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Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 09:08 AM
On another thread, I found the following statement:

I don't know of others experiences but I have ALWAYS one of the few Blacks in the dojo (if not THE only). I often wonder why that is. I don't feel that aikido has been accessible to certain demographics. I am not saying that is a fault of the art that we study but it may be a flaw in how we as practitioners market or reach out to others of the various ethnicities. I believe that if aikido is to spread and become relevant in the future somehow we have to reach a wider audience than what has been the norm for the past 30 years.

As an African American myself, I have also noticed this trend to a certain extent. The main school which my style derives from stands out in this regard in a few ways, though.

One, the school has a formal class at Temple University, which is in North Philadelphia, so we have a draw from a very 'mixed' population in that regard.

Two, the yoshinkan has as one of its highest ranking members an African American, Amos Parker Shihan, 8th Dan. I find for myself that he provides an excellent aikido role model.

These two things aside, I have noticed that many of the aikido schools I have been to other than my own seem to have fewer African Americans than say, boxing schools, kung fu schools, etc. But all of my life I have been in that situation...either in school or in work, as well as in many social situations. So I have adapted to being in environments where I 'stand out' in that sense.

An observation I have made is that many of the African American aikidoka I have seen and met are *very* self assured, dynamic individuals (in and out of aikido). I think being able to function well as a minority in a sometimes hostile society may build a certain level of character. And it has often shown itself as very apparent in the aikidoka I have met and trained with.

If you or your dojo wants to reach out in a larger way to the African American community, try starting a feeder program at an inner city university, an after (secondary) school program, local boy scout troop, or church. Basically, if you want to make a difference here, you have to expose the group in question to what you have to offer by going where the numbers are.

I'd be interested in hearing what people from all groups think about this topic. And if people feel comfortable stating their race and experiences in non-confrontational ways, that would be great as well.

Some questions if you are part of a minority group:

Does it matter to you that you might stand out in aikido settings?

Does it matter to you that friends of the same ethinic group and family find it strange that you choose to practice a Japanese martial art?

What do you feel your reception has been in the aikido community?

Has your practice of aikido influenced your feelings about race in general?

Maybe I'll take a shot at these questions in a later post myself.

Thanks for listening,
Ron Tisdale

Eric Joyce
12-17-2003, 10:08 AM
Hey Ron,

I am not African-American, but you do make a point. One of the things that my sensei and I did was go to the inner cities and partnered up with the local YMCA or Boys and Girls club and taught them Yoshinkai aikido (just basic movements and techniques) to spark their interest. Some liked it, some didn't and that's okay, aikido isn't for everybody. What I did find is that the kids that really liked it, either didn't have a ride, had other responsibilities or couldn't afford monthly classes. It's sad, but that's reality sometimes. I personally like going to the inner city and teaching kids/teenagers a martial art that they may not have the access to. To see there faces light up is a real treat. I would recommend more aikidoka do this. I guess if aikido is to "truly spread", this is one avenue worth looking at. By the way Ron, I think Amos Parker is a excellent example. I would also add the late Gibert James to that list as well. Peace my friend.

Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 10:17 AM
And Peace to you too...

One of my instructors would always charge everyone who could pay a little more so that we could sponsor families and children who couldn't afford to train otherwise. He considered it his (and by default, our) way of giving back. But we had a lot more students then, and were partialy subsidized by the main school we were affiliated with. Its not so easy to do as a small school on our own, like we are now.

I think the yoshinkan is unusual in the number of relatively to very high ranking African Americans like Gilbert James, Amos Parker, Gil Fitz, and others. It may seem silly to others, but I always felt a little more comfortable because of that. I think they influence their non-minority students in very positive ways along the same lines.

Take care,

Ron

aikidoc
12-17-2003, 11:31 AM
Ron:

Although race should not be an issue I too have observed your impression of the lilly whiteness of some schools. I'm not sure the reason. Perhaps we don't set up schools in a convenient area or make them financially accessible to all students. Perhaps Afro-American students are more attracted to the other arts. I'm not sure of the answer. I have had black students as class mates and one as a student. None seemed to stay long. My classmates were in California my student locally.

There also may be an issue as to where one is located geographically. The black population here is relatively small (we are in the middle of nowhere). I would expect more diversity in the dojo population in areas with more ethnic groups.

Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 11:35 AM
Thanks for responding John. You're right, it really shouldn't make any difference. I'm currious...you probably have other minorities that are in your area though...hispanic, asian, middle eastern, something. Do you see an interest in aikido in whatever minority communities that happen to be close by? I don't want to limit this topic to just African Americans...

Daniel Mills
12-17-2003, 12:06 PM
Without wishing to butt-in as it were, regarding your last response Ron, but with regards to minority communities near-by affecting minority dojo attendance -

Although I've no experience of elsewhere dojos, our dojo does have a strong Asian contingent (mainly in the juniors, actually!) but also a few kyu ranks, and at least one Dan grade (female, no less ;)), which I contribute mainly to the strong diversity and ethnic presence in the area. I view it as a more-than positive note, when taking into account that the area in which I live, and in which the dojo is situated were involved in some of the most horrific racially-motivated riots that the United Kingdom has seen in recent years, a few years ago.

Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 12:26 PM
That's not butting in, that's contributing! :)

When you say Asian, do you mean people mainly from India and Pakistan? I remember hearing about those riots. Sounds like your dojo can (and does) contrubute a lot to your community. I'd love to hear more from people 'over seas' on this topic.

RT

Greg Jennings
12-17-2003, 12:28 PM
Our dojo is in a predominantly African-American church. All the services there are *packed*.

We don't charge any fees of any kind.

Yet, we've only had 1 church member attend during our six years there and he was quickly gone.

That church member had been exposed to aikido in the UK while stationed there by the Air Force.

I think it's a prevalent stereotype: "Martial arts are for the well-off".

I'm so frustrated by this that I'm ready to give up and move the dojo closer to the people that do attend.

FWIW,

Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 12:36 PM
I'm so frustrated by this that I'm ready to give up