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PromotionReluctant
07-26-2010, 11:12 AM
I belong to a large dojo with a lot of female beginners but no advanced female students. I think it's a combination of women being turned off by rougher throws once they get past the 6 month mark, more advanced women stopping to have kids, and lack of higher-ranked women in the dojo to act as senpai/mentors/role models.

My sensei is happy that so many women have started, but he's getting frustrated by how quickly they vanish. He's decided to push a few of the female mid-rank students through their belts faster hoping that having a few 1st kyu/shodan women around the dojo might encourage the newbies to stick around.

As one of these women, I'm torn between being flattered that he thinks I'm worth the effort it takes to move me through the ranks faster, and being frustrated that I'm being pushed through tests faster than I feel I'm ready. Although I can perform the techniques for each test, I'm not happy with the quality at which I'm performing them, and so even though I'm passing I don't feel I'm at the level I should be for my rank.

I've tried politely bringing this up with my sensei, but he's stubborn (me: "I don't feel I'm ready for this test", him: "well then practice until you are ready"). Should I just ignore my inner perfectionist and accept that there are a wide variety of skills at each rank? Should I get my butt on the mat every single day and train until I'm sore because I know I'm testing whether or not I want to? Should I put my foot down and refuse? I don't understand dojo politics at all, so I'm just looking for advice on how normal this is, and how much say I get in putting my needs before those of the dojo.

David Maidment
07-26-2010, 12:03 PM
The dojo seems like a nice place to train, but for this one issue (but correct me if I'm wrong). It also seems like it could be nice to be a mentor to beginners, as your sensei hopes.

Personally, I would just take the tests when sensei suggests that I'm ready and put up with the fact that I don't feel happy with the grade I've been awarded. It's what I do every time I train. I'm currently sankyu, could easily pass the nikyu test and I suppose the next two to shodan would be much of the same. I'm nowhere near happy with what has been requested of me for the grade I've been awarded. In my head I'm somewhere at the gokyu or yonkyu level. So I just turn up, train, test when I'm asked to and ignore all the rest.

Janet Rosen
07-26-2010, 12:10 PM
Each of us who is part of a dojo does have a responsibility to the dojo community... BUT ultimately each of us trains for his or her own self, growth, and joy. If you are merely being challenged to take your training a bit outside your comfort level, I think your instructor is doing his job. Normal training, though, involves periods of challenge and growth and period of plateau; the latter are also needed in order to integrate things learned in the last growth period. If you are always subject to external pressure raherbtham being given breathing space to define your own training goals then it probably. feels like a grind .... and not fun ... so why train?You might try explaining to your instructor that he risks losing another student if he doesn't back off.

Marc Abrams
07-26-2010, 12:11 PM
It sounds like there are two separate "problems."

1) Rougher throwing: The more advanced one becomes, the less "roughness" should be applied when throwing. I cannot think of a reasonable explanation as to why roughness should be "introduced" as you get more advanced. Connection with the uke, moving smoother, faster and with less tension will make the uke move faster in a throw. The significant difference should be that the uke should "take" the ukemi better because of the higher level of the nage's execution.

2) Testing when you are not ready: Some people are reluctant to take exams. The teacher should work WITH the student to properly prepare and encourage the student's progress so that the testing experience becomes more tolerable, enjoyable and meaningful for everybody. This balancing act is different for each student. Blanket approaches typically fail because each of us are different people. If part of advancing in Aikido is to become better connected with ourselves and with those around us, I think it would be logical to expect that this "personalized" experience becomes the norm as the teacher advances.

Ultimately it is your call. Listen to lots of advice and you will likely find that the advice that strikes you at some deep place in your soul will guide you appropriately.

Good Luck!

Marc Abrams

ninjaqutie
07-26-2010, 12:11 PM
Hi. I think my sensei is a bit sad that we don't have a large female population either. At most.... we have four females on the mat and three of them are always gone for various reasons (college, not training consistently, busy, lazy, etc) Whenever a prospective female comes around, sensei gets all excited. I am the lowest ranking (5th kyu) of the four females. The other three are 1st kyu or above. However, since they aren't there, there really isn't a presence of higher ranking females. Sometimes I wish there were more females in the dojo, but it doesn't really bother me. My sensei has never put pressure on me to test just to be a higher ranking female though. I honestly don't know if having higher ranking females in your dojo would make a difference or not. It could though. Maybe a new person would think "Well if she can get to shodan, maybe I can too." In the end though, I would think that they will either stay or go on their own whether there is a higher ranking female around or not.

If you really aren't comfortable in testing, I would have a heart to heart conversation with your sensei and let him know how you feel. I know I want to feel like I deserve the rank I am. On the other hand, is it possible you are ready and you are just tough on yourself? :) If that is the case, he is just getting rid of the time requirement aspect of the rank. Your other options are to train until you feel more comfortable or just not show up on testing day (which I don't really advocate, but I have jokingly threatened to do when I tested last).

As for the rougher throws... are they actually rougher throws or are they just not being babied and are ctually being taken down to the mat instead of to just the point they are being taken off balance? Perhaps more ukemi practice should be addressed to make them feel more comfortable. Like Marc said, although I am thrown more vigorously then I was when I started a year ago, I find the throws to become more soft (when working with someone more experienced). Their techniques are easy to follow, more efficient and because of that, my ukemi is more able to neutralize the throw. Most of the time, my landings are rather soft. When working with a beginner, such as myself this isn't always the case though. :) Another issue may be that they are being thrown beyond what they can handle, so nage should slow down to a point that they can keep up and take care of themselves.

Sorry you are in that position. Best of luck and keep us informed.

Eric Winters
07-26-2010, 01:08 PM
Hello,

I think you should do a couple of things you suggested. You should come in and train more to try to feel more comfortable with your skill level. ( If your body can handle it.) Also if your instructor is good and you trust him, you should listen to him when he thinks you are ready to test.

Best,

Eric

Keith Larman
07-26-2010, 01:39 PM
The more advanced one becomes, the less "roughness" should be applied when throwing. I cannot think of a reasonable explanation as to why roughness should be "introduced" as you get more advanced.

