Thursday 12 February 2009

Being a deshi of Asai Sensei

In this newly uploaded footage, filmed in 2003, you can see the typical style of one-on-one tuition I received from my late teacher, Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai (10th Dan). As I’ve stated before, I always feel deeply privileged to have been taken on as a deshi (personal student) by Asai Sensei, and the extensive one-on-one trainings I received will always be very close to my heart. In this video clip, which runs just under four minutes, it really shows the intimacy of Sensei-Deshi relationship.

The majority of the footage I've uploaded this time was filmed by Charles Lee Sensei of JKS Hawaii (Technical Director of Japan Karate Shoto-Federation Americas) who was observing this lesson. He was so much concentrating on watching our practice, that his camera work was unfortunately wobbly. Regardless, I really appreciate that he captured this footage. During the outdoor practice, where Asai Sensei was teaching me (at the end of the clip) Charles followed along a little. He was always amazed by the private tuition Asai Sensei gave me and expressed that he was very envious in an admirably humble manner. Note: At the beginning of the footage you can see the final moments of the last session of open seminars (there were six 2.5 hour practices in total) which I failed to edit out. As always, in addition to doing these sessions, and assisting Asai Sensei for the majority of the time (while everyone else got rest times), I also had to do private lessons with him! - The rewards of being a deshi... Physically strenuous is an understatement!

Too many people claim to be students of various karate teachers when clearly they are not: “Being a deshi of a karate sensei is not something which someone becomes automatically by attending a couple of open seminars (like those in JKS New Zealand still dishonestly claim to promote themselves), and/or attaining dan ranks, or paying money. People become deshi by a karate sensei ‘fully accepting’ them as ‘their student’. And the outcome of this is that the karate teacher gives that person one-on-one tuition/mentoring on a regular basis. That is, they make a committed effort to passing on their ‘knowledge’ to that person directly, unhindered, and without financial compensation. A deshi is not someone taught only in the masses, asked to demonstrate at a seminar, or someone who merely pays for training. They are singled out by the master and arduously taught.” – Looking back, this is probably why Asai Sensei always encouraged me to keep video records of his private lessons.

As Asai Sensei’s only New Zealand deshi, I hope this footage further demonstrates the brilliance of Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai, as an unparalleled karate technician and genius instructor. I hope it also illustrates that being a deshi of a karate master is a very personal "special" thing, and something which many people falsely claim to be. Sadly, this is particularly the case with Western karateka, claiming to be deshi of famous Japanese instructors. In traditional Japanese karate-do, what constitutes being a deshi is not necessarily what the student wants, it is completely dependent on what the master does! No one is a deshi unless they have been formally taken on, and trained individually as an apprentice, by the karate master themselves.

Click here to watch the video footage:

© André Bertel, Japan 2009

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