View Full Version : Aikido and flirting

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09-17-2002, 03:28 PM
I am no longer single as of last year, but when I was, the dojo was definitely one of the main places I looked for prospective mates, because I spent so much time there. In the dojo I was in at the time, there were several beginner classes fed by the various schools in town, usually with lots of women. So myself and other single guys would go to these classes in search of. When I came to my current dojo (already attached, no I didn't meet her in the dojo) I understood from various discussions that there had been a couple of lady killers in the dojo and that the women were pretty pissed off about guys asking them out after class.

This seems extreme to me. If flirting is done with tact and not on the mat during class, there should be no problem. It's just another way for men and women to meet, doing what you love.

The worst example of a transgression of tact was an old teacher of mine who used to drool over every nice looking female who came into the dojo. It was downright embarassing to see him puff up and play the big sensei, and everyone knew it was going on and was unhappy about it.

I am writing from the US, and unfortunately we have gone to the extreme where flirting is frowned on at work and almost any friendly interaction between M/F can be construed as sexual harrassment. But do women aikidoka feel that, except in bizarre cases like my old teacher, that flirting gets in the way of their training, or somehow makes things difficult at the dojo?

One of my best friends is a girl who I talked to and eventually asked out, found out she was living with a guy, and ended up hanging out with a lot and remain great buds to this day.


Bruce Baker
09-17-2002, 04:04 PM
Leave your sexual drive at the door when entering the dojo. Nothing good ever comes from looking at friends as lovers.

If something were to occur, it would be the woman who innitiates it. The grandma advice is" ... a woman must love the man more than the man loves the woman for a marriage to work." My advice to the man is " ... a man can think anything he wants, but he must be married with the ring off as well as with the ring on. You must be physically true to your mate."

That said, you have a better chance of your friends setting you up with dates than trying to hit on them.

Just my advice after thirty some years of dealing with women.

09-17-2002, 06:05 PM
Hmm, I've got mixed feelings on this.

My wife and I met while training. I'm pretty certain that we did not blatantly flirt with each other in class; but after we began dating, I learned from another class member that he (a much older gentleman) thought we were dating long before we actually were dating. Our relationship was obvious to everyone, but us. Also, our relationship did not in any way upset the balance/harmony of the dojo, for if it had, our Sensei would have told us about it.

Here's where my wires are crossed. I did not go to the dojo with the intent to find a girlfriend/wife, it's my opinion that doing so can be a serious distractor to training. If it bothers any one person in the dojo, it will ultimately affect everyone.

However, if I had not kept an open mind, I would not be happily married today.

So, here's my view. The dojo is not a loveshack and students should not go to the dojo with the intent to find a girlfriend/wife, but rather to train.

If this makes me a hypocrite, oh well, I've been called worse.

09-17-2002, 06:23 PM
We sort of talked about this recently in this thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2414)

Men who give the impression that they are actively looking for women (notice the plural) can create an unpleasant atmosphere. This was true, in my experience, both in America which I find stiflingly politically correct and in Israel which is not PC by any standard. I don't think they alway create an unpleasant atmosphere, but they often do and so it is important to be be pretty careful.

Finding a partner in the dojo is, again in my experience, usually not a bad thing. It happened to me twice over the course of 10 years of training. I think that's probably as high an average as I'd feel comfortable with (and you may want to ask yourself how often you think it can reasonably happen), but I can't say that either of those times was a mistake particularly. Neither relationship worked out but both women are still training (although, we are none of us in the same dojos now). I am on very good terms with both of them. It's probably good to be tactful about starting a new relationship when an old fling is still hanging around, I imagine.

The biggest problem, I think, is that if you are making a nuisance of yourself, it is something people will find hard to tell you about. It puts the rest of the members of the dojo in the uncomfortable position of trying to make up for what they perceive as your bad manners. This is particularly true if you are especially targetting the newer members.

Come to think of it, if 'targetting' is a term that applies to you, you may want to re-evaluate, yes?