I'm in agreement fully with this, but to recount a recent experience. I was encouraging one of the kids I train to come to more advanced classes. Geez, she's probably better described as a young adult now, wow, time flies, but I digress. She came a few times but stopped coming to the "adult advanced" class. She was eminently qualified, perfectly capable of keeping up, but she stopped coming. I talked with her privately later and she told me she was afraid of the harder, rougher throws. That surprised me as I didn't really see them that way. But... I started to realize she had been in kids or beginning classes for most of her training. And while she had trained in more advanced throws, it was the overall intensity level of the training that was scaring her. Or maybe more accurately, it wasn't that anything was more rough or hard, but that it was more intimidating and faster paced than she was used to. Comfort levels. So it was her fear more than anything. She was in her comfort zone working with the kids and teenagers and was intimidated about having to step up the practice into a higher level of intensity, speed and power.

So now I'm trying to push the intensity a bit with her in my classes with her to get her feeling more comfortable taking the ukemi. She has the ability to take a faster, more "robust" ukemi from a bigger throw. She just needs the practice and confidence in herself to relax into it. Most of us have had the experience of getting hurt doing a big fall not because of the roughness of the fall, but because of us being tentative or unsure of our ukemi. That's sometimes the bigger hurdle.

Just fwiw.

And to the OP... Most sensei ask you to test because they think you're perfectly able to take the test. And most would consider it a responsibility of a good sensei to push the students when they need a little push.

but I ain't there and can't know what's really going on. So I could be posting like one of our local profuse posters and whistling out my hind quarters hoping I'm sounding good. Lord knows I don't want to sound like him, so best of luck and I hope you can work it out.

Hebrew Hammer
07-26-2010, 01:47 PM
So what's your REAL objection? What's the worst that can happen if you test and pass or test and fail?

Obviously your instructor wouldn't be suggesting/pushing you unless they felt you were talented enough. Sometimes we are our own biggest critic. Hence your perfectionism...you have to whole life to try and reach perfection...my suggestion is that you don't let this one speed bump prevent you from that pursuit.

I get the feeling just being rougher isn't the real issue..or you will never test and should probably find another dojo. Fear I think is your real test and that is going to find you at whatever you choose to do. Be the perfectionist and pass the test the first time! :D

PromotionReluctant
07-26-2010, 02:18 PM
Just to clarify since a few people are getting hung up on it....

I probably made a bad word choice with "rougher." Our dojo is quite soft - and as such for their first few months beginners are normally pushed just to the point of being off balance and are allowed to fall at their own pace. Some of them don't seem to want to get past this point. I've had people use every ounce of strength in their body to try to stand upright during a kaiten-nage because they are only comfortable rolling from a static standing position. I simply meant that at some point you have to transition from static practice to more dynamic practice where you don't always get to choose when and where you're falling. As a beginner some of your rolls and jumping breakfalls are pretty rough on your body - no matter how soft and skilled your partner is.

We've had several women either hit the mat badly or repeatedly bang the same spot on their anatomy when taking ukemi, and never show for practice again. Since women have different centers of gravity and different levels of upper body strength than men, I'm guessing that we should probably be taking slightly different ukemi....but with only male instructors this has never been raised in class (but that's a whole other kettle of fish).

Keith Larman
07-26-2010, 02:27 PM
Well, that's what I was getting at. The problem isn't that the practice is rougher, but that some are hesitant to push outside their comfort zones. If it is any consolation, that is problem many new students face. The paradox is that you have to "go for it" and in doing so it becomes less an issue. It is the hesitation that makes for injuries. Once you start to simply take the fall you find that it is vastly easier to take them when your partner gives you some energy.

I will occasionally teach classes where my sole goal is teaching better ukemi. Pushing newer students to relax and take a good fall. It is critical practice and you *have* to get past it to get anywhere in your training.

ninjaqutie
07-26-2010, 05:55 PM
It is the hesitation that makes for injuries. Once you start to simply take the fall you find that it is vastly easier to take them when your partner gives you some energy.

Totally agree with you here. The more energy that is given to me, the less work I have to do. :D When techniques are done really slow, you can get there yourself. When they are done with oomph, I find I magically am where I need to be most times. It is that half paced "I don't want to hurt you" or "I'm not sure what I'm doing" stuff that makes my ukemi a bit less fluid (not that my ukemi is considered fluid at any given moment..... :rolleyes: )

Every person I know who has been injured (or injured their partner) during ukemi was from them being afraid of the landing and tensing up or they just plain went into panic mode. I think this is something that really needs to be addressed. There have been several times in aikido where my ukemi has been less then ideal and I didn't know what I was doing, but because I am able to relax and go with the flow more or less, I have ended up alright (so far). Which leads to your next statement....

Pushing newer students to relax and take a good fall. It is critical practice and you *have* to get past it to get anywhere in your training.

Couldn't say that any better. You have to get over your fear of falling in an art where falling is a major part of the art. If they can't get over the fear of falling, then perhaps aikido isn't for them. I think people don't realize just how useful ukemi is and how it is one thing in the art that you will more then likely use at one point in your life.

raul rodrigo
07-26-2010, 08:43 PM
My advice would be to trust your teacher and take the test. He wouldn't ask you to test if he didn't think you would pass. At worst, you will pass with a performance you feel is unsatisfactory. But that's happened to me every single time I've tested, and I'm nidan with 14 years of training. I'm always a little behind where I hope to be in my training, and that's all right. The important thing is to train.

Amir Krause
07-29-2010, 06:25 AM
Given your story so far

I must ask - when will you have the quality for the test?

I can not recall a single veteran in our dojo who felt he deserves his last or prior to last ranking. All continuously try to postpone their rankings (maybe next fall/summer/ another few months in a repetitive manner) and tell Sensei their level is far from sufficient for their ranks.

On the other hand, if Sensei lowered his standards, it was not by much, and it definitely was not due to financial considerations. If anything, it could have been trying to get closer to the Japanese concept of the Shodan as the first stepping stone, and not a destination almost impossible to achieve.

At some point he even got to putting me and a friend on an unannounced test (as in "congratulations, the presentation you gave today was a test and you are now Nidan") for the previous rank.

We will always have much more to improve. Talking to Sensei he tells me how his techniques are so far from perfect and says he may have one or two passable techniques, and he is so far ahead of me...

