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01-15-2014, 12:22 PM
Posted 2014-01-15 12:20:10 by Jun Akiyama
News URL: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/14/teen-felt-degraded-after-teacher-divided-aikido-classes-by-gender-following-male-student

Here's a news article entitled "Teen felt ‘degraded’ after teacher backed aikido student’s request to avoid touching females on religious grounds" (http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/14/teen-felt-degraded-after-teacher-divided-aikido-classes-by-gender-following-male-students-religious-request/) which highlights a situation in Halifax, Canada where an aikido teacher "followed provincial human rights law and accommodated a male student’s religious request not to touch his female classmates."

From the article: "Lisa Teryl, a lawyer for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, was unable to comment on the aikido case specifically, but acknowledged the stickiness of weighing the “competing rights” of gender equity versus religious beliefs.

“In the fabric of Canadian society, [gender segregation] isn’t something that, in a secular sense, we support … we generally see it as a bad thing,” she said. At the same time, she said, the law requires reasonable accommodation of religious views, which are generally given much higher consideration than mere matters of personal preference. “If it doesn’t cost us to the point of undue hardship, then we need to try to … support them, and not have them feel persecuted for their deeply-held belief,” she said."

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akiy
01-15-2014, 12:24 PM
And, here's a follow-up article (same website, different author) on the situation:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/01/15/kelly-mcparland-accommodation-gone-wild-will-be-the-ruin-of-good-intentions/

I know this might be a sensitive topic, so please conduct your discussion in a respectful manner, and please explicitly maintain a connection to the topic of aikido in the discussion.

Thank you,

-- Jun

MattMiddleton
01-15-2014, 01:16 PM
**DISCLAIMER: This is strictly my opinion, and doesn't represent the views of my teachers, fellow students, or anyone else for that matter.

I practice Aikido in Canada, and I disagree with two things in this situation:

1) The method by which the male student was accommodated. Segregating the entire class robs everyone of the opportunity to practice with all sizes, shapes, and genders. This variety, in my view, is a key component of aikido practice. There was a much simpler way to accommodate the male student: Ask one or two of the other male students if they would be willing to practice with this fellow exclusively during the class. It would be an inconvenience for the students, but the "pain" could be spread around by asking different students each class.

2) Allowing the distribution of religious tracts. To be blunt, I don't think that has any place in the dojo, regardless of what the flyer says. In particular, the tracts being distributed in this situation supposedly advocate some pretty terrible views, certainly not in keeping with ideas like "love" and "harmony".

I sincerely hope for a positive outcome to this situation, and that it doesn't lead to a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction (ie. a reduction in tolerance for differing religious beliefs).

jonreading
01-15-2014, 01:33 PM
A significant chunk of this earlier thread covered much of this topic:
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10006
(http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10006)

Most of my earlier comments on this topic surrounded setting an expectation and then meeting that expectation. As a real example, it sounds like this instructor conceded to the student what I would consider to be an extreme request. That is, the request to specifically avoid contact [with a female student] in a contact sport. In doing so, I believe the instructor set an expectation in the dojo that other students (specifically the offended student) found to be unacceptable. The fact is the instructor now has the problem of continuing to meet that expectation as long as the student in question continues to train, while the offended student need only leave and find a new dojo. I am guessing that instructor is hoping the new student is a millionaire and wants to train for the rest of his life...

One of the things I did not previously mention is that at some point when there is a conflict (say, Yankees fans and Red Sox fans who have to train at the same dojo), there is such a thing as affirmation by non-action. That is, by letting the Red Sox fans train (an affirmation of activity) in all of their antagonistic glory (pin-striped gis, red belts, etc.) the instructor may not be specifically be an advocate of Boston, but she is effectively not supporting the Yankees fans training at the dojo who are offended by the activity. In this example, the common solution would be to say the dojo does not permit paraphernalia (of any kind) on the mat out of respect for all individuals who train, even the sad, sad Chicago Cubs fans.

The thing that bothered me most in the article was the aikido instructor sought to project the responsibility of the decision onto other agencies and minimize the harm caused to the dojo. As a student, what would resonate with me from that message is, "This new student is more important than you, but I don't want you to think that I don't support you so I got some other people to say what I am doing isn't wrong. If you are offended, I hope that you are not offended enough to leave."

The good news is that the offended student has probably been given a glimpse of what eventually would become more transparent as a flaw in the leadership of the dojo. She has the opportunity to find a new place that will include her in training and better reflect her interests in the leadership decisions of the dojo.

And to be fair, I am firm believer that all dojos are not for everyone. We should align our training with communities that share our interests, beliefs and goals. Students' decisions to leave a dojo are more commonly influenced by other factors such as quality, location, schedule, organization and so on. Our dojo is patently prejudiced towards the needs of the dads that we train with... classes start after dinner and bed time and our wives could care less what we do once the kids are in bed... But we have turned away students because our schedule is not attractive to anyone with a life. Or, who live in the sticks (Seiser, I'm looking at you) :)

Jennifer Yabut
01-15-2014, 03:02 PM
If this man's religion doesn't allow him to be in physical contact with women, then *why* train in a touchy-feely martial art like Aikido? I faced a similar situation at my dojo several years ago. A Muslim male trained at the dojo, but did not train with the women. He didn't make eye contact with us either. I didn't know what was going on, until the situation was explained to me. But unlike this other Aikido sensei in the article, my sensei did *not* segregate the class for the benefit of this one man.

I understand that martial art schools have a responsibility to *not* discriminate against potential students because of religion. However, I have a big problem when the entire structure of the school is changed to accommodate *one* person's beliefs. What about the rest of the students? Should their rights to train with *anyone* they choose be violated to accommodate one person?

I would also draw the line at passing around religious literature at a MARTIAL ART SCHOOL. The sensei in the article should *not* have condoned the man proselytizing his current students. That would have been the perfect reason to show him the door.

Cliff Judge
01-15-2014, 03:05 PM
Why did they have to segregate the class entirely? The only thing I can think of is that he didn't simply not want to train with women, but he perhaps complained about accidental contact with women if they trained too close.

That in my view is a case where accommodating him infringed on the rest of the class.

Having a person refuse to bow or ask for something specific I could kind of see...but personally I wouldn't take such a student. Sorry, you gotta follow the etiquette.

Rupert Atkinson
01-15-2014, 03:37 PM
"Teen felt ‘degraded’ after teacher backed aikido student’s request to avoid touching females on religious grounds."

If it were my school - I would have not let him join. I have come across more than a few Muslim students over the years and there has never been a problem. In fact, I remember some Christian guy had a problem once - thought it was against god or something so he quit.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/14/teen-felt-degraded-after-teacher-divided-aikido-classes-by-gender-following-male-students-religious-request/

rugwithlegs
01-15-2014, 03:38 PM
I know my wife was asked if she would teach a group of muslim women, as they were uncomfortable in a class run by men. I have my doubts if this is a valid approach to self defence, but for Aikido and exercise, fine. I have also had students whose religion does not let them bow to anyone but God - I am okay with this. I am not Shinto. They show respect anyway, and I bow anyway.

As a nurse, I have had male nursing students tell me they are not comfortable seeing any woman but their wife. There is no area in nursing that allows for an all male patient population, and no way this man could write the national exams to be a nurse with ignorance on half the population of the world. I told him to figure it out or quit. The whole time, I knew there are areas with all female staff including physicians and I cannot be used to chaparone a male doctor with a female patient.