09-17-2002, 08:58 PM
Hello Richard,

I agree that flirting should be kept off the mat, but see no problems with asking someone from your dojo out on a date. I know some people say to keep this stuff out of the dojo and in the real world but to me the dojo is part of the real world, deal with it in the way you would in other areas of your life. As you said if it is done tactfully there shouldn't be any problems. I also agree with Louis, you shouldn't use the dojo as a place to meet dates, but to train. If you happen to meet someone you like, cool.

I should mention that my husband and I met at a dojo (a karate dojo) so perhaps I am a bit biased!

Deb Fisher
09-17-2002, 09:58 PM
I hate hate hate hate hate training with men who think it's okay to flirt while training. Not only does it distract from the reason I'm there (duh, training!), but it's *unbelievably manipulative* to sexualize a situation which is already, by necessity, intimate. The flirt-ee can only attempt to send a clear Not Interested message while engaging in a collaborative activity that involves touching and being at an intimate distance from a person - which the flirt-er is either free to understand... or not.

To answer your question, Mr. Fox - yes! This bothers me! This gets in the way! Flirty men have occasionally transformed my aikido practice into a social/personal liability, an opening through which someone with very few social skills can gain a captive audience for his ministrations. It totally sucks, and I can't believe that you are even positing that the dojo is an appropriate place to meet women (plural important). Is it okay to start flirting with your partner in Massage Therapy or accupuncture school? Is it okay for your doctor or dentist or a nurse to flirt with you while their fingers probe and prod all over and inside you? It would freak you out of someone started flirting with you when you were already doing a necessarily intimate activity, wouldn't it?

It's just so simple, I just don't understand why anyone would be asking if it's okay.

Deb "It's Not The Freaking Love Boat" Fisher

09-17-2002, 10:04 PM
Hey Deb,

I sympathize with you, but I think it's not that simple. I mean, it is for you and any man who has made you uncomfortable is way out of line. On the other hand, there is a (quite attractive) man in our dojo who seems to bring laughter to every partner he works with. He has some way of making the intimate situation personal and fun that is wonderful to watch. Women I've talked to say that he flirts shamelessly, but somehow he has a way of knowing the limits perfectly and everyone thinks of him as a wonderful person to work with. I'll make the assumption that, with you, he would be sensitive enough to know not to make you feel uncomfortable, but his flirting is still a positive part of some of his training.

Deb Fisher
09-17-2002, 10:32 PM
Opher, I'm not talking about that kind of flirting. I am a flirt myself and I know all about that kind of flirting and it is a good force (or at least I hope so) specifically because it's not tied to getting anything, because it's playful and not goal oriented. There is nothing at stake, no (earnest) powerplay, just fun and feeling good.

Flirting for the sake of meeting women (plural important), as in:

Richard Fox wrote:

"there were several beginner classes fed by the various schools in town, usually with lots of women. So myself and other single guys would go to these classes in search of."

is really, really different. It sets up a power relationship that is an obstacle to training specifically because there is a goal, and it's not training.

Opher, I'll bet that I would love training with your compadre, a) because I love a little harmless flirting as much as I love a good argument and b) because it sounds like he doesn't have any agenda other than a good time. Imagine how different it would feel if you had to keep doing irimi nage on someone who kept using that very intimacy to advance a real sexual/flirty/datey agenda that you're not interested in - especially if this agenda is the reason (s)he went to the beginner's class (ugh!!!) and/or chose to train with you. There is no reason for someone with decent social skills to corner the object of their desire like that, and therefore I don't think people with decent social skills choose to go there, because they know that flirting in an already intimate situation yields (at the very least) unreliable results from the flirt-ee.

Mr Fox, what were you thinking trolling for women at the beginners' class? I don't respect that behavior at all. I find it smarmy.

09-17-2002, 11:40 PM
At the end of the day, if that flirting ends up in a good relationship, does it matter where the flirting was done in the first place?

During class is definitely not a good idea. But then, you should know that timing is all important in aikido... and life.

