
Udansha are normal people just like everyone else, however, there are instances where tasks may become tedious or repetitions become tiring during the course of normal training. It should be the duty of udansha to maintain a high level of patience and integrity. Deviation from this will be noticed by lower kyu ranks and hence may be taken as a sign that this unfocussed attitude is permissible. It may also cause some form of distress and uncomfort to those being taught by udansha who display their impatience visually. Therefore, with great and focussed determination, the udansha should set a positive role regarding motivation.
The general role of any udansha, should be seen as a leaders one. They should set the pace and standard for others to come. This may include simple things such as; turning up to classes on time as well as leaving on time, having a clean and ironed gi and hakama, being hygienically clean, attending events and showing support - (i.e misogi, seminars and demonstrations), being fully aware of the jobs roster, having a basic understanding of first aid.
Being "aware", should now be an integral part of the role of any udansha. During training, udansha should take careful note of those training around them, and avoid any dangerous situations. This is even more important when the udansha is the head of a group of lower kyu grades. Showing alertness and awareness of the fundamental dojo rule of throwing to the outside of the perimeter is imperative for harmonious training. Close observation should also be applied when using weapons. Udansha should perhaps have a developed sense of foresight regarding dangerous situations. For example, when practicing jo-dori, if the weapon in question is quite unreliable or structually unsound, it should be replaced before it is broken. Broken weapons may cause serious and permanent injury if airborne.
On reaching udansha level, students should be encouraged to discover and broaden their horizons regarding martial arts generally. This is not to say that they should forget about what they have been taught for the last few years, nor does it mean that the should create a hybrid of Field Aikido Aikido with another style, but perhaps develop an awareness of what other styles are doing and what they have to offer that we perhaps do not. This may eventuate in a greater understanding and appreciation of what Iwama Ryu Aikido has to offer and perhaps influence others along the way.
Finally, for those udansha who conceivably may end up teaching or training at other dojos in Australia or overseas, the above criteria will always be applicable. Whether they are in a small country town or a large city, udansha should uphold every positive aspect that they have been taught, and hence replicate this as best as possible. This will ultimately enhance the allready recognised quality of the Field Aikido dojo and continue the wonderous teachings of O'Sensei.