If I had a female Aikido student who had been beatened or raped or was just uncomfortable being around men in general, I would not have any man work with her at first, nor would I demand it. I might have to ask for a special class of women only and set up a separate day and time, and I might have to admit I could not accomodate this request. If this was a woman saying she didn't want to have contact with a man, most people would expect this would be accomodated.

For religious grounds for a brand new student - I would be concerned that I might be asked to accede to other demands, and I would be clear about how far I was willing to go. As a former Canadian student in the only dojo in an entire province, I understand trying to work with a potential new student despite some odd requests up front. In a smaller town, this student might also be friends with a landlord, or someone else I might need to keep happy. At least one Nova Scotia dojo sets up in a church.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada does not apply to a dojo environment. If this isn't workable, time to let it go.

lbb
01-15-2014, 04:16 PM
Many good points being made here. Personally, I respect people who act according to their beliefs or the dictates of their conscience...but I don't think that excuses them from consequences. You're a white person who doesn't want to sit at the same lunch counter with a person of color? Find yourself another place to eat (and be prepared to keep moving on). You're a pharmacist who doesn't want to dispense a legal and prescribed medication? Find another line of work where you don't have to do that. In the United States, conscientious objectors have been excused from taking up arms in military service, but they weren't excused from service period, and many have served at great risk and with great distinction. I think the same reasoning applies here. You don't want to train with women? You get to be the last one picked, not the first. Others are willing to train with everyone in the dojo: after they have all paired up, if there's a man left who's willing to work with you, all righty. If not...you get to sit out.

It also occurs to me, much as I share Jon's dislike at the sensei's failure to take responsibility, is that this may have been the death of a thousand cuts: that the guy came in with no stated issues, and as time went on, "Oh I can't do this, it's against my religion" "Oh I can't do that, it's against my religion". That's the way some people foist their issues on others.

Ellis Amdur
01-15-2014, 04:38 PM
Perhaps the most delicious irony is that here we have a student who is willing to disrupt an entire community for his own asserted values, no matter what level of discomfort, inconvenience or sense of threat threat that he might cause. That is real commitment! He does so in the name of his asserted religious values--values identical to those of 10's of millions of people, fwiw.

He passes out a religious tract that "also authorizes husbands to administer a “light strike” to their wives in cases of “serious moral misconduct.” Well, thank God he is in an aikido class, because, the non-violent martial art that it is, this is the perfect place to learn those "light strikes."

Therefore, when this man who can't touch non-related women by his religion, but can hit related women (these are HIS assertions of what his religion is) goes home and when his wife or sister exhibits 'serious moral misconduct' (like talking to a Christian man or in the latter, going out with him, or in many such homes, wearing a dress that's too short, or refusing to wear the 'proper' head covering), he can use the shihonage he learned in class (whooops, that 'light' chastisement ended up in a torn ligament or a head injury) or one of those atemi that aikido is reportedly 99% of to put her back in line.

In other words, this flaccid instructor is morally culpable for any injuries or violence this man commits, given that the instructor has made him more able to commit it.

I am reminded of H.G. Wells - the Morlocks and Eloi. And lest, in my disgust, anyone throws out the usual accusations of what I might mean--I am talking about the relational dynamic between a forceful ideology that is sure of itself - committed - opposes to a liberal ideology that values only not giving offense (which it defines as anyone asserting offense based on their own values).

And yes, this directly concerns aikido. If one is teaching a martial art, one must take responsibility for what one teaches and who one teaches. And one must embody integrity in the process. This instructor has failed on all counts. (as has the social system which supports such policies as described in the article).

Ellis Amdur

Janet Rosen
01-15-2014, 04:47 PM
I would in no way make any female student bear the burden of his prejudice.

Lyle Laizure
01-16-2014, 04:31 AM
Wow.

If you want to accommodate a student for any reason, as the instructor, you can do as you wish.

For the dojo however this isn't about religious beliefs. This is about not allowing outside influences, whatever they are, to negatively affect the dojo's learning environment.

Also, if this male student is allowed to distribute his literature, unimpeded by the dojo/instructor then by default the dojo/instructor agrees and promotes the same material, thoughts, and beliefs.

As an instructor I have not encountered this specific issue but have encountered several students whos agenda was disruptive to the general harmony of the environment. In all of these situations it was explained that their behavior was unacceptable. With the one or two that would try to argue their point I simply stated that my dojo wasn't the place they were looking for.

Society today is driven by consumerism. I'm paying you so you have to do what I say attitude. What they do not realize is that their money affords them the comfort of a building that protects them from the elements and mats that ease the fall. The knowledge that is shared with them is purely at the instructor's discretion. If as the instructor I allow a student to dictate the classroom environment in the ways mentioned in the article I have failed to provide a suitable learning environment for all of my students.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 06:20 AM
Perhaps I am that freak who really believes in freedom of thought and expression. Perhaps I believe in the gentle empathy and compassion of blending-with rather than resisting.

Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria. Forcing them to violated their belief system seems rather un-Aikido-ish. Perhaps with time and mindful compassion, they will change that view. Either way, its their belief and its about them. I have people I tend not to train with. Don't you?

If an instructor chooses in their own school to honor (or not honor) a student's request is their choice and shows their perspective. Its about the instructor.

If another person chooses to take offense/degraded because some one has a different belief, or some one chooses to honor/respect that belief/request - then that's about them, not the other person's belief system.

We all tend to want freedom of belief and expression/choice for what we believe/agree-with. Doesn't that also extend to the beliefs and expression of others, even if we do not agree with them?

If a student feels uncomfortable for any reason being touched by (or touching) another student, I would tend to respect what that student is telling me about themselves even if I do not personally agree with that perspective and position. It may about their fear and ignorance (or traumatic history). I do not expect people to come in with the empathy and compassion (in all three directions in this scenario) that I hope they will leave with.

This may be an unpopular and politically-incorrect stance, but hey, I am that freak who believes in freedom of belief and expression even if its different from my own.

Any thoughts anyone?

lbb
01-16-2014, 06:49 AM
Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria.

That's a freedom of association argument, and it's valid up to a point. This case goes far beyond that point. IANAL, so here's my amateur take on what freedom of association means in the United States (and granted, we're already far afield because this case didn't happen in the US). It means that you can not be prohibited from associating yourself with those whose company you choose, nor can you be forced to associate with those whose company you do not wish. It does not mean that you may deny others access to a public accommodation on the grounds that you do not wish to associate with them. A dojo that is open to the public to join is a public accommodation. You may not avail yourself of a public accommodation and then deny others the right to do the same.

Susan Dalton
01-16-2014, 07:05 AM
Great discussion! Lynn, I want to add to what you just said. I have had female students, who because of past abuse or experiences, were uncomfortable being touched by men. I didn't make a big deal of it--just let them choose their own partners. I always make the announcement, "All partners are good partners. You have something to learn from everybody. Try to work with as many different people as you can." Eventually these students grew more comfortable and expanded their pool of partners. People putting their hands on you can be disconcerting at first. When I began, I had problems with that issue myself. I chose female partners when possible. However, segregating a class because of my discomfort would have been unfair to all involved, including myself. Eventually I realized I was in a safe, respectful place, and I learned to work with everyone, just as my students learn to do.

jonreading
01-16-2014, 07:40 AM
Couple of additional points...