Amir

RED
07-30-2010, 12:58 PM
In my opinion. If you trust your sensei and he thinks you are ready to test, continue to trust him. It is his school after all. If you don't trust his judgment, I'd find another school. I can't imagine a good student teacher relationship where you don't completely trust your teachers judgment as teacher.

It's The Ukemi, Stupid
07-31-2010, 03:17 PM
I train at an overcrowded dojo, so I don't personally care that a large percentage stays to 4th kyu and injures out, mostly because they never figured out on their own how to roll without hurting their shoulders. But a smaller dojo is definitely going to have retention problems if it doesn't actively teach ukemi as a part of class, and those issues could be with men or women.

I'm a woman and I was taught to fall by men, and have male ukemi role models and do just fine, so I don't think this is about women having a different center of gravity or whatever. But women do differ from men in two important ways:

1. Women are socialized to assume that the problem with their ukemi is innate (my neck is too short, my thighs are too fat, my ukemi isn't very good...), whereas men are socialized to assume that they can troubleshoot and fix problems like this (I can fix my computer and I can fix the way I fall...)

2. Women are more risk averse, generally, then men. If a man falls badly a few times, he learns from each bad fall how to fall better. Women prefer to withdraw from things that hurt them. I learned how to do better breakfalls by figuring out how not to land on my kidneys, but I am not feminine in this way.

Ukemi drills in class would really help both of these specific feminine mindsets. I used to be a sculpture teacher, and found that I could never get my female students to use the table saw. But when I created a short assignment that involved everyone using the saw, and explained how to do it safely, then it became a non-issue and of course the women were often safer and had better judgment at it then the men.

As to the testing thing, nobody on this forum can tell whether you are ready or not, but you should generally test for yourself and to your own expectations (provided they are high enough). You're acting as a role model no matter your rank.

RED
07-31-2010, 08:32 PM
I train at an overcrowded dojo, so I don't personally care that a large percentage stays to 4th kyu and injures out, mostly because they never figured out on their own how to roll without hurting their shoulders. But a smaller dojo is definitely going to have retention problems if it doesn't actively teach ukemi as a part of class, and those issues could be with men or women.

I'm a woman and I was taught to fall by men, and have male ukemi role models and do just fine, so I don't think this is about women having a different center of gravity or whatever. But women do differ from men in two important ways:

1. Women are socialized to assume that the problem with their ukemi is innate (my neck is too short, my thighs are too fat, my ukemi isn't very good...), whereas men are socialized to assume that they can troubleshoot and fix problems like this (I can fix my computer and I can fix the way I fall...)

2. Women are more risk averse, generally, then men. If a man falls badly a few times, he learns from each bad fall how to fall better. Women prefer to withdraw from things that hurt them. I learned how to do better breakfalls by figuring out how not to land on my kidneys, but I am not feminine in this way.

Ukemi drills in class would really help both of these specific feminine mindsets. I used to be a sculpture teacher, and found that I could never get my female students to use the table saw. But when I created a short assignment that involved everyone using the saw, and explained how to do it safely, then it became a non-issue and of course the women were often safer and had better judgment at it then the men.

As to the testing thing, nobody on this forum can tell whether you are ready or not, but you should generally test for yourself and to your own expectations (provided they are high enough). You're acting as a role model no matter your rank.

I've never dealt with some of these "female" problems you speak of. If my ukemi sucks I just assume I'll work it out and proceed as required.
I've actually known one to many men who baby their shoulders when uke. In my experience babying anything guarantees your injury.
One thing men can't comprehend is how much it hurts when some one accidentally kneels on your "side-boob bulge" when doing a seated pin. :yuck:

lbb
08-02-2010, 07:46 AM
I've never dealt with some of these "female" problems you speak of.

Individual anecdotes don't invalidate a generalization. Not saying it's the case with OP, but perhaps it's worth looking at.

RED
08-02-2010, 12:43 PM
Individual anecdotes don't invalidate a generalization. Not saying it's the case with OP, but perhaps it's worth looking at.

I am not a fan of generalization. Often times I find they come from a place of assumption instead of actual experience. I'm not here to invalidate the generalization, I'd rather erase it all together.

A female student who is a serious student of martial arts I think would more typically not fit into this generalization. You sort of walk in knowing that it will take physical and mental demands.

LOL I already have a hard enough time getting newbie male students to grab or attack me let alone give an honest atemi to me,(A 5'2" girl) let alone have to deal with women who also have the predisposition that girls are more "fragile" physically and mentally.

There is only one adult-female student in my school, me! (there is a female Sensei however.) so when the newbie male students refuse to give honest attack and choose to "baby" their movements for me, I feel inclined to demonstrate that I in fact did earn my rank. It isn't always easy convincing young strong males that they have to respect a 5'2" female on the mat.(for some reason they tend to think that babying women IS respecting them. They don't seem to understand that in this context it is in fact insulting.)

So with this obstacle, I tend to be highly critical when females go along with the idea that female students need to be taught or treated more sensitive. I don't want to be treated "sensitive-like" or have a different "teaching style" adapted for me, the opposite in fact. I don't want special treatment from the teachers or students because I'm more "fragile" mentally or physically.I know I am expected to keep up with par, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My opinion, martial arts is a physically demanding thing, thus it is inclined to be a boys club, so as a woman you need to suck it up and train if you want to join that club.

I sympathize with the OP in trying to retain female students. Sometimes martial arts are boys clubs, and that is never (in most cases) the Sensei's intention for his school.

Mark Gibbons
08-02-2010, 02:07 PM
...
There is only one adult-female student in my school, me! (there is a female Sensei however.) so when the newbie male students refuse to give honest attack and choose to "baby" their movements for me, I feel inclined to demonstrate that I in fact did earn my rank. It isn't always easy convincing young strong males that they have to respect a 5'2" female on the mat.(for some reason they tend to think that babying women IS respecting them. They don't seem to understand that in this context it is in fact insulting.)
...
.

Interesting problem for beginners. Attack honestly and get wiped out for "challenging" and being resistant, most folks learn to avoid this style quickly. Give the wimpy attacks that seem to be expected and get an emotional reaction from someone demonstrating their rank. Giving the desired attack, in my experience, at an aikido dojo is much harder than doing the waza. I don't see how beginners can be expected to do it.

