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Jane H
09-09-2006, 05:05 AM
Are there any real differences in the way men and women do aikido. Are we treated differently by instructors, do we need to be treated differently? Are we seeking the same things from doing aikido or are our goals different?

I started aikido thinking we were not different, after 15 years I believe there are differences. This might not be such a bad thing and it can bring another dimension to a dojo. Also not all men want the tough side of aikido and not all women want to be soft and flowing.

We can all learn from each other, but the main question is why do a lot fewer women stay doing aikido? Is there anything I can do as an instructor to help this situation?

What are people's thoughts and feelings on the differences and how does it feel to train with members of the oppsite sex?

giriasis
09-09-2006, 05:44 PM
Hey Jane!

Come to the Women In Aikido board (click on the link in my Signature) and ask the question.

Myself, I find that my experience is perhaps 90% the same as the guys, but the other 10% is related to gender issues that already exist whereever we live and other issues (like pregnancy, menustration) that men don't necessarily experience first hand. If there are issues outside the dojo there will be issues inside i.e. the dojo will reflect what ever social and cultural values that exist outside the dojo. So if a person in charge of the dojo holds strong bias against women then generally that will be reflected in the dojo (and vice versa).

I don't necessarily think fewer women stay doing aikido, but fewer women choose to practice it to begin with so when they do leave it seems like more leave than the guys. It's just the guys have a bigger pool of newbies to begin with so it seems like more stay. Where I train, we work hard on retaining all members.

But the 10% difference I have seen could be found in the following examples:

I have noticed that excessive flirting (one example in our dojo we had 5 guys ask a newbie woman out the first night she came to class). I'm not just ordinary "hi how are you" kind of conversations, but really overt kinds of things. Of course she didn't come back. I've also heard about stereotyping of "certain women" (i.e. girlie girls) that the person beleives should not be on the mat. As a result such women got poor treatment, hit and injured. Obviously that person (yes, a guy) doesn't train in our dojo anymore. I've had my breasts intentionally squeezed during kokyuho. He got my fist in his face, and, obviously that person doesn't train in our dojo anymore.

But the best way to approach retention of women is to focus on retention on both genders. From my experience (and discussions) most women don't want to be treated differently than than guys. If we have high expectations of all our dojo members then they all will reach them or at least come close. But when stupid stuff does happen a good sensei will listen and take the appropriate action.

Mary Turner
09-09-2006, 07:23 PM
wow, Anne Marie,

You've had some bad experiences! I've always been treated very respectfully (maybe I'm not as cute).

I do feel that there are differences that make techniques require adjustment to work for me. sometimes I need an additional step to cover the same amount of distance a taller person could row, and sometimes I need to grasp fingers for sankyo, as I can't hold uke's wrist. But I have been taught many times that we each create the aikido that works for us.

Peace!
Mary

giriasis
09-10-2006, 01:38 PM
wow, Anne Marie,

You've had some bad experiences! I've always been treated very respectfully (maybe I'm not as cute).

I do feel that there are differences that make techniques require adjustment to work for me. sometimes I need an additional step to cover the same amount of distance a taller person could row, and sometimes I need to grasp fingers for sankyo, as I can't hold uke's wrist. But I have been taught many times that we each create the aikido that works for us.

Peace!
Mary

I guess that reads worse that it really was. This in all of 7 years of training. It's bound to happen. I train in a medium to large size dojo in a city with people from all walks of life and my sensei usually makes allowances for people until they really cross the line. We have a few female black belts including the second highest rank is a female at 6th dan. And now that I'm 1st kyu, I do look out for the newbie women like a mother hen.

There are times when I'm training when I think someone is being a jerk because I'm a woman, but what it really comes down to is that the offender is just a jerk to everyone. It's really rare that I'm treated differently just because I'm a woman.

But as far as differences in actual trianing, it's hard to say if its because I'm a woman just because of my size. I'm average size for woman (not real big but not real small either). I'm still weaker than most men in the dojo. I think the differences come down more to body type as I see the smaller men or out of shape men going through similar struggles I did. We just had an influx of new members in our dojo and a lot of them are 20-something and about half of them are female. They all seem to catch on to rolling as easily and pick up the techniques in the same amount of time. The women tend to be more flexible and the guys tend to be more stiff. But there are still flexible guys and stiff women.