1. To Ellis' point, I think this is largely a problem with committing to a flaccid position. In attempt to not offend anyone, the position actually emboldens bully behavior and frustrates those who capitulate to the authority. This is not action of leadership, nor what I would desire in leaders within my dojo. I have many martial arts friends who openly express disdain for the martial functionality of aikido; they believe the art in BS but they appreciate my commitment and decisions and respect what we do because we have a direction.
2. On interview, instructors are charged with several serious tasks in evaluating new students. For me, the top 3 are: 1. protect the interests of the students, 2. protect the interests of the dojo, 3. assume the responsibility of instruction. I like Ellis' points at the interview level of decision which asks, "if this individual advocates assault, I am empowering him to better execute assault?"
3. To Lynn's point, I think many of us have worked with victims of abuse or assault. Sometimes these students have special needs in their training and we work to re-integrate them into class. For me, this approach often has two strings: 1. the students recognizes the special need and compromises to find an acceptable solution (such as private instruction or limited training opportunities), 2. the is an end when the student integrates into class.

My original criticism about the role the instructor played in this decision was to recognize the complications created by what I perceive to be a flaw in the leadership of the instructor. We all have 'em and we all make mistakes, so my contribution was intended to share where I perceived the flaw to be. In elaborating on this general observation, I would advocate that as instructors we should be a secure dojo where our students are confident in themselves and confident the instructor is working in their interest. I want to be able to have a conversation with a student that goes something like, "Hey, I know this new guy is frustrating because he holds a view of women that is offensive to you. But we should give him an opportunity to prove he came to the dojo to change. I need your help... You don't need his approval for your self-confidence and I need you to be above this while we wait to see if this guy is serious about changing." But I do not think you can have that conversation with a student unless she trusts you and trusts your integrity to follow through with your promises. At some point, the student either needs to get with the program or leave.

To my other point about dojo cultures, I can appreciate the alienation this student must feel training in a dojo where everyone shares a different perspective that he does. Back to terrible sports rivalry, can you imagine the alienation a Packer fan feels when they go into a bar full of Bears fans? You either need to learn to personalize yourself to the Bears fans or find a new bar. Maybe you were adopted by Packers fans and you don't know better, maybe you were going through a phase of rebellion and the Packers represented the extreme-opposite perspective of your sensible Bears-loving parents, maybe the Bears let you down when Ditka left and you vowed never to let the Bears hurt you again. Back to the article, I think it shows something that when presented with the opportunity to change, the student instead distributed flyers about how the dojo could change...

Brian Gillaspie
01-16-2014, 08:44 AM
I'm ok with an instructor making accomodations on occasion for people so if the student can't touch females then let him work with the male students. However, like most others I believe the complete segregation of male and female is wrong and unnecessary (based on what I have read).

It's the instructor's dojo so wheter we agree or now he is basically free do conduct classes as he wishes and if he wants to let someone hand out religous literature then that is his choice. If students disagree with how things are going at the dojo I think that all they can really do is one the following:
1. Just accept it and keep training.
2. Discuss the situation with the instructor and see if a compromise/solution can be found for both sides.
3. Find a new dojo.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 10:10 AM
That's a freedom of association argument, and it's valid up to a point. This case goes far beyond that point..
Where did I say "freedom of association"?

Individual freedom of thoughts and expression was presented in three points-of-views vantage-points in this specific scenario: (1) the male student requesting religious consideration, (2) the instructor consider the dojo context, personalities, and politics, and (3) the female student who took it personally and took offense on possible sexist issues.

Perhaps all are correct given their own personal perspective. No matter what decision the instructor makes, he loses some one. He made a personal judgment call to respect a religious request. That is between them. The offense taken is between the instructor and that student.

Perhaps if freedom of thought and expression means I have to limit my association (touch) with certain people, right or wrong (just meaning you agree or don't) according to others (or me), isn't that within their right as long as it does not cause harm to others?

Who caused the offense taken, the student's request to have his religious beliefs respected, the instructor who respected the request, or the student who took some one's religious request as a personal statement about them?

"Up to a point"? Absolutely!!! If he came in and requested to touch/workout with only young girls or women - well we would be having a whole different discussion if I were the Sensei.

Appreciation the discussion.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 10:16 AM
I'm ok with an instructor making accomodations on occasion for people so if the student can't touch females then let him work with the male students. However, like most others I believe the complete segregation of male and female is wrong and unnecessary (based on what I have read).
Yes agreed.

It did not sound to me like her was changing the dojo politics by segregating all the students and classes. Yet, perhaps since its his school, it his choice and it may be useful. (We often let the children train with the adults, where other schools/dojos do not.)

Perhaps this discussion points out the exclusion adversarial duality of our problem-formation and problem-solution processes and patterns?

This is a thought stimulating scenario. I am glad no one (that I currently know of) is making value judgments about every decision I make. LOL

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 10:19 AM
3. To Lynn's point, I think many of us have worked with victims of abuse or assault. Sometimes these students have special needs in their training and we work to re-integrate them into class. For me, this approach often has two strings: 1. the students recognizes the special need and compromises to find an acceptable solution (such as private instruction or limited training opportunities), 2. the is an end when the student integrates into class.
Yes agreed.

How is rigidly forcing others to violate their religious beliefs practicing Aikido?

Curious.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 10:26 AM
Eventually I realized I was in a safe, respectful place, and I learned to work with everyone, just as my students learn to do.
Yes agreed.

Connect and blend with the resistance until they see the error in their perceptions.

I have encountered people who were certainly training with a different intensity and intent than I wanted. I didn't ask permission or discuss it, I just did not choose to train with them. When they asked my why, I was honest about owning by own reasons.

With time and training, we eventually usually bridged that gap.

If they have already learned the lessons, they would not be entering the dojo and asking for instruction.

Guess I didn't know I would be judged harshly for acting on what I believed was in our mutual best interest.

Janet Rosen
01-16-2014, 10:40 AM
It did not sound to me like her was changing the dojo politics by segregating all the students and classes. Yet, perhaps since its his school, it his choice and it may be useful. (We often let the children train with the adults, where other schools/dojos do not.)

Reading both articles, my take-away was that yes he WAS segregating the students and classes by gender. As instructor he made a decision to fundamentally change the entire dojo culture and depriving all students of ability to train cross-gender in order to accommodate one new student.

I am thrilled to be training in a dojo that is very inclusive. That inclusivity in practice does not mean changing everything about how a class is conducted. It means those of us with experience and willingness tend to partner with newer folks who come in with issues (be they physical or emotional) rather than turning them loose with, say, another newer student who might not be a good match and lead to somebody getting hurt or escalating.

And Lynn I am not advocating having him not train....my own approach would be to suggest that any male students who wished to train with him would do so. And if not enough did, well that's how it goes.

lbb
01-16-2014, 11:01 AM
Where did I say "freedom of association"?

"Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria." Emphasis mine. That is exactly a freedom of association argument, whether you use those words or not.

Individual freedom of thoughts and expression was presented in three points-of-views vantage-points in this specific scenario: (1) the male student requesting religious consideration, (2) the instructor consider the dojo context, personalities, and politics, and (3) the female student who took it personally and took offense on possible sexist issues.

Lynn sensei, are you talking about some abstract concept of "freedom", or are you talking about legal rights? Please, let's not veer off into the weeds and start arguing about "freedom of thoughts": there is no credible argument that anyone's "freedom of thoughts" can possibly be infringed upon. Nor was the discussion about freedom of expression. It was about a person wanting a consideration that would deprive others of their full access to a public accommodation. You made a freedom of association argument in favor of somehow granting this consideration -- you didn't call it "freedom of association", but that is what it was. Now, back to my previous post: there is nothing compelling this individual to grapple with women. He can choose not to do so at any time he wishes. He just can't (in the United States) use freedom of association to compel a public accommodation to limit the access of others with whom he does not which to associate, any more than you, as a white person, can walk up to a lunch counter and demand that all people of color leave because you're not comfortable with their presence.