RED
08-02-2010, 02:12 PM
Interesting problem for beginners. Attack honestly and get wiped out for "challenging" and being resistant, most folks learn to avoid this style quickly. Give the wimpy attacks that seem to be expected and get an emotional reaction from someone demonstrating their rank. Giving the desired attack, in my experience, at an aikido dojo is much harder than doing the waza. I don't see how beginners can be expected to do it.

The insult comes when they verbalize that they are not willing to strike a girl. A slow on point strike is what I think is reasonable for a new student, which is followed by a slow response by nage. I don't considering practicing slow to be "babying". I consider an unwillingness to make contact, or an unwillingness to allow your uke to fall down to be insulting to the uke. Often times it is easier to get hurt when the nage is trying to "let you down to the mat" refusing to let you fall.. Which increases frustration. I'll be honest, I get angry when some one hurts me by doing something I've asked them not to. I find it disrespectful to not honor your training partner's instructions. Regardless of rank, I listen to how an uke wishes to be thrown and how a nage wishes to be attacked.

Mark Gibbons
08-02-2010, 03:42 PM
The insult comes when they verbalize that they are not willing to strike a girl. A slow on point strike is what I think is reasonable for a new student, which is followed by a slow response by nage. I don't considering practicing slow to be "babying". I consider an unwillingness to make contact, or an unwillingness to allow your uke to fall down to be insulting to the uke. Often times it is easier to get hurt when the nage is trying to "let you down to the mat" refusing to let you fall.. Which increases frustration. I'll be honest, I get angry when some one hurts me by doing something I've asked them not to. I find it disrespectful to not honor your training partner's instructions. Regardless of rank, I listen to how an uke wishes to be thrown and how a nage wishes to be attacked.

Thanks for explaining. I had a somewhat different picture in mine. I sometimes get treated that way, I frequently have to beg beginning ukes to hit me. And yes, I also hate being caught on the way to fall. It's dangerous for uke, and really weird to grab someone with a black or brown belt assuming they can't fall. Beginners have issues, that's a symptom.

As for insulting you or not doing what you ask and making you angry, I'll repeat myself. Appropriate ukemi is really difficult for some people. Getting upset with someone because something is difficult for them doesn't seem like it would help either of you.

Or you may just live in a culture and hang out where folks don't want to hit women.

Mark

RED
08-02-2010, 04:02 PM
Thanks for explaining. I had a somewhat different picture in mine. I sometimes get treated that way, I frequently have to beg beginning ukes to hit me. And yes, I also hate being caught on the way to fall. It's dangerous for uke, and really weird to grab someone with a black or brown belt assuming they can't fall. Beginners have issues, that's a symptom.

As for insulting you or not doing what you ask and making you angry, I'll repeat myself. Appropriate ukemi is really difficult for some people. Getting upset with someone because something is difficult for them doesn't seem like it would help either of you.

Or you may just live in a culture and hang out where folks don't want to hit women.

Mark

I'd like to point out that this issue is a rare annoyance for me..I have a good relationship with all the regular students of the dojo and we respect each other...but the annoyance comes from newbie's and is annoying enough for me to get a chip on my shoulder.

It's the south.. the good ol' boy chivalry gets annoying after awhile.

There are some boys that don't know me,(they are new), but they are fully aware that I'm a higher rank than them, so it is a little rude to assume I need "their instruction", and assume that I need "their" help taking ukemi, or the mat will some how hurt me. They don't treat other men like that; other men who are lower ranked than me...so after a while I'll have to assume it is them "trying to be nice to the girl".

I only get mad if I'm injured due to some one ignoring my wishes to say, let go of me when I fall. I tend to repeat myself by saying "I don't need help to the mat, you are going to injure me." And if I am injured, I'm obviously irritated.

Don't expect special treatment. I train with male students, I train as hard as them. MY only point really is that altering your teaching or training style for a woman is really an insult more than it is a help. And if the newbies annoying me stick around long enough they learn this fact...then everything is cool.

David Board
08-02-2010, 04:19 PM
I'd like to point out that this issue is a rare annoyance for me..I have a good relationship with all the regular students of the dojo and we respect each other...but the annoyance comes from newbie's and is annoying enough for me to get a chip on my shoulder.

It's the south.. the good ol' boy chivalry gets annoying after awhile.

There are some boys that don't know me,(they are new), but they are fully aware that I'm a higher rank than them, so it is a little rude to assume I need "their instruction", and assume that I need "their" help taking ukemi, or the mat will some how hurt me. They don't treat other men like that; other men who are lower ranked than me...so after a while I'll have to assume it is them "trying to be nice to the girl".

I only get mad if I'm injured due to some one ignoring my wishes to say, let go of me when I fall. I tend to repeat myself by saying "I don't need help to the mat, you are going to injure me." And if I am injured, I'm obviously irritated.

Don't expect special treatment. I train with male students, I train as hard as them. MY only point really is that altering your teaching or training style for a woman is really an insult more than it is a help. And if the newbies annoying me stick around long enough they learn this fact...then everything is cool.

I expect special treatment. I'm tall and skinny. I'm inexperienced but have a high level of endurance. I'm male. I have a 7 year old in the class (during the family practice). I'm approaching middle age. My shoulders are flexible. My wrists are not. I can put my feet behind my head but can't touch my toes.

A good nage needs to treat me appropriately or the techniques won't work and/or they might injure me. A good teacher needs to consider these things while teaching me. Some of them they can perceive instantly. Some of them they can glean from putting me into categories. Some times these categories may mislead them but we can work through that.

Hopefully I treat others as special cases as well and I adapt to who they are and what they are doing.

RED
08-02-2010, 08:38 PM
I expect special treatment. I'm tall and skinny. I'm inexperienced but have a high level of endurance. I'm male. I have a 7 year old in the class (during the family practice). I'm approaching middle age. My shoulders are flexible. My wrists are not. I can put my feet behind my head but can't touch my toes.

.

Being a woman is not a handicap. Nor is it a sign of inexperience or enfeeblement. Are you suggesting that being a woman is the same a handicap, like having stiff wrists? That my partner need to adapt to the fact that I am female?

You are right, I expected to be treated as I am: Young, flexible, healthy and capable.