Gernot Hassenpflug
09-10-2006, 08:04 PM
Anne Marie, nice posts ( laughed at the tale of the breast squeeze offender, sorry about that!). On a physical level, in terms of trying to learn technique, I have found that aty my dojo in Japan there is not that much difference at high school level between males and females. Surprisingly, almost none of the high school guys try to muscle any of hte basic exercises. This is very refreshing, and makes it interesting to work with them. For university student level and older, the ladies are mostly more concerned with actually learning (by watching) the body mechanics from the teacher, while most of the guys tend to take in some aspect and then focus all their strength on that.... as you say, it's not 100% division. This is where I think seniors need to really make a point: I make it my duty (even at my extremely low level of body skills) to show the guys how the skill is a matter of doing something different from what they initially thought, and that just attempting to do this will use up all their free energy; and the girls I try to show that when they attempt to do the mechanics they also need to use a great deal more energy than they would like to in order to start conditioning their bodies. However, it is easier to get the ladies to exert energy in the correct directions than it is to start getting the guys to use those directions! Heads up to the ladies!

vjw
09-10-2006, 09:18 PM
I do feel that there are differences that make techniques require adjustment to work for me. sometimes I need an additional step to cover the same amount of distance a taller person could row, and sometimes I need to grasp fingers for sankyo, as I can't hold uke's wrist. But I have been taught many times that we each create the aikido that works for us.
Mary

These are problems for short men too. But often that extra distance you try to cover with the extra step is not needed if you use circular motion and keep yourself at the centre of the circle.

Setka
09-11-2006, 04:37 AM
This is a very interresting thread. I feel sorry I can't contribute more but here goes.
I'm the only girl in our dojo. It's really small. There are 4 other guys. I think that the guys and sensei find it refreshing to have a girl in the dojo. They are very respectful and they expect me to be just as good as them. I enjoy it very much. I'm very flexible and we had a few laughs at the weird directions my wrists and arms go when I don't concentrate. :p

During August AFSA (Aikido Federation of South Africa) had a special for women. They could come and train for free. Obviousely I got all my friends to come and try it out. It wasn't very successful. I think they find it embarrasing. Especially the ukemi's.
Girls doing martial arts are also considered kinda weird here. Guys like girlie girls and martial arts are not cute. I blame guys for this. I think they should appreciate women who have the guts to practice martial arts. I got a few weird looks when I started. Oh well, I won't give up!

Nick Simpson
09-11-2006, 06:09 AM
Everybody 'does' aikido differently.

Gernot Hassenpflug
09-11-2006, 08:21 AM
Carien, how times have changed! When I started in Cape Town back in 1990, there were girls there who "liked pain", to put it mildly. Everyone LOVED them. Nothing girlie there.... ah, maybe you're not in Cape Town. Now there's the root of the problem :-)

odudog
09-11-2006, 10:25 AM
For a guy to sexually assault a lady during a martial arts class is the dumbest thing I've ever heard! The lady is there to learn how to kick butt and your butt will be kicked if you do something like that. If not from her, then probably by the Sensei. Now with that said, I'm surprised by the guys not being able to turn off the male brain. I don't think of the women as being women when I train. I know that they are women for they got bumps and lumps in different places but I don't think of the sexuality of those bumps and lumps. They are my training partner and even better if she is higher ranked than me for I will learn something. I do cringe a little bit when working with women for I don't know if they can turn off the male/female sexuality aspect of their brain. I have touched a boob or two by accident and was hoping that she would not freak out on me. I just acted like I didn't notice anything. It's even possible that I might have a bottom cheek or two while doing koshinage.

Luc X Saroufim
09-11-2006, 10:37 AM
i would say the man/woman ratio in our dojo is 50/50. some aikidoka come in as couples, or in my example, my spouse comes in and watches from time to time. like many dojo's we're pretty close with each other and i can't imagine we'd let such a superficial barrier get in the way of our training. it's never been a problem.

the only fellow that ever said anything was a beginner student that said he'd like to meet "Aikido babes" but that was more funny than anything. we all laughed, and our Sensei told him to get a girlfriend.

Jane H
09-12-2006, 06:14 AM
When I started doing judo a fifteen I was tough and aggressive and never thought about being a woman. I mixed it with the guys equally. Most of my aikido years have been the same although I am a lot less aggressive these days, age and the martial arts have mellowed me. (I'm in my 40's now)

There have been times when I have been treated differently because I was a woman. Stuff like 'I wouldn't want to hurt a woman'. I Did my best to ignore this, and for the most part the people I have trained with have been great. I think being small has had more effect on my aikido than being a woman.

The area I train in has very few women, for the most part I didn't really notice. Being in the changing alone was, missing out on all the news and information cause the guys just forgot they had had the conversation whilst changing is just the way it is. On the mat we were all it was fine.

Now in our own dojo I try to make no distinction between man and women. I still have a mat full of guys (who are great to train with) but although women come and try it, they are just not staying.
I think if I'm really honest with myself, I tend to be very slightly less demanding of the beginner women as they seem to want to start off more carefully. Most of the guys I had start over the years tend to throw themselves in, where as the women want to study carefully. I know this is a generalization and I do try to work with the individual. I am just thinking out loud here for the reasons we have so few women. It is not just our club, there are also only a couple of women across the other dojos in the area. There seems to be loads of women training happily out there.