Perhaps all are correct given their own personal perspective. No matter what decision the instructor makes, he loses some one. He made a personal judgment call to respect a religious request. That is between them. The offense taken is between the instructor and that student.

I disagree. I disagree with the assertion that no matter what, the instructor "loses some one". You have one student. Another individual wishes to become your student, but only under conditions that restrict the student you now have. You can only lose the student you have, not the one you don't have.

I disagree that it's "between them". The instructor's actions affect others in the dojo, most especially the female members. For the record, I am personally of the opinion that the attitude of those Muslims who believe in no contact between unrelated women and men is better described as "it's complicated" than as straight-up misogynistic...but when people come to a dojo requesting that the instructor grant a consideration that in any way restricts the training of others, I feel that there's a real bright line and it's not to be crossed.

Perhaps if freedom of thought and expression means I have to limit my association (touch) with certain people, right or wrong (just meaning you agree or don't) according to others (or me), isn't that within their right as long as it does not cause harm to others?

"Freedom of thought" is a red herring. Freedom of expression is a separate issue and does not relate to this case. And, with respect, you seem unclear on what freedom of association is. As I said before, freedom of association means that you can not be prohibited from associating yourself with those whose company you choose, nor can you be forced to associate with those whose company you do not wish. This individual is being in no way forced to touch anyone he does not want to touch. His option is to stay outside the dojo. He has no more right to come into the dojo and demand that others not touch him (where "touch" means normal and acceptable aikido practice, not mugging in the hallway), based on ANY criteria, than you have to walk up to that lunch counter and demand that the people of color clear out.

Who caused the offense taken, the student's request to have his religious beliefs respected, the instructor who respected the request, or the student who took some one's religious request as a personal statement about them?

Why are you playing the blame game? Why do you care? If you find out the answer to your questions, what good will it do you? One could argue, especially the neutral-to-positive phrasing you use in reference to the would-be student and the sensei above and the negative phrasing you keep using in reference to the female student, that it would make you most happy if the female student were to simply be a "good girl" and let others push her into a corner. Their emotional comfort is more important than her access to training, and that's ok because she's female?

Here's another point you should consider: the sincerity of your belief does not legitimize the trespasses you commit in its service. You, a white person, may sincerely believe that people of color are your inferiors and that their presence at the same table pollutes you. You may believe it with every fiber in your being. But the fervor of your belief does not grant you the smallest, most tenuous right to infringe upon their legitimate and legal rights. Fervent believers frequently need that fool notion knocked out of their heads, and an even marginally just society is generally willing to oblige them.

"Up to a point"? Absolutely!!! If he came in and requested to touch/workout with only young girls or women - well we would be having a whole different discussion if I were the Sensei.

Well, that's good to know that you draw the line at fondling the women of the dojo. Are there any lesser lines that you're not willing to cross? What if he came in and requested that no women be on the mat while he was training? What if he wanted to be able to sashay into any class he wanted, at any time, and any women who came to train in that class would simply have to leave? Or perhaps it would be better if all female students simply had to resign their dojo membership, and no more female members would be allowed to join -- would that be sufficient?

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 11:12 AM
Reading both articles, my take-away was that yes he WAS segregating the students and classes by gender..
Thanks for the response.

I will have to re-read, I did not get that as my initial impression.

I too am grateful for inclusive classes. I have learned a great deal from the women and children in Aikido, than from most adult males.

It does bring up another issue. In many businesses I see a sign that says they reserve the right to refuse services, or have a dress code, etc. If its your business, even open to the public, don't you have any rights to decide who to teach and how to structure your teaching? Coming up through the arts I have been to many dojos that did not mix classes and have been refused training because I was white. And you know, IMHO, they have that right too. There are many organizations that would not have me for a member (the Groucho Marx syndrome) without me feeling degraded.

I just don't personally believe that my individual rights should have to be accommodated by everyone else. I have never found that world - and hopefully never will. I can accept other's differences without having to agree, understand, condone, accommodate or be tolerant of them. Nor do I expect other to accommodate mine.

While I certainly would not have made this specific request or segregate and school I belonged to or taught it, I simply do not believe that I am the most important person here or necessarily the one in charge. And this I know many others agree that I am not that all important.

Great stimulating discussion. Thanks to all.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 11:18 AM
Well, that's good to know that you draw the line at fondling the women of the dojo. Are there any lesser lines that you're not willing to cross? What if he came in and requested that no women be on the mat while he was training? What if he wanted to be able to sashay into any class he wanted, at any time, and any women who came to train in that class would simply have to leave? Or perhaps it would be better if all female students simply had to resign their dojo membership, and no more female members would be allowed to join -- would that be sufficient?
WOW, I am deeply sorry for whatever you thought I said or position you thought I represent.

lbb
01-16-2014, 11:23 AM
It does bring up another issue. In many businesses I see a sign that says they reserve the right to refuse services, or have a dress code, etc. If its your business, even open to the public, don't you have any rights to decide who to teach and how to structure your teaching?

If you are a public accommodation -- which includes private businesses open to the public -- you cannot refuse service to individuals based on their membership in a protected category such as gender, race or religion. You can refuse service for other reasons, such as being inappropriately dressed (as some restaurants do) or being drunk (as many bars do).

Coming up through the arts I have been to many dojos that did not mix classes and have been refused training because I was white. And you know, IMHO, they have that right too.

You may feel that they have that moral right, but in the United States, if they are a public accommodation, they do not have that legal right. That is a matter of settled law, not a matter of opinion.

I just don't personally believe that my individual rights should have to be accommodated by everyone else.

If you define "individual rights" loosely and sloppily, you will no doubt find that the law safeguards some of these "individual rights" and does not safeguard others. Again, this is not a matter of personal belief.

While I certainly would not have made this specific request or segregate and school I belonged to or taught it, I simply do not believe that I am the most important person here or necessarily the one in charge.

It has nothing to do with who is most important or who's "in charge". This is what it means to live under the rule of law: that no matter how "important" or "in charge" you may be, you are subordinate to the law, and you are also protected by it.

jonreading
01-16-2014, 11:30 AM
Yes agreed.

How is rigidly forcing others to violate their religious beliefs practicing Aikido?

Curious.

Well, a couple of things for me influenced the approach I have crafted over the years:
1. The student picked the dojo, not the other way around. I work very hard to give an accurate representation of our values, teachings and training methods. I speak to both my strengths and weaknesses and I understand they may affect a prospective student's decision to train.
2. I assume that a new student is looking to find a dojo that aligns with both the change the student is looking to accomplish and the culture in which that endeavor is done joyously. I understand that our dojo is not for everyone and I do my best to get a prospective student into a better fit if they do not flourish in our dojo.

The rigidity I hold is the expectation that students inherit a sense of community to the students, the dojo and training. I value this expectation because I believe it contributes to the safety of training, the level of commitment reflected within the dojo and the personal relationships established between students.
To flip the question, what kind of religious belief would discourage fostering this kind of relationship with students of a dojo?

The only "wrong" in this situation is not standing up for what you believe and expressing that belief with sincerity. My point is that before we become instructors (#3 on the list), we have other obligations to first consider; helping a new student find his place and understand if aikido is right for them. Aikido is not the right place for everyone and that's OK. Aikido dojos are not all the same and that's OK. This is about leading a student to find the best solution to meet his needs, which may not be your dojo. The aikido in that is understanding the solution is not what you want you, but what the student needs.