David Board
08-02-2010, 11:47 PM
Being a woman is not a handicap. Nor is it a sign of inexperience or enfeeblement. Are you suggesting that being a woman is the same a handicap, like having stiff wrists? That my partner need to adapt to the fact that I am female?

You are right, I expected to be treated as I am: Young, flexible, healthy and capable.

No, being a women is the same as being skinny or tall. An attribute. Women typically have a set of physical attributes in common. Women's hips are different then men's hips. The angle of the femur is different. Female spines are different then male spines. This changes how you move. This changes how I should respond to you.

Just as my height changes how people should respond to me. I have watched multiple times as nages are forced to adapt to my height. Sidesteps are modified to include a slight backwards angle. As nage, I have to change how I do some techniques. My height changes how a technique is performed in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Now there is no doubt that attributes can mislead. When people see me put my legs behind my head they assume I have the flexibility of a Yogi (if they know my wife is yoga teacher the assumption is reinforced) but I can not touch my toes. In fact, I can not even sit at 90 degrees with my legs out straight. As an aside my wife informs me that this peculiarity is associated with males and that she has yet to encounter a women with this mix of flexibility but several males.

I have no doubt that you are a better at Aikido than I am. I have no doubt that you can take better Ukemi than I can. I have no doubt that you could take more than I could dish out. If we were to meet on the mat I would treat you as my better and try to learn from you. I would treat you as are young, flexible, healthy, capable and female. Not because I need baby you but because I want to give you my best.

Eva Antonia
08-03-2010, 02:51 AM
Hi all,

in my club we also don't have many women, but I don't think that matters for the teacher or for any of us. I neither noticed really a different treatment of women (except by male adolescent newbies, but they adapt quickly), rather a treatment according to the different physical characteristics of everyone.

Among the females, we have one nikyu of middle height and middle weight, who is rather strong and dynamic. Training with her is not different from training with a guy. Then we have a 14 year old, small, thin, frail sankyu, who attacks without power and does not resist. You could make all errors of the world and the technique would still work. So obviously nage would treat these two very differently.

Then there is myself who is 1,78 m but weighs less than 60 kg. That makes it very easy to break my equilibrium, and if I attack dynamically and a heavy nage performs let's say kokyu, I'd fly something like 5 m. But if I throw the heavy guy, he just rolls smoothly out of it.

We have two male aikidoka, one sankyu and one gokyu, who the approximately my statue and weight, maybe a BIT heavier, and they are pretty much treated the same as myself. I really don't think there is much of a gender issue in it.

But then it is true that women are generally frailer, smaller and easier to unbalance - and even if every individual is treated individually, if you look at the average, women are still treated softer than men.

Coming to the exam; I'd also feel rather unhappy if I was awarded a rank because the teacher wants high ranking female...it is like this quota issue in politics or business. If you have a policy of having at least 35 % of women in top ranges of management/ government or whatever, everyone starts immediately to question if they arrive there because of merits or because of the quota. And the person herself couldn't be sure if she was chosen because of gender or because of qualification. That does not exactly boost self-esteem....

Best regards,

Eva

It's The Ukemi, Stupid
08-03-2010, 06:19 AM
Listen, I am a woman myself. In addition to being a relatively strong aikidoka I am also a sculptor and currently work as a welder and rigger with a team of men, so I am a woman who tends to put myself in typically "masculine" situations. I have about one thousand experiences a day that confirm that I am different from the men I surround myself with, not in ways that are deficient, but in ways that are different. I'm not a tiny man! I do think differently than my co-workers, and that is usually a good thing. It's a benefit to have someone on a jobsite who's thinking about how other people feel. It's a serious safety bonus to have a rigger who's been socialized to communicate very well. It's good for the morale of a team to have someone around who's just naturally touchier, or who remembers about families more. I solve problems differently than my colleagues, I tend to think more indirectly.

I empathize with RED's and others' assertions that she learned just fine from men, and that it bugs her when people treat her differently. I am in a similar situation, I tend to "learn like a man" myself. But you know, I think that aikido is fundamentally an act of communication, and when I get treated "like a girl" on the mat, it's my responsibility to communicate my training goals, desired level of intensity and so on. I can only do that if I am confident enough to just do that instead of whining about it or assuming that someone who looks at a tiny blonde woman and attacks softly is being a sexist. I have the skills and intensity on the mat to overcome this without having to label anyone.

I think this thread is about giving more women the opportunity to have as much skills and intensity as they want, and I think that's a good thing. I think the first step toward doing that is openly admitting that women are different than men, that they learn differently and are socialized, generally speaking, to value different things. It's not a deficiency that women tend to value safety! I use my need to be safe on the mat and on the job all the time--it's what makes me really good at lifting heavy things in crazy situations! It got me to work on my ukemi all by myself!

It is a drag that women tend to be socialized to look at themselves as innately this or that in a way that men aren't, and don't tell me that it doesn't happen because I still battle it every time I make a mistake at work, less on the mat for some reason. I think that an aikido class is a great place to get over that sense that you simply "are" any one thing.

I don't think that women who do aikido do aspiring women aikidoka a favor when they exclaim that they don't have that problem. It creates a dead end, in which the only logical conclusion is that it must not exist for others. I think that everyone has a responsibility to create as much opportunity for others as possible. It's impossible to do that when you're stuck on saying the problem doesn't exist. I think it's far more enlightened to organize the learning experience so that more people can get it. Who doesn't benefit from five minutes of rolls at the beginning of class?

Basia Halliop
08-03-2010, 09:15 AM
Coming to the exam; I'd also feel rather unhappy if I was awarded a rank because the teacher wants high ranking female...it is like this quota issue in politics or business. If you have a policy of having at least 35 % of women in top ranges of management/ government or whatever, everyone starts immediately to question if they arrive there because of merits or because of the quota. And the person herself couldn't be sure if she was chosen because of gender or because of qualification. That does not exactly boost self-esteem....

Yes, totally... and if they want to encourage beginning females students and give them confidence in their potential, having a bunch of female shodans that are clearly worse than the male ones isn't exactly going to be encouraging to the beginners... :freaky: .

Sounds like simply teaching everyone better ukemi would be a lot more helpful....