Roman Kremianski
09-12-2006, 06:24 AM
I have touched a boob or two by accident and was hoping that she would not freak out on me.

I've accidently entered into one with an elbow strike once - oh dear. :(

Pauliina Lievonen
09-12-2006, 06:34 AM
It's funny, there really can be a big difference betwen clubs... ours has about 50/50 men and women but the other clubs around here have much less. Our chief instructor is a man, too, so that can't be it. As a matter of fact, our sister dojo on the other side of town is run by two women and I don't know their numbers for sure but I have the impression they have less women training than we do. Though they have a fair number too.

What I've noticed about men and women training is that they tend to have the same problems with trying to muscle through, but since men are generally stronger, the muscling through feels different from ukes point of view. They all tend to do it, though. I do too. :D

kvaak
Pauliina

Roman Kremianski
09-12-2006, 06:46 AM
I know that it's easy at the low levels to say everyone is equal, and it's true. But at mid levels, you start seeing a difference betwen men and women. There's also an even BIGGER difference between males who focus purly on Aikido and come everyday to train seriously, and females who come a few times a week, do dancing on the side, go to parties, etc basically lead a life that comes first to aikido. It's just a different attitude.

Pauliina Lievonen
09-12-2006, 07:24 AM
There's also a difference between males who come a few times a week, do dancing on the side, go to parties, etc basically lead a life that comes first to aikido, and females who focus on aikido and train seriously. So what's you point? ;)

kvaak
Pauliina

Nick Simpson
09-12-2006, 08:02 AM
You get out what you put in.

It's the only way to describe it. Though size, strength and stature do go a long way when your technique is less than perfect.

gdandscompserv
09-12-2006, 08:18 AM
There's also an even BIGGER difference between males who focus purly on Aikido and come everyday to train seriously, and females who come a few times a week, do dancing on the side, go to parties, etc basically lead a life that comes first to aikido. It's just a different attitude.
Yeah, they're having more fun than you. :D
Yin-Yang Grasshopper.

Dennis Hooker
09-12-2006, 08:30 AM
The differences depend on what you want out of Aikido. It also is heavily dependent on the amount of time you wish to give learning it. If a person is a typical student they spend the first several years learning spacing, timing and technique. In this phase the typical student is dependent more on physical abilities. They are more likely to engage in physical combat trying to sort out their physical limitations so they can move beyond them. In this stage there is quite a difference, not only between sexes, but between physical structures and abilities. A lot of people get hurt in this stage by mistakenly thinking just because they study Aikido they can disregard physiology. They believe it doesn't matter how big and strong the other person is. Later in their training if they stay long enough and have the proper instruction it will not matter as much, but right now it does. In professional boxing more than a 4 or 5 pound weight difference is considered to be and unfair advantage and puts boxers in different categories on that stat alone. In collegiate wrestling the difference is on average 6 or 7 pounds. Aikido people often make the arrogant and mistaken assumption from day one there is no difference. There is and it takes a lot of time and training to overcome the differences. One gains no magical abilities simply by choosing to study Aikido.

Roman Kremianski
09-12-2006, 10:29 AM
Yeah, they're having more fun than you.

Questionable. :p

jonreading
09-12-2006, 11:47 AM
Why do men watch ESPN and women watch Lifetime? What's wrong with a good senstive story starring Meredith Baxter (Birney) or a top ten hardest hits of Sunday?

First and formost, I believe aikido still does not rank very high on a woman's "must do" list. Sports in general still struggle with females athletics; they are poorly watched, underpromoted and underfunded. Aikido is not experiencing anything different than professional sports such as golf, soccer, or basketball. Why? Men prefer to watch men's sports, and women prefer not to watch sports, which leaves a small demographic to support female athletes. The few women whom share a love for athletics are the minority, just as the few women whom share a love for aikido are the minority.

Second, Aikido is different for men and women. Of course, it's also different for tall and short people, strong and weak people, left-handed and right-handed people, and young and old people. Good instructors recognize the difference of needs that spans a dojo, rather than pretend it doesn't exist; it's the 500 elephant in the room that we are afraid to recognize because we don't want to be sexist. When we deny men and women have different training needs, we deny the right to research and develop the training methods necessary to satisfy those needs.

Social environments encourage social behavior. In many dojo, men and women flirt, touch, and do all of the same things they would do at a bar or on a date . If some one expects social interaction when they train, you can't condemn them for sexual behavior because it is the same way they would act on a date. I have seem men act this way, but I have also seen women act this way. Dojo are not a singles club, but far too often they are treated as such.

As an instructor, I try to promote female training by:
1. Promoting aikido as more than a physical activity.
2. Paying close attention to my female students to suppliment their training needs and ensure fair interaction with other students.
3. Keeping social time restricted to extra-dojo environments.