As an observation about your question, I have two comments:
1. A student is not compelled to participate in class for any reason. You could argue the dojo environment is adversarial to the student's personal beliefs, but without a point of compulsion you cannot really argue anyone is "forced" to do anything.
2. As a point of personal belief, I do not accept poor interpersonal skills cloaked behind any politically charged classification. I would hazard that if the foundation of this article was simply a personal belief and not a religious one, the tone of this conversation would be different.

I find it odd that we say, "be any shape you want," but then we pound that shape into the round hole and complain when it doesn't fit like the round peg. Why not find the right hole for the peg and be happy it fits?

lbb
01-16-2014, 12:04 PM
WOW, I am deeply sorry for whatever you thought I said or position you thought I represent.

And I'm sorry if I upset you. To be honest, you said some things that I find quite problematic, not in their intent but in their implications. I think I understand what you're trying to say, that you would like everyone to get along, and you would hope that over time a new student's attitudes would adjust. But you've also talked about legal rights, and as I pointed out, we can't just manufacture different legal rights because we think that's the way things should be.

I've been using the lunch counter analogy, but here's another one: a bar/restaurant. Observant Muslims do not drink alcohol and eat only halal food, and no law in the US compels them to do otherwise. Likewise, the law does not demand all restaurants to be alcohol-free and serve only halal food. If a Muslim chooses to walk into a restaurant that serves alcohol and does not serve exclusively halal food, he/she has no legal right to demand a cessation of alcohol-serving and an all-halal menu.

So what's the solution? We have to accept that there may not be one -- not a mutually-agreeable one. For that, you need flexibility and room to move, and you may not have that. Depending on the composition of the dojo and the nature of the training, insisting on only male partners may indeed deprive female members. Certain Muslims may feel that their beliefs do not permit them to bow to their partners or toward the kamiza: however sincere the belief, on the face of it, this is no more legitimate and should carry no more weight than the belief of a sensei or their partners that not bowing is disrespectful. If there isn't some room to move, there is no solution -- and if one side is rigid and unwilling to move at all, I think it's really unfair to put all the blame on the other side for not being willing (or able) to move far enough. A restaurant owner can't shut down their business because it cannot possibly accommodate the "need" for it to be alcohol-free and totally halal. They can offer non-alcoholic beverages, and part of their menu is almost certainly halal already with no changes made -- if you, as a Muslim, are ok with that, then you're all good. Or the restaurant could add additional offerings to give more offerings to Muslims, which of course non-Muslims would not have a problem with either. But a woman can't stop being a woman.

Krystal Locke
01-16-2014, 12:27 PM
Perhaps I am that freak who really believes in freedom of thought and expression. Perhaps I believe in the gentle empathy and compassion of blending-with rather than resisting.

Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria. Forcing them to violated their belief system seems rather un-Aikido-ish. Perhaps with time and mindful compassion, they will change that view. Either way, its their belief and its about them. I have people I tend not to train with. Don't you?

If an instructor chooses in their own school to honor (or not honor) a student's request is their choice and shows their perspective. Its about the instructor.

If another person chooses to take offense/degraded because some one has a different belief, or some one chooses to honor/respect that belief/request - then that's about them, not the other person's belief system.

We all tend to want freedom of belief and expression/choice for what we believe/agree-with. Doesn't that also extend to the beliefs and expression of others, even if we do not agree with them?

If a student feels uncomfortable for any reason being touched by (or touching) another student, I would tend to respect what that student is telling me about themselves even if I do not personally agree with that perspective and position. It may about their fear and ignorance (or traumatic history). I do not expect people to come in with the empathy and compassion (in all three directions in this scenario) that I hope they will leave with.

This may be an unpopular and politically-incorrect stance, but hey, I am that freak who believes in freedom of belief and expression even if its different from my own.

Any thoughts anyone?

So they start a men's class. And, tout suite, a women's class. Taught by a qualified female aikidoka already in the dojo. There is one, isn't there? Hmm. Maybe a men's dojo and a women's dojo? But wait, why dont we map separation to race? Economics? All social differences all at once? Free private lessons only and for all, with the sensei, and sensei better fit the individual student's mapping. That's going to take a lot of senseis.

Or, muslim dude gets to train in class as much as he can under his own value structure, no other changes to the class. He doesn't have to bow. So what, it is a typically misappropriated social gesture anyway. You dont bow, I dont care. He does not have to train with a woman. He can manage his own ma-ai, his own focus, isn't that what martial training is about? If something happens, he takes a bath or whatever he needs to do to get the cooties off. That's fine and great. But now the mat becomes boy side and girl side. Well, okay. And, the next class, he distributes tracts advocating violence toward women. So? They're just words. Today. As far as you know.

That sort of freedom is a broad multi-laned highway. First (and every) radical dyke through the door gets to bring a copy of the SCUM Manifesto for everyone in class. Better respect her beliefs and read that. Dont bitch when the guys in class start getting cut up, shot, bumped off. She is just admirably exercising the courage of her convictions. Identity christian? Let him holler RAHOWA instead of osu or onegaishimasu. He's passing out the Turner Diaries. He's a brave believer when he uses jujishime to break Goldstein's arm.

Where is YOUR line on violence? Where is the line for the sensei involved? Where is my line on violence? Should they be the same line?

jonreading
01-16-2014, 02:28 PM
So they start a men's class. And, tout suite, a women's class. Taught by a qualified female aikidoka already in the dojo. There is one, isn't there? Hmm. Maybe a men's dojo and a women's dojo? But wait, why dont we map separation to race? Economics? All social differences all at once? Free private lessons only and for all, with the sensei, and sensei better fit the individual student's mapping. That's going to take a lot of senseis.


I suppose if that meant we got to keep up the toilet seat... :)

Michael Hackett
01-16-2014, 03:30 PM
Individual rights are not accommodated, but are honored in the United States (at least philosophically). This man has an unrestricted freedom of religion that Lynn and I served in the same time and place to protect. While his right must be protected, it does not mean that anyone else can be required to adopt its requirements.

In this case, from an American perspective, the gentleman could have been told that the requirements of his faith could be met by him choosing to only train with the other males, but his training would be seriously impeded by his self-limiting behavior.

The young female brown belt probably needs everyone in the dojo to help her prepare for her shodan testing; big, strong, small, weak, fast, slow, male, female, tall, short, you name it. She could probably do just fine without this single gentleman as a training partner, but that wasn't what was presented to her. Her option was to train in gender-segregated classes, thus limiting her training and experience.

I support that instructor's right to do whatever he chooses with this situation, but I certainly don't agree with it. Segregating his classes into "separate, but equal" groups was not the best solution and seems vaguely familiar......Brown v. Mississippi, maybe? I would have voiced my objection at the time, and if he continued with segregated classes, I would leave that dojo.

I see this situation differently than a situation where someone has been brutalized and traumatized and needs time to adjust. Specifically, I'm thinking of the female rape victim or similar. I would focus on helping her build her own comfort and courage over time. This just seems so much different than someone who had no choice in his or her circumstances.

The "solution" found doesn't meet my muster as rational, logical or reasonable.

I now step down from my soapbox.