This is assuming the poster's interpretation is correct, though. It's always possible she's misinterpreting the situation and she's just being asked to progress quickly because she's learning more quickly than she realizes or something like that.

RED
08-03-2010, 09:49 AM
No, being a women is the same as being skinny or tall. An attribute. Women typically have a set of physical attributes in common. Women's hips are different then men's hips. The angle of the femur is different. Female spines are different then male spines. This changes how you move. This changes how I should respond to you.

Just as my height changes how people should respond to me. I have watched multiple times as nages are forced to adapt to my height. Sidesteps are modified to include a slight backwards angle. As nage, I have to change how I do some techniques. My height changes how a technique is performed in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Now there is no doubt that attributes can mislead. When people see me put my legs behind my head they assume I have the flexibility of a Yogi (if they know my wife is yoga teacher the assumption is reinforced) but I can not touch my toes. In fact, I can not even sit at 90 degrees with my legs out straight. As an aside my wife informs me that this peculiarity is associated with males and that she has yet to encounter a women with this mix of flexibility but several males.

I have no doubt that you are a better at Aikido than I am. I have no doubt that you can take better Ukemi than I can. I have no doubt that you could take more than I could dish out. If we were to meet on the mat I would treat you as my better and try to learn from you. I would treat you as are young, flexible, healthy, capable and female. Not because I need baby you but because I want to give you my best.

While I agree that you should adjust say for a woman's high, hips and what not, I find it ridiculous in my original point to refuse to punch, or throw a woman.
I think there is a world apart from adjusting to specific attributes, and insulting.

lbb
08-03-2010, 10:08 AM
I am not a fan of generalization. Often times I find they come from a place of assumption instead of actual experience. I'm not here to invalidate the generalization, I'd rather erase it all together.

A female student who is a serious student of martial arts I think would more typically not fit into this generalization. You sort of walk in knowing that it will take physical and mental demands.


Well, now we're into the realm of who gets to decide what a "serious student" is. Maybe we don't want to go there.

What does it mean to "erase" a generalization, anyway? Do you wish to stop people from making an observation? What if there's truth in what they observe? If I make the generalization that sexism exists and that it has an effect on women's attitudes, why do you want to "erase" this generalization, and how do you propose to do it? Pointing out that there are exceptions to generalizations would seem a waste of time -- that is inherent in the definition of what a generalization is -- and stifling the expression of a generalization because the underlying reality is distasteful seems a case of shooting the messenger.

David Board
08-03-2010, 11:06 AM
[..]
Don't expect special treatment. I train with male students, I train as hard as them. MY only point really is that altering your teaching or training style for a woman is really an insult more than it is a help. And if the newbies annoying me stick around long enough they learn this fact...then everything is cool.

While I agree that you should adjust say for a woman's high, hips and what not, I find it ridiculous in my original point to refuse to punch, or throw a woman.
I think there is a world apart from adjusting to specific attributes, and insulting.

Fair enough, I did read your concluding paragraph as expecting no special treatment and this was obviously a misinterpretation. And while I agree that refusing to punch or throw a woman is insulting, I would expect a teacher in particular and your training partners in general to be aware of who you are. This includes not only your physical attributes but your cultural and emotional background as well. Your sex influences all of these.

The original post that you took exception to gave a very good example of this, using a band saw. Not as many women have used large shop equipment as men in American society. Women are not expected to use power tools like men are in American society. While this is not ideal. It is true. The original poster found that despite her encouragement many women did not feel comfortable just walking up to a band saw turning it on and having a go (Perhaps proof that women are smarter then men or at least prize their fingers more.) Her solution was not to single women out nor was it to change the expectations of the class. She trained everyone in the proper use of a band saw; she taught in a manner that was aware of why her students were having difficulty with this particular tool. Everyone benefited. The women became better than the men (perhaps because they came with their cups empty). She adapted her teaching to her students. She recognized that the women in her class needed familiarization with the tool and she modified her teaching to account for this. (As a safety officer at my work place I hope she was at least giving a brief safety lesson in the first place).

It is not that women shouldn't be creating sculpture nor is that women shouldn't be using the band saw. The point is that awareness of their background allowed a better class. Taking the analogy back to Aikido, it is not that woemen should not be doing Aikido nor is it that women should not be given a full and proper attacks. But being aware of their background will allow for a better class.

C. David Henderson
08-03-2010, 11:09 AM
I posted this article, http://singletrack.competitor.com/20...-the-bike_6764, a while back to a thread Janet started. It was written by a professional woman mtn biker -- a "serious student" of that sport by any estimate.

Her point seems to be that women may tend to have different responses to learning how to do dangerous things than men "generally" do, and that many women may learn more effectively if this different set of responses is understood.

Working with the grain and not against it, so to speak.

Is this sexist or feminist? Is it restricting or liberating?

I could see how this kind of description might be misused to pigeon-hole women and restrict a woman's training.

But it seemed to me the author's point was "hey, there's a better way for a bunch of us to learn than we're used to."

Ultimately, it shouldn't matter whether that "bunch of us" is composed completely of women or contains all women -- I'm sure neither is true, based on the kinds of reactions I've seen on the mat from beginners training.

But perhaps that "bunch of us" -- whoever it turns out to be-- has something to gain from having a different model to work with.

FWIW

C. David Henderson
08-03-2010, 11:16 AM
http://singletrack.competitor.com/2010/03/features/life-as-a-bike-jockey-eve-olution-and-the-bike_6764

works

RED
08-03-2010, 01:52 PM
Well, now we're into the realm of who gets to decide what a "serious student" is. Maybe we don't want to go there.

What does it mean to "erase" a generalization, anyway? Do you wish to stop people from making an observation? What if there's truth in what they observe? If I make the generalization that sexism exists and that it has an effect on women's attitudes, why do you want to "erase" this generalization, and how do you propose to do it? Pointing out that there are exceptions to generalizations would seem a waste of time -- that is inherent in the definition of what a generalization is -- and stifling the expression of a generalization because the underlying reality is distasteful seems a case of shooting the messenger.

I'm going to play the hippy's advocate for a second here:

I think that exceptions to generalizations are of a grave importance, and they should be empowered.