Be patient. Things progress in their own time, position yourself to take advantgae of the opportunities when they present themselves.

Setka
09-13-2006, 02:31 AM
Carien, how times have changed! When I started in Cape Town back in 1990, there were girls there who "liked pain", to put it mildly. Everyone LOVED them. Nothing girlie there.... ah, maybe you're not in Cape Town. Now there's the root of the problem :-)

Mmm, maybe I should visit Cape Town . . .
Maybe get a tan. :cool:
Hey, can you do Aikido on a beach? Probably. I'm gonna try anyway. :D

PeterR
09-13-2006, 02:58 AM
Speaking of the beach - is it just me but taking ukemi on wet sand knocks the breath right out of me.

I do think there is a difference between the way most men approach aikido and most women - that is why I like both in the dojo. I think one sex moderates the others with an overall synergistic improvement. I would not worry too much about being just like the men - look for what interests you and let your own aikido develop.

Setka
09-13-2006, 03:04 AM
Everyone does aikido his/her own way. I think our sensei does it because he likes to fall down. No really, you should see the smile on his face. :confused:

I think all you should do is try to enjoy it and gender won't be a problem. People in good moods don't start fights.

happysod
09-13-2006, 07:54 AM
People in good moods don't start fights but this is what puts shodothugs in a good mood...

Just like to put my twopenneth worth in by agreeing wholeheartedly with Johns post - how people approach aikido seems to be tied strongly into their own background and cultural conditioning so while I wouldn't go as far as some in seeing the gender split, there's often a bias based on gender .

What I do find nice is that how people practice aikido (after the initial stumbling about) is largely defined by their body shape and attitude rather than gender.

KarateCowboy
09-13-2006, 02:59 PM
I think men and women approach Aikido differently, mainly because their motives are often very different.

Dirk Hanss
09-15-2006, 09:00 AM
I think men and women approach Aikido differently, mainly because their motives are often very different.
Hi Matthew,
the motives of KarateCowboys are probably very different or even weird ;)

Your statement does not say anything. What do you think are the motives of men and woman and how do they affect their aikido?

I just would say, every man or woman has his/her own aikido. You might find tendencies in groups. Men and women are examples, One could take countries, etc.

But whatever you take and identify, it is just statistical average and you always find a lot of exceptions. And there are many people out there, who do not like to be decribed by such a group, they belong to. But if you state, there are differences generally, you should tell us, which ones. They are not so obvious, that we all know exactly what you mean.

Best regards Dirk

Jenn
09-22-2006, 01:57 PM
This is more of a gender-related challenge to Aikido than a way of "doing" Aikido, but I found it interesting:

It was something thing my sensei (also a woman) pointed out to me...

Is that, well a lot of people, but especially women are socialized not to assertively invade someone's space. She is right, and I notice I have to work to overcome my socialized habit of wanting to be polite/ladylike whatever.. that subconsciously results in me leaving too much space between myself and uke when trying to execute various techniques. There's a voice in my head that lets me know when I really *should* be entering, keeping my balance centered, etc, but then there's the part that still takes over more than it should that says "Whoa, too close! Too aggressive! Not polite!" - and before I know it I'm leaning back, feeling resistance, and generally frusterated - with the Aikido-voice saying "Uh, that's not entering. That was more like.. some sort of sad little unbalanced shuffle."

James Davis
09-22-2006, 04:46 PM
Is that, well a lot of people, but especially women are socialized not to assertively invade someone's space. She is right, and I notice I have to work to overcome my socialized habit of wanting to be polite/ladylike whatever.. that subconsciously results in me leaving too much space between myself and uke when trying to execute various techniques.
I tell my students to think of playing chess. When a piece is moved onto a square that's occupied by the other player's piece, that square is taken. Out with the old, and in with the new. The square's old occupant has to go someplace else. Just take their square. ;)

Janet Rosen
09-22-2006, 05:39 PM
James, it is good to have various analogies/metaphors because you never know which one will work with a particular student!
But thinking about it that way doesn't really address a gut level, socialized-into-the-self-concept issue like Jennifer raised. And it is not just gender socialized internalized messages. I think we all carry some kind of baggage that affects how our minds/bodies react to what happens on the mat.
If a student realizes the nature of that baggage and consciously address it in his/her practice it is more likely to work towards resolution. So in her example, repeating internally the message, "enter! I have a right to be here!" or something like that, to directly counter the messages she automatically tells herself, would probably be more successful than thinking about chessboards.
my 2 cents.

Jenn
09-23-2006, 02:11 AM
Janet's right, I think.

It's funny, I actually have two senseis.. husband and wife. They both offer very unique and valuable perspectives, but the female sensei's teaching style is a WAY better fit for me. My male sensei would probably say something about chessboards or something too. :D