Leslie Parks
09-18-2002, 12:38 AM
There is a vast difference between friendly flirting and being on the prowl.

09-18-2002, 04:47 AM
hey, whats wrong with a little flirting, do it all the time, alot of my friends are female or gay so it all jsut works out, not to mention that but my wife's friends are all girls (few guys) and they're all really friendly and flirty and we just have a laugh, its not the kind of 'Hi my names pete, remember that you'll be screaming it later' it more the 'ooh you bitch your gonna die for that one' (iriminage) Note: this can be used on just about anyone.

i guess you could say we all just laugh and mess about, s'just the way we all are, have been since collage and intent to stay that way.



09-18-2002, 05:13 AM
I sympathise with Deb fisher on this one!!

General harmless fun flirting, which nearly everyone does, especially with good friends is great. Deliberately going out of your way to go to a class with the intention of finding a date is a bit out of order!! Maybe Richard Fox could elaborate and clear up the statement he made..

". In the dojo I was in at the time, there were several beginner classes fed by the various schools in town, usually with lots of women. So myself and other single guys would go to these classes in search of. "

... so we can all understand where he is coming from!!

09-18-2002, 07:00 AM
Just a thought, but when do you get the time to flirt during class?

Shouldn't you be practicing/taking ukemi/teaching rather than talking/flirting?

09-18-2002, 09:17 AM
Hmmm.. interesting discussion! Let me be clear that I was not talking about flirting *during* class. I think Deb is completely right that in a situation which is necessarily intimate, it is extremely ungentlemanly to use this to coerce the training into something intimate on a sexual or romantic level - and I have never done that, nor have any of my friends that I know of.

Myself, and some of my other single friends, would spend so much time in the dojo - i.e. every night - that it became our main social activity as well as the training aspect. As single men the idea of attending a class with lots of women - prospective mates - was appealing. I see nothing wrong with that as we never took advantage of the training on the mat in the scenario Deb brought up. We would simply chat with an interesting woman after class and if there was a spark there maybe the next week we would chat some more. This is just normal human relations.

I brought the topic up because in my current dojo there is a pretty strong feeling amongst some of the female members that flirting can easily be taken too far and drive new female members away. I gather that this problem did exist but it no longer does, and I don't sense it either. But the dojo is just another slice of the world and I don't think there is any need to leave anything outside except disrespect and laziness.

My ex-wife and I both trained in the same karate dojo for years but the sensei would never let us spar together and I think that was wise. There is a huge difference between throwing your mate into a roll and spin kicking her in the head!

Finally, it is interesting that some posters on this thread (Bruce for one) took my posting as a call for advice! Nothing in my original post was in that vein. I am very happily engaged. But I think this issue affects every dojo in one way or another, my friends and I talk about it, and it is educational to hear all these views.

Not only men take the proactive route of course. In my previous dojo we had one woman who expressed interest in every single guy in the dojo (off the mat) within a pretty short period of time and she really made some of us squirm, just desserts I'm sure!

Jermaine Alley
09-18-2002, 09:54 AM
Hey guys and gals,

I dont think that any kind of flirting is appropriate in the dojo. During the course of my martial training, i did come into contact with certain females that were extremely attractive, but i kept all of my intentions and dirty thoughts to myself. I was single at the time and could have tried to establish something between the two of us, but didn't want and "sticky situations" to occur. Would she be interested in me? What would happen if she wasn't, and i made an attempt on her? Would she feel comfortableon the matt with me afterward?

I stay separated (in terms of hooking up) like i do at work.

This brings to mind another possible thread question. Are there dojo's now that exist, that keep the sexes separated? I bet if there are, it is for this very reason.


09-18-2002, 10:06 AM
There were orthodox men at dojos I trained at in Israel who would not train with the women (because they felt that touch was proscribed by the jewish law). This was, as you can imagine, disruptive and created some bad feeling. It got particularly cumbersome as they improved in rank and were in the situation of teaching.

Are they really 'dirty' those thoughts? I sort of think of them in different language.