The fact that not every black guy is in jail despite the fact that USA prisons are made up of mostly black males, not every Arab is a terrorist even though the most notorious terrorist attack on US soil was by middle eastern men, not every woman is a flake even though we all have known a few princesses, not all rich people are greedy despite the fact we have all read the Christmas carol.
Generalizations are damaging..they are stereotypes frankly, and the exceptions are more worthy of pointing out then the stereotype frankly.

C. David Henderson
08-03-2010, 02:59 PM
It's great that you want to "empower exceptions."

But your examples of pernicious generalizations are all generalizations that rest on a clear logical fallacy, not on a statistical proposition that can be proven empirically true or false as a generalization. They are therefore not a sound basis to "generalize."

Even a valid generalization, as Mary points out, is subject to exceptions. Some, nonetheless have empirical truth content. E.g., "Women generally have smaller feet than men."

If you're making shoes for women, this is a generalization it pays to be aware of; if you're a women with big feet, its probably a drag. But the shoe makers stay in business making the sizes they do because the generalization is, generally, true.

Compare that to this statement -- "Many mentally ill people smoke cigarettes, therefore, most cigarette smokers are mentally ill."

This, like the examples you list as a "hippy's advocate," is logically fallacious -- its called "affirming the consequent." Whatever the statistics end up showing, the reasoning is flawed and provides no logical support for the conclusion.

This gets touchy, of course, when we talk about personality and gender, and its not always obvious whether a particular generalization falls in one category or another.

But that's a different kind of argument, and leads to a different conversation, than a falacious generalization about generalizations.

Michael Hackett
08-03-2010, 04:06 PM
I went back and re-read "Promotion Reluctant's" original post when this started to devolve into a gender issue discussion. I was struck by a particular line "He's decided to push a few of the female mid-rank students through their belts faster hoping that a few 1stkyu/shodan women around the dojo might encourage the newbies to stick around." That suggests to me that PR has some real knowledge of her sensei's thought process. If she actually knows that is his motivation, I can understand her reluctance. I personally want to walk away confident that I've earned everything I've achieved through honest effort, rather than being gifted for some economic or political reason. If such is the case, then PR enjoys my respect and admiration for not buying into what I consider an artificial and demeaning situation.

On the other hand, if PR is simply guessing what her sensei's intent is, she should clear the air and explain her perception and concerns. She could be wrong and truly ready for advancement.

If it is the former, then he will be disappointed with the result. My limited experience suggests that only one in ten new students will stick around beyond the first test, regardless of gender, and it appears that less than one in a hundred will ever see shodan. I have strong doubts that creating a cadre of artificial Amazons will change that and he will end up with some less than stellar yudansha. Then again, I could be wrong.....

anotheranonymousperson
08-04-2010, 06:53 AM
Michael Hackett wrote: "My limited experience suggests that only one in ten new students will stick around beyond the first test, regardless of gender, and it appears that less than one in a hundred will ever see shodan. I have strong doubts that creating a cadre of artificial Amazons will change that and he will end up with some less than stellar yudansha. Then again, I could be wrong....."

Absolutely, and honestly most women (like the OP) who are going to stick around in a martial art anyway are going to see this in sexist terms, as being held to different, lower standards than the men. It's a real dead end!

The two reasons people quit at my dojo are injury and just getting frustrated because they want to have learned, to know what they are doing. There are infinite variations and everyone's body is different. Yudansha often feel retarded on the mat, at least they do when they are still learning.

I'm no sensei. But if I had a small dojo, I would deal with retaining students (all students) by really focusing on ukemi and by actively framing this infinite quality of aikido as a good thing that I experience myself.

Carsten Möllering
08-04-2010, 07:53 AM
... I personally want to walk away confident that I've earned everything I've achieved through honest effort, rather than being gifted for some economic or political reason.
In my experience there is always some scope whether grading a person now or than.
And that scope can not only be used depending on the individual, but also depending on the "social" aspects of a dojo.

And another thought: Very very seldom in my experience teacher and student agree on the right moment of grading.

My limited experience suggests that only one in ten new students will stick around beyond the first test, regardless of gender, Wow!
In our dojo nearly 100% of those who become gokyu stay for a long time.

I have strong doubts that creating a cadre of artificial Amazons will change that I think it is important to have graded women as a "model".
And we are lucky not only to have such women our dojo, but also in the dojo of our teacher. And we have some very good women as teachers in our federatio, who run their own dojo.

Michael Hackett
08-04-2010, 09:38 AM
Carsten,
I agree that grading is subjective and people do get promoted in consideration of other factors than pure skill, but skill still plays a major role in the decision from what I've seen. What I have seen is a person who contributes to the welfare of the dojo and students through his efforts, putting in hard work and demonstrating a commitment to the dojo, receiving the benefit of the doubt on some occasions. What I was referring to was being promoted primarily on the basis of an unchangeable quality such as gender or race.

You are fortunate in retaining students. I hear sensei in most of the martial arts here complaining about student retention and have read numerous articles and blogs about the problem. It seems to be endemic here in the States. I don't understand the cause, but certainly see the effect here.

Finally, having quality seniors, male and female is certainly an advantage to a martial arts school. I've seen, and trained with many skilled and talented female seniors that I greatly admire and wish to emulate. They make terrific role models for all the junior students without question. The thrust of my comment was keyed to the word "artificial". By that I was trying to convey that promoting a person beyond her skill level simply for the sake of gender would be self-defeating to the school.

Basia Halliop
08-04-2010, 01:30 PM
I think it is important to have graded women as a "model".

Not nearly as important as having technically strong ones, IMO... when I joined my current dojo there were no female black belts... I think the excellent 1st and 2nd kyu women were good 'role models' for me (as were many of the men each in different ways, also, e.g. one who was physically small, ones who had various difficulties at times but overcame them), though, and just as important was their treatment (and mine) by the Sensei and by the male students. A student who is clearly noticeably less skilled than the other students of their level (or apparent level, going by rank) is as much of an anti-role model as anything, at least I would have found it rather discouraging when I started if there was a noticeable pattern in that direction.

Besides, as a student if I was fast-tracked (assuming that's true and not just her guess, which is quite possible) I think I'd feel like I'd been cheated out of some training and learning... it's harder to take pride in an achievement you've been striving for if you don't really get a chance to achieve it. And I might feel like it was unfair that I hadn't gotten to learn as much at a given level, and to be able to look back on my tests and feel really proud of how I did in them.