Chris Li
01-16-2014, 05:05 PM
Before people get too excited (maybe too late...), here's a response to the situation that appeared on Reddit:



I am a student and assistant instructor at East Coast Aikido, and this story has not been accurately or fairly reported. The class was never segregated along gender lines, and the muslim student's request was accommodated by taking care not to partner him and him alone with any of the handful of female students in the class for training. Female students do not train separately from the rest of the class, and continue to train with each other and with male students as they always have with the exception of the one muslim student. If during the regular rotation of training partners, the muslim student was paired with a female student, the instructor managing the training would simply have him switch places with another student so that he would be with a male training partner. This request was accommodated with minimal impact on the flow of training, and it's disheartening to see the situation has been so unfairly misrepresented in the media.

Furthermore, this would not at all have impacted on Sonja's black belt training as she would not have been training with the newer muslim student on the advanced material anyway. I never saw any literature on Islam distributed in the class, and I imagine that if this did happen, if she had brought the booklet to Steve with her concerns, he would have asked the muslim student not to do it again.

Steve handled this situation in about the best way I can imagine any instructor handling it. He saw a way to easily and fairly accommodate the student's request so that he would be able to train with us. If the request had been refused, the news story would be one of Islamophobia instead of sexism. I hope Sonja eventually comes to realise this and comes back to train.


Best,

Chris

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 05:14 PM
Before people get too excited (maybe too late...), here's a response to the situation that appeared on Reddit:
Thanks for the follow-up.

Perhaps this discussion was a good illustration/demonstration of the emotional energy of the topic.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 05:18 PM
And I'm sorry if I upset you. To be honest, you said some things that I find quite problematic, not in their intent but in their implications.
Not upset at all.

I felt you illustrated my point rather well, thank you.

It would appear that you found what I said problematic by the implications your projected into them.

I learned a long time ago not to take things too personally.

If I thought I said what your thought I said, I'd be jumping on me too.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 05:21 PM
Where is YOUR line on violence? Where is the line for the sensei involved? Where is my line on violence? Should they be the same line?
There are probably very few people with a line as far into violence as mine.

I would hope yours are not the same as mine. You probably sleep a lot better.

Michael Hackett
01-16-2014, 05:22 PM
Based on Chris Li's posting, it sounds pretty reasonable to me.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 05:26 PM
Individual rights are not accommodated, but are honored in the United States (at least philosophically). This man has an unrestricted freedom of religion that Lynn and I served in the same time and place to protect. While his right must be protected, it does not mean that anyone else can be required to adopt its requirements.

I see this situation differently than a situation where someone has been brutalized and traumatized and needs time to adjust. Specifically, I'm thinking of the female rape victim or similar. I would focus on helping her build her own comfort and courage over time. This just seems so much different than someone who had no choice in his or her circumstances.

The "solution" found doesn't meet my muster as rational, logical or reasonable.

I now step down from my soapbox.

We fought for people to have the right to stand-up shout-out and protest the action that gave them that right that they now feel entitled to.

I am always happy to hear people stand-up and speak-out, even if I don't agree with them. It sorta means it was all worth it.

We too have a right to the soap-box, please stand-tall never stand-down.

SeiserL
01-16-2014, 05:31 PM
I find it odd that we say, "be any shape you want," but then we pound that shape into the round hole and complain when it doesn't fit like the round peg. Why not find the right hole for the peg and be happy it fits?
Yes agreed.

As you know, I do not certainly fits everywhere with everyone at all times. In fact, I find there are very few places I fit. LOL

Ellis Amdur
01-16-2014, 09:58 PM
Perhaps the post Chris forwarded is true. Perhaps it is a self-serving shading of the facts, by the powers in the dojo. But let us assume it's true. I still see this as problematic. Caveat: given that the original situation concerned a Muslim male, let us, for the sake of continuity, continue with this religion, though one could shift to another.

Recently a Jewish player from a Dutch soccer team was banned (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/175987#.UtiwsGRdX24) from setting foot in Abu Dhabi because he was Israeli. (Ironic, isn't it, that Jessie Owens and other blacks and Jews competed in Nazi Berlin in the Oympics). The Dutch team cravenly accepted this, even though he was one of their star defensemen. I recall an Iranian wrestler who forfeited an international match because his opponent was Jewish, and he proudly said that he would not compete against a Jew. In fact, I was contacted a number of years ago by an aikidoka in Jordan who wished to inquire about bringing me over to teach. In the course of our conversation online, he found out I was Jewish, and he immediately cut off communication.
So, given that such things happen, what if a young man comes to your dojo and says he cannot/will not practice with Jews (and provides some pretty graphic Koranic references regarding the Jews as apes and pigs as support). So, is it an acceptable solution to simply shield him from contact with Jews, making sure that he has someone else to practice?
I would assume that there is some discomfort with this?

On the other hand, Miles Kessler (http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2011/10/24/interview-with-miles-kessler-sensei-of-aikido-without-borders-by-tom-collings/) is doing brilliant work, teaching aikido to combined classes of Israeli and Palestinian youth, so I am not asserting this is a given between Jews and Muslims.

OK, maybe some of you are uncomfortable, because I've focused on Islam, given that this is where we started, and in recent years, members of this religion has been particularly aggressive in asserting such religious privilege, let me make you more comfortable, by questioning what may be your own legacy, since we in the West are often so quick to condemn our own) - so how about some individual who subscribes to the Bible and believes that those of African descent are of the tribe of Ham, cursed because he saw his father drunk and naked, and refuses to practice with him or her. "I'm sorry, I cannot practice with him. The Bible makes clear that they are cursed by God."

So - quite aside from the fact that not one of the "reasonable" responders addressed the issue that I raised - that this man is training in a martial arts school and of all the religious tracts he could choose to distribute, picks one that sanctions physical abuse of women. Quite aside from THAT.

If you would, I assume, not allow someone to blatantly discriminate on ideological OR religious grounds against someone of a religious or ethnic group. Why are women not afforded the same courtesy, the same decency, the same protection? Why is this different? Is the status of women more trivial?

A last thought: Let's say I have a late-life revelation (not, under the circumstances, a come to Jesus moment) - and I change from my reformed Judaism to a very rigid Orthodox Jewish denomination, one that insists that I have no physical contact with women. Or, given that there is a mosque right down the street from where I live, I convert to Islam. And I dearly wanted to train in your egalitarian dojo. I would not make any demands to the teacher, . I would request a dojo meeting. I would explain the religious strictures I functioned in. I would tell the dojo members how much I loved aikido (or whatever martial art it was). I would state that I meant no disrespect to the women in the dojo, but that this was a religious requirement for me. Then I would ask if they, collectively, would allow me to practice just with men. I would assure them that I would abide, without resentment, whatever decision they came to. Then I would leave and wait to hear what they decided.

And if there is any confusion, this is my suggestion how you handle such things when they come your way.

Ellis Amdur

Eva Antonia
01-17-2014, 03:08 AM
Dear all,

interesting discussion. I am not sur if there is a clear "right" or "wrong" in this situation. As a woman, I'd be offended if someone refused to train with me because I'm a woman (or condescendingly gives "gentle" tsuki), as a middle aged person I'd be offended if some young person does the same, as a white person I'd be offended if in an African dojo people would shrink from touching my skin etc. The latter never happened, but the first and second did...very disagreeable!

This said - while I never saw an "only men's class", I came in several countries across segregated women classes in some dojos, mostly because there are lots of women being initially shy to train with big and muscular guys, but there were also Muslim women stating how good that was because their religion didn't allow them to train with men. I never found any guy, religious or not, having an issue with that. How come that this is more acceptable than men shunning women? Are men more tolerant? Or is sexism against men more tolerated than against women? Or are the men secretly happy to have some women less to train with (and get rid of those they suspect to underperform anyway)?