Anyway, the problem with making the dojo verboten is that you totally cut yourself off from the possibility of finding a partner in the dojo and that is, again in my experience, a wonderful thing when it happens.

Deb Fisher
09-18-2002, 10:44 AM
Thanks Mr. Fox for clarifying what you meant - I don't think chitchatting *after* class qualifies as smarmy (if it does, then I am one dirty bird myself!)

People finding other people interesting and attractive is good. This energy, however, can get in the way of training well. I'm still convinced that the dojo is not a particularly good place to start a straight relationship anyway, because the emphasis is on training, and unfortunately for women to train hard and intensely, it is often necessary to background gender in order to be taken seriously (I know it is for me!). Let me put it this way - to do a typically masculine thing (like fight) in a fairly masculine environment, I have to some extent become one of the guys, or everyone will forever be gentle with me. For one of my dojo-mates to sexualize the relationship after I've already made a major gender concession in order to be taken seriously is just distracting and lame.

Or, end sexism, and maybe flirting in the dojo will be okay.

Similarly, while wer'e on the subject. Genex you mention the "take that you bitch" kind of quipping while doing the technique, etc... I am a very verbal person and am totally disposed to this kind of behavior while training, but lately I think it's hindering my training, keeping me from concentrating as much as I can. Anyone else have an opinion about this?

Party on,


09-18-2002, 11:05 AM
hey all,

i agree with jermaine.

in principle i have no problems in flirting with women from the dojo as long as it is not done during the class. definetly during practice is not the proper time. i do have one problem, though, which is the same as flirting with someone i work with. what if it doesnt work? what if she's not interested? will i feel confortable with her arfterwards, or will she feel confortable with me? it could be a little unpleasant, it could not... impossible to tell. so i prefer to keep things separated as much as possible, and if anything develops, let it be more naturally.

09-18-2002, 11:15 AM
I don't know. The "if she's not interested will feel comfortable" reminds me somehow of junior high. It's funny: I was about to say 'maybe this get's back to American culture and Israeli culture' and then I noticed that Fabio is actually from Israel, too. Sigh. My own prejudices showing through. In any case, I can see worrying about making someone else uncomfortable, but what's so awful (in terms of my own pride) in letting someone know I find them attractive.

09-18-2002, 11:49 AM
I have seen individual males in dojo settings engage in an almost predatory flirting with both new and established female members, and I think it is totally inappropriate. Bottom line in most cases is that "dojo love" doesn't work! That said, I have seen instances where healthy long term relationships have blossomed between members, but I think it is more the exception rather than the rule. The problem with most relationships that I've seen begun between two dojo members is that when they go sour, the dojo almost always loses one of the members. And because of that, I believe "dojo relationships" are disruptive to the dojo and its membership. That is why I have always avoided and frowned upon pursuing any relationship beyond friendship with any members of any dojo I have been to. I mean really people, there are so many people in this world outside of the dojo to meet. Why is it so difficult to exercise a little self-restraint within the dojo for the benefit of the other members? In my mind, it shouldn't even be an issue. Of course, this is IMHO.

09-18-2002, 11:49 AM
Claims of the kind "flirting is inapropriate in ..." sound way too conservative to me. Continuing the same line of logic, one can get to a point where flirting would be inapropriate in any situation which involves prolonged interaction between people.

I think that anything is appropriate within reason. A courteous invitation to have a cup of coffee together after class, even if made on the mat between classes, seems perfectly ok. If the invitee doesn't accept the invitation - end of story! If this simple situation creates a conflict, then one of these two is not a reasonable grownup, in which case he/she will certainly behave in a similarly unreasonable fashion in totally unrelated situations.

09-18-2002, 12:38 PM
It's a respect thing, as with most things. You should first get to know the person well enough to know if they'd even want an invitation. If not, you should respect that and drop it. If yes, you should be respectful about it, and not ask them in the middle of class if it would mess them up. Yeah, it's a respect thing.