One more note: if women are genuinely being scared off by feeling they can't do ukemi, then logically speaking a 'good female role model' would be one who has good ukemi and can reassure them that they will learn it too with time and practice, regardless of her actual rank. Although male students who initially struggled with falls but got better with time can also be equally encouraging.

Finally, having quality seniors, male and female is certainly an advantage to a martial arts school. I've seen, and trained with many skilled and talented female seniors that I greatly admire and wish to emulate. They make terrific role models for all the junior students without question. The thrust of my comment was keyed to the word "artificial". By that I was trying to convey that promoting a person beyond her skill level simply for the sake of gender would be self-defeating to the school.

Exactly!

Hanna B
11-21-2010, 06:16 AM
My sensei is happy that so many women have started, but he's getting frustrated by how quickly they vanish. He's decided to push a few of the female mid-rank students through their belts faster hoping that having a few 1st kyu/shodan women around the dojo might encourage the newbies to stick around.

As one of these women, I'm torn between being flattered that he thinks I'm worth the effort it takes to move me through the ranks faster, and being frustrated that I'm being pushed through tests faster than I feel I'm ready. Although I can perform the techniques for each test, I'm not happy with the quality at which I'm performing them, and so even though I'm passing I don't feel I'm at the level I should be for my rank.

I've tried politely bringing this up with my sensei, but he's stubborn (me: "I don't feel I'm ready for this test", him: "well then practice until you are ready"). Should I just ignore my inner perfectionist and accept that there are a wide variety of skills at each rank? Should I get my butt on the mat every single day and train until I'm sore because I know I'm testing whether or not I want to? Should I put my foot down and refuse? I don't understand dojo politics at all, so I'm just looking for advice on how normal this is, and how much say I get in putting my needs before those of the dojo.

Not sure if you're still here, but in case you are.

The 2nd sentence quoted here, "He's decided to push a few of the female mid-rank students through their belts faster hoping that having a few 1st kyu/shodan women around the dojo might encourage the newbies to stick around". Do you know that for a fact, that he decided to do that - or is it your interpretation? How about asking him?

I think that if ten male and ten female students were left to decide for themselves how fast to test, then on average the men would pass through the ranks faster than the women - regardless of who were the most talented or skilled. So perhaps your teacher is simply trying to compensate for this tendency he has seen, that women don't take the tests and then they stop coming to the dojo? Perhaps he isn't pushing you for the sake of the dojo, that you and your aikido sisters in the dojo will act as role models for female newbies. Perhaps he is pushing you trying to make at least a couple of you stick around?

guest1234567
11-21-2010, 09:40 AM
Perhaps reading this will help you also http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/moon-in-the-water-19051/aikido-tests-4066/

ruthmc
11-22-2010, 04:10 AM
But then it is true that women are generally frailer, smaller and easier to unbalance

Hi Eva,

Although women may be generally smaller and less muscular, I don't agree that they are easier to unbalance!

In my experience female yudansha (1st - 6th dan) that I have trained with are generally harder to unbalance than the men of the corresponding rank :cool: I think this is because we are physically able to get the whole dropping of centre and sinking of weight thing (due to our build) better than the guys, who tend to use a bit too much upper body even at yudansha level..

I have also noticed this amongst some upper kyu ranked female students, when they get the balance right and stop trying to copy the upper body led techniques and ukemi of the men :)

To the OP - I don't think there is anything your Sensei can do to increase the number of female students - people (regardless of gender) will quickly decide whether or not Aikido is for them, and although you can offer it to them, you cannot decide for them.

Ruth

Keith Burnikell
01-17-2011, 10:39 PM
I have seen four poor tests as a result of being tested too early; two men, two women.
Both of the ladies in question had serious advanced reservations about the timing of their tests. They were right. It wasn't that they didn't have self confidence....they actually performed an honest self assessment and came to a correct appraisal....they really weren't ready from a technical perspective.

Sometimes, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck.....it really IS a duck!

So, how did they get pushed to take the test? Lots of reasons. Their senseis knew they loved the art and were sincere. The senseis had a vested interest in both cases. One was because of a sensei/student romance and all the complications that brings and the other because the sensei truly wanted his student to be successful.

The fall out from the two situations:
One was awarded a shodan after a pretty 'weak' test (not my words). You know what? the testing committee was spot on for awarding it. Once she donned that Hakama, she blossomed. She's a joy to train with, humble as can be and one of the most teachable folks you can imagine....she's going to go far.

The other is struggling mightily. She tested too early for one test, which was compounded recently by testing too early for her next test as well!!!! In such a situation you keep hoping it's going to work out for the best but it hasn't. Injuries are compounding the problem which creates an even greater sense of urgency on her part.

In this case I'm hoping sanity prevails and the 'schedule' is relaxed for everyone's sake.

I think there's a risk that in some dojos women could be 'rushed' through the ranks in order to retain/showcase them. In those rare cases it does everyone a disservice.

If someone is reticent to 'test' it can be just due to lack of self esteem and we should trust the sensei to know best.
Sometimes the candidate has all the qualities for the next level and still struggles on the test. We all recognize that happens.
However, there are times that senseis make mistakes. Sometimes, it's because of overriding self interest and other times a blinding bias toward that student. The latter case is potentially very destructive and unfortunately real.

To the OP, if you're worried that you're going to get hurt or hurt your uke you have a legitimate reason to refuse the test. If you're worried that you're going to perform badly, the onus is not on you. It's your sensei that's suggesting you take it. Smile and have fun!
K

Tony Wagstaffe
01-18-2011, 03:53 AM
If you feel you are not up to the rank , then it's most likely you aren't.......:straightf
My wife practised aikido even when pregnant, brought up two kids and still attained a 3rd Dan within 15 years, was good at ukemi and "respected" for her no nonsense positive technique....
I never, ever graded her, she earn't it by sheer hard work and nothing else.....
She eventually retired from aikido, to concentrate on the kids, which she felt was more important, This is only natural......
She is of the opinion that most people today who say they do "aikido" are just playing and should stick to yoga or something......
She came back on the odd occasion on my request just to show (women in the club) that women are very capable of doing aikido and can be equal if not better than the men.....:straightf ;)