I think Mary's solution is best - accept the guy and make clear he'd get the men "left over" after partnering.:p That would take away any sense of shunning for the women and still allow the guy to follow his religious rules.

Best regards,

Eva

tlk52
01-17-2014, 06:19 AM
I had orthodox Jews in my dojo and we had the same issue re touching women and bowing. I told them it was OK not to bow (just to think of being grateful that "god" inspired O'sensei to create such an art) but that they could not refuse to practice with women.

some left some stayed and adjusted

if they'd have wanted a men only class they would have to find their own space, not at my dojo

that was my attitude

MattMiddleton
01-17-2014, 07:48 AM
In the spirit of understanding that there is often more than one side to a story, I'd like to provide the following link, which was passed along to me by a friend:

http://www.reddit.com/r/canada/comments/1v8v65/teen_felt_degraded_after_teacher_backed_aikido/ceqtxk1

As well, the National Post has a follow-up article, in which the sensei in question clarifies that the class wasn't segregated, but rather that the muslim student was accomadated in his request by only being paired with men during practice.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/17/halifax-aikido-students-request-not-to-touch-women-because-of-his-religion-not-an-issue-instructors-say/

hughrbeyer
01-17-2014, 09:48 AM
You can't just flip the details and come out with the same situation. A women-only class doesn't mean the same thing as a men-only class; refusing to touch someone because you think they are inferior doesn't mean the same thing as refusing to touch them because it's a matter of respect. Meaning and intention matter.

A class for women creates a space where women, who may feel vulnerable for many reasons, feel safe. A class for men creates a space where women are excluded. Not the same.

Refusing to train with a Jew because you think they are inferior or "the enemy" is one thing. Refusing to train with women because your religion says the way to respect women and protect yourself is by not touching them and risking lustful thoughts is quite different.

You might think both arguments are horseshit--I certainly think the second is--but I can see accommodating it if it's held sincerely and without malice.

Michael Douglas
01-17-2014, 10:08 AM
We should all say this ;
... I told him to figure it out or quit.
I mean, quitting a dojo is surely no big thing, there are plenty.

(Assuming the original story is even true) : the guy should have cunningly 'arranged' to partner up with just males durin practice ... subtly, and if pushed he could quietly explain to the Sensei without drama and they could both consipre to arrange male partners.

It just takes intelligence, common sense and cooperation.
Not got? Bye.

rugwithlegs
01-17-2014, 11:05 PM
The situation sounds like it has gotten out of control. The media really should have better things to do. I am doubtful that I would accommodate this man in question. That said:

I have had Islamic students come to our dojo and to my wife's classes. They were respectful, but they do not bow to anyone but God. They dipped their head slightly and brought their hands together in a near prayer position. They were respectful. A visiting instructor came to us from Morocco and his Aikido was excellent, and my wife did train with him as well. Entire dojos exist in the Muslim world, and I can only assume they have modified etiquette.

For me, this does speak to the future of the Art, and O Sensei's vision for Aikido. "The Art of Peace is not a religion. It perfects and completes all religions. The world has 8 millions gods and I cooperate with them all." So, white people now wear funny skirts and make some Shinto references. Is that the sum total of our tolerance? Can we really train with anyone and make this an Art that does cross boundaries and borders? A large segment of the world has religious practices that our standard method of practice does not accommodate. For all my culture (wasp) has learned about Japanese culture in learning Aikido, I have had my teachers accommodate me. Why fight with a Muslim woman who wants to wear a burka in the dojo?

Is there a respectful way to accommodate anyone's religion in the dojo? I have had to dress down some fundamentalist Christians for their own issues in the dojo, but I do try. Where do the lines get drawn? The lines certainly got redrawn many times over the last century in Aikido.

As I wrote before, if a female student did not want to train with a man, I would be expected to allow this. I would be against a certain level of rank being attained - 5th kyu training with only women would be okay with me, but not any yudansha rank and certainly not a teaching rank. I would question a black belt given to a small woman from a female only dojo. If a Muslim man only trained with other men, would I see his rank as too watered down? Admittedly, not martially.

The Muslim men I have trained with treated their beliefs as something of a challenge (dare I use the term handicap?) to overcome in practice. Frankly, that is appropriate for anything that can't be left at the door of a dojo.

For the young woman who was offended at being told to get over her outrage, I would recommend she read Angry White Pyjamas. If she moved to Japan to the Yoshinkan head dojo, she might not find an environment she would find respectful and supportive. it sounded brutal and challenging.

lbb
01-18-2014, 07:10 PM
For the young woman who was offended at being told to get over her outrage, I would recommend she read Angry White Pyjamas. If she moved to Japan to the Yoshinkan head dojo, she might not find an environment she would find respectful and supportive. it sounded brutal and challenging.

Is it really right to tell someone to "get over it" when they're faced with something that will never affect you?

Janet Rosen
01-18-2014, 08:10 PM
For the young woman who was offended at being told to get over her outrage, I would recommend she read Angry White Pyjamas. If she moved to Japan to the Yoshinkan head dojo, she might not find an environment she would find respectful and supportive. it sounded brutal and challenging.

Gee, thanks for being patronizing. The woman in question was not choosing to go off to that course. Many of us carefully choose the dojo we think we want to train in because of the culture we see in it.

Alic
01-19-2014, 02:49 AM
Personally, as a junior student myself, one of the things I loved about Aikido was the fact that you aren't segregated. Seniors trained with juniors, guys trained with girls. I've even had one on one training with my own sensei (I went home with a limp that day :) ). This separation of male and female isn't cool, not on the sensei part, as he's just making sure to comply with the law, but on the student's part, who's imposing himself onto other people's lives.

Islam is his religion, it is his believes, and his alone. His religion is not his fellow students, and is certain not binding to anyone else but himself. Why then, would he feel the need to impose his views on others? It would be like me saying that since I hate green onions with a passion, there should be none at the dojo dinner parties. It is absurd to me, as I would just accommodate myself as much as possible without disturbing others. It is, after all, the polite thing to do.

Therefore, I cannot agree with this student on any ground. Sorry fella, I understand that you have a religious duty to abstain from sexual attraction, just like any good shaolin monk would, but you cannot make everybody follow this rule too, as that would be like you forcing everybody to become nuns and monks. It simply isn't how the world works; everybody must decide on their own their own path in life, and think for themselves.

As for distributing religious material on the mats, just... no. Leave all of your baggage at the door, like everyone else. The dojo, especially a Yoshinkan dojo, is definitely not a church, mosque, temple, or shrine. You do not have to bow to the shomen, or even to your fellow students, as rude as that would be, but do not think that the mats is an appropriate place for recruiting people to your faith. Leave that to your Imam please.

Alic
01-19-2014, 03:09 AM
EDIT: Oops, haha, didn't read enough source material, my bad :P With conflicting evidence and no real resolution as far as I can tell, I suppose the best thing to comment then would be to just wait and see what occurs. It is however, still likely that the Muslim student in question was distributing some form of religious material in the dojo, which would not be appropriate. Nevertheless, I do agree with the reddit post that things have been blown way out of proportion, and sadly, burned Nickerson sensei's reputation unnecessarily and unfairly.

PeterR
01-19-2014, 07:33 AM
Is there a respectful way to accommodate anyone's religion in the dojo? I have had to dress down some fundamentalist Christians for their own issues in the dojo, but I do try. Where do the lines get drawn? The lines certainly got redrawn many times over the last century in Aikido.