09-18-2002, 12:44 PM
For what it's worth, flirting is damn near a lost art. A good flirt can do so tastefully, inoffensively and will create great fun for the flirter and flirtee.

Now, does that belong on the mat? No. No way. Never.

Does it have a place before keiko or at the pub after? Hell, why not? As long as all are adults and competent.

On MY mat, I see students in dogi with sharp pointy things. Nobody THERE I wanna flirt WITH.

However, I pitched woo with great vigor, directing said efforts at my current lovely and charming, wife Emily, first at a seminar ... but only OFF the mat.


09-18-2002, 12:45 PM
Robert, what do you think is so unique about a dojo that makes romantic relationships between members unwise? This, IMHO, is rigid thinking. You may be there ONLY to train, but others are there to train, it also comprises their social life, they have dojo management responsibilities, etc. Life ebbs and flows in a dojo like anywhere else, people come and go for all sorts of reasons, and as long as the people behave with decorum what the hey?

As far as "there are so many people in this world to meet", if you are single and devoted to aikido training it can take up, lets see...

sleep 8 hrs

work 9 hrs

commute 1 hr

dojo time 3 hrs

remaining 3 hours

dojo time can be fully 50% of your non-sleeping, non-working time on any given day. Even on Sat and Sun we would train 3-5 hours. Given the common interest, the dojo is a great place to meet except the ratio of men to women is usually terrible.

There are those who see the church, or the dojo, or a synagogue as a sacred place. Then there are those who see everywhere as sacred, and act accordingly. This, *to me* is the aiki spirit. Its all school!

Deb Fisher
09-18-2002, 01:24 PM
Great post, Chuck. I agree wholeheartedly!

09-18-2002, 01:37 PM
I disagree with the concept that a dojo is a "microcosm" of the ret of the world. I believe it is not. Most people in the rest of the world do not practice martial arts. A dojo exists for one very specific purpose: to train in a martial art. It is not a social club. Most people who enter a dojo do so for this very purpose - not to meet potential partners for a relationship. If people want to do that, they can join a sport or social club. Few things make me lose respect for another member of our dojo than seeing a senior member flirt and attempt to make social advances to a new female member, and then have the new female member leave in disgust - largely because the dojo was one place where she didn't think she would have to deal with that kind of crap. And you know what? She shouldn't have to - plain and simple.

One might very well view the whole world as a big "school" or "dojo." But outside of the dojo it's not appropriate to go around throwing and pinning people. In the same respect I believe it is not appropriate to pursue romantic relationships with members within the dojo.

In most instances where one member is agressively flirting with another member, the former is likely the senior in tenure at the dojo. If a relationship ensues, and if and when that relationship goes sour, who is most likely to feel uncomfortable remaining in the dojo and leave? The newer, less tenured person. Who is most likely to know this from the beginning? The senior member. Which person is most expected to take on more responsibility for the benefit of the dojo and its members? The senior student. Who has the greatest conflict in this situation? The senior student.

I mean no offense, but if one finds that they are spending so much time at the dojo that the only possibility for a relationship is to resort to seeking out new and existing members of the dojo, than that person ought to re-evaluate their priorities. One of aikido's greatest lessons both in and outside of the dojo is that of balance. That includes how you prioritize and balance your time with family, friends/relationships, work and training. I don't think of it as being rigid. I think of it as being sensitive to the needs of others and the needs of the dojo.

09-18-2002, 02:32 PM

Let's have a little experiment: I'm going to take your post and substitute all aikido-related terms with, say, bakery-related terms, and see what happens:

I disagree with the concept that a BAKERY is a "microcosm" of the rest of the world. I believe it is not. Most people in the rest of the world do not BAKE. A BAKERY exists for one very specific purpose: to BAKE BREAD. It is not a social club. Most people who enter a BAKERY do so for this very purpose - not to meet potential partners for a relationship. If people want to do that, they can join a sport or social club. Few things make me lose respect for another EMPLOYEE of our BAKERY than seeing a senior EMPLOYEE flirt and attempt to make social advances to a new female EMPLOYEE, and then have the new female EMPLOYEE leave in disgust - largely because the BAKERY was one place where she didn't think she would have to deal with that kind of crap. And you know what? She shouldn't have to - plain and simple.

etc. ;)

The conflict you describe is not aikido-specific; it can happen anywhere where there're senior and junior members/students/employees. It all comes down to decency - one shouldn't use his/her seniority to his/her advantage, be it flirting or anything else. If everybody's following simple rules of human decency, most conflict situations are avoidable.

09-18-2002, 02:46 PM
In some ways, it sounds to me like it's all about a cost-benefit analysis we each make. Each of us has a cost associated with the (not uncommon) cases where someone feels hassled or things get uncomfortable and each of us has a benefit asssociated with the (also not uncommon) succesful relationships that can come out of personal relatoinships in the dojo. We attach subjective assessments of the probabilities to each of these, multiply each probability by the associated cost, make a comparison and follow it with a confident pronouncement about truth.

09-18-2002, 02:51 PM
...We attach subjective assessments of the probabilities to each of these, multiply each probability by the associated cost, make a comparison and follow it with a confident pronouncement about truth.
Isn't that a definition of a subjective opinion (on anything)? In which case any discussion is exactly that - an exchange of subjective opinions... :)

09-18-2002, 02:55 PM
Sort of. Subjective opinions can differ as a result of many different aspects of subjectivity. I'm claiming that here it is primarily a difference in the perceived cost and benefit and then perhaps also a slight difference in the perceived probabilities.

09-18-2002, 03:12 PM
...I'm claiming that here it is primarily a difference in the perceived cost and benefit and then perhaps also a slight difference in the perceived probabilities.
I agree. The bottom line is, any particular behavior will be tolerated in one place and regarded as obscene in another (your analogy with orthodox Jews is a perfect example). As long as everybody (especially the sensei) in a particular dojo has no problem with one student flirting in a certain way with another, there's no room for claims "there should be absolutely no flirting in aikido dojos".

09-18-2002, 03:34 PM

Good point.

Perhaps I should clarify that I'm more concerned with flirtations with newer members by senior members than relations between members with the same or similar level of experience in the dojo.

However, one difference between adojo and a bakery (or any other workplace for that matter in the US) is that there are specific rules for dealing with such situations and prohibiting such behavior, and potentially serious consequences for the offending party. In a dojo, these rules are often ignored or disregarded, and there are not perceived to be any serious consequences by the offending party. Please don't consider this a vote for the introduction of litigation to settle the issue - I don't want that. Ultimately, the dojo cho or head instructor should be monitoring and (hopefully) discouraging such behavior. What I find frustrating is that, for one reason or another, senior students still seem to get away with such behavior, to the detriment of the dojo. Would a possible solution be to prohibit the pursuit of junior/newer members of the dojo until they reach a certain rank, such as 1st kyu or shodan? I don't know...

09-18-2002, 03:55 PM
...What I find frustrating is that, for one reason or another, senior students still seem to get away with such behavior, to the detriment of the dojo.
What you're describing is a dojo where senior students get a special treatment? Or where junior students are afraid to speak out? In both scenarios it seems that the head of the dojo (as well as the "good" senior students) are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

I concede that my argument is based on the assumption that every dojo member acts in a responsible and respectful manner. In any other case the sensei should give serious consideration to whether this student should be a student any longer, and correct the situation so that the basis for my argument is true again :)
This, of course, assumes that the sensei is objective and just in his/her judgement of the situation... I really hope most are.

09-21-2002, 02:19 PM

right my thoughts r that during a class u shouldnt have time to flirt at all ur mind should be on purly and simply on ur sensi and his/hers instruction and wat ur ment to be doing!

im taken and have been for 8 month and am very happy i would never think about flirting in the dojo for that main reason although i know men and women wo r taken even married and still do! :0(

the doo is not a place to flirt but if u really fall for another student than ask them out as a friend or get together on a class night out and do ur flirting there! ;0)

ceya sue