As I wrote before, if a female student did not want to train with a man, I would be expected to allow this. I would be against a certain level of rank being attained - 5th kyu training with only women would be okay with me, but not any yudansha rank and certainly not a teaching rank. I would question a black belt given to a small woman from a female only dojo. If a Muslim man only trained with other men, would I see his rank as too watered down? Admittedly, not martially.

Reading the news stories about this (my family is from Halifax if that makes a difference) is I can't help thinking that the young lady in question is too easily outraged.

Demetrio Cereijo
01-19-2014, 08:56 AM
For the young woman who was offended at being told to get over her outrage, I would recommend she read Angry White Pyjamas. If she moved to Japan to the Yoshinkan head dojo, she might not find an environment she would find respectful and supportive. it sounded brutal and challenging.
I think the man should move to Japan, sign for the kenshukai course and make there his religious requests.

Mary Eastland
01-19-2014, 09:01 AM
If you can't train with every single person at our dojo you need to find another dojo. And you can give out your any kind of flyers somewhere else.

sakumeikan
01-19-2014, 10:23 AM
We fought for people to have the right to stand-up shout-out and protest the action that gave them that right that they now feel entitled to.

I am always happy to hear people stand-up and speak-out, even if I don't agree with them. It sorta means it was all worth it.

We too have a right to the soap-box, please stand-tall never stand-down.

Dear Seiser Sensei,
While I accept that freedom of speech /expression is a good concept, I cannot always accept this concept fully.The reasons are simple, such freedom of speech can be and is dangerous.Would you be happy if people expressed views ,whether right wing/left wing/religious views etc which clearly could be dangerous ?We have had recently had a criminal case herein the U.K where a couple of gents with a radical view of Islam, decided to virtually hack off the head of a off duty soldier.In court these two guys tried to justify their actions by saying they were supporting their Muslim 'Brothers' in their stand against the West.Incidentally the guys in question had never been anywhere near any Muslim country as far as was known. Both of these men it would appear were indoctrinated by so called religious persons.Would you take actions against such persons or do you feel that the aforementioned guys have the right to express their views? If by chance a neo Nazi group was chit chatting in your area, spouting out bile, would you say ok by me, freedom of speech even for idiots , right on?Have a nice day, Cheers, Joe.

PeterR
01-19-2014, 11:00 AM
If you can't train with every single person at our dojo you need to find another dojo. And you can give out your any kind of flyers somewhere else.

I knew a teacher who was confronted by a young lady who insisted that she would not train with men and it was her right to impose her needs on a working dojo. I wont go into the background of her beliefs but his answer was brilliant. He said he was happy to teach her Aikido but she had to arrange a sizable enough group to make it work out. He doubled his income and student base.

hughrbeyer
01-19-2014, 12:24 PM
The more I think about this story, the more I think the real problem is distributing tracts recommending hitting your wife as a form of correction. IF he was really doing this, that would be grounds for kicking him and his trash out the door on the spot, so far as I'm concerned.

SeiserL
01-19-2014, 05:12 PM
Dear Seiser Sensei,
While I accept that freedom of speech /expression is a good concept, I cannot always accept this concept fully.The reasons are simple, such freedom of speech can be and is dangerous.Would you be happy if people expressed views ,whether right wing/left wing/religious views etc which clearly could be dangerous ?
Greetings,

Dangerous to who?

Certainly I do not agree, but they don't agree with me either. They would (and do) say that our freedom of thought, belief, and expression is dangerous to them. Am I to agree with them? Do we quiet every voice of opposition? That would only show the weakness of our belief and character. If your position/resolve cannot stand a little opposition, then its pretty fragile. As long as I don't take it personally, the talk is about them, not me. I am strong enough in my beliefs not to take it as a threat.

Of course, If they tried to act on it, I may just have to put them down. LOL

Janet Rosen
01-19-2014, 06:10 PM
If you can't train with every single person at our dojo you need to find another dojo. And you can give out your any kind of flyers somewhere else.

Not true. There are from time to time beginners who simply cannot control their bodies and pose a danger to me, even with my experience, because of my multiple joint issues. They need to be permitted to learn...just not on/with someone like me.

RonRagusa
01-19-2014, 06:52 PM
Not true. There are from time to time beginners who simply cannot control their bodies and pose a danger to me, even with my experience, because of my multiple joint issues. They need to be permitted to learn...just not on/with someone like me.

You've totally missed Mary's point Janet.

Ron

Michael Hackett
01-19-2014, 07:55 PM
Joe, in the example you cited, the actions of the men were the issue and not the words they used. We celebrate freedom of speech here in the US, even the speech of the inflammatory and stupid and vile. If we don't protect the rights of each to that basic right, when will my freedom of speech be restricted? When will some BJJ guy come to power and prohibit me from speaking about aikido?

Not being able to freely express thoughts and ideas is more dangerous than the thoughts and ideas themselves.

I am a strong proponent of Voltaire's "I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."

phitruong
01-20-2014, 08:37 AM
two things i learned from this thread,
1. don't trust the press to paint the whole picture
2. history taught us to avoid religious war like the plague. if you can't, then change religion (except if you are a man then change religion has a whole different other meaning).
3. like Voltaire and hot baguette and coffee
4. i can't count worth a damn

Demetrio Cereijo
01-20-2014, 09:21 AM
I am a strong proponent of Voltaire's "I may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."

Voltaire never said it.

Of course you are totally free to misquote him as I am free to call you on it.

Freedom of Speech does not mean Freedom from Consequences.

:)

Michael Hackett
01-20-2014, 10:01 AM
Demetrio,
Correct on both counts. That quote that I incorrectly attributed to Voltaire himself was written by S. G. Tallentyre in "Friends of Voltaire", suggesting that was his personal philosophy.

You exercised your right to call me on my error, and as painful as it was, I support you. (LOL, I actually appreciate it and will forward the information to my local newspaper where it is posted under the banner.)

One can speak his mind freely, but there can be consequences - just not from the government in the United States under most circumstances.

Maybe this should be a thread of it's own......

genego
01-25-2014, 07:45 PM
Below are the first two paragraphs from the second article on this situation. As far as I can see, no class was segregated by sex. Throughout the 60 plus responses, people keep insisting that the class was segregated. It wasn't. The female student trained for five months before deciding that the policy made her feel like a second class citizen. Apparently she didn't have an immediate visceral reaction, but took five months to become offended. She decided that her right to force the individual to train with her trumped his deeply held religious beliefs. As far as I can ascertain from the news accounting, he distributed a religious pamphlet, once, which was against the rules of the Dojo, and it never happened again.
The woman in question said that she couldn't go to the same dojo as someone who 'thinks that way'. Her decision, her prerogative. Bearing in mind that there are approximately 1.5 Billion people who practice Islam, I wonder if she won't shop at a store operated by someone who is Islamic, leave a college class if some class members are Islamic, refuse to order fast food from someone who is Islamic. With 1.5 Billion members Islam is the second largest religion in the world. She is going to cross paths with them in many different scenarios. Is she going to be allowed to foist her beliefs on others, to insist that they behave in a manner which is against their religion?

From the National Post, January 17, 2014
Article By Tristan Harper

Instructors and students at Halifax’s East Coast Yoshinkan Aikido are standing by their school’s decision to accommodate a student’s request not to touch women on religious grounds, arguing that the policy was not a big deal.
“It didn’t really affect how other people trained, female students were still training with all the students they had been training with before, the only difference was they weren’t training with this one particular student,” said Philip Parsons, an instructor at the school.

“It was never really an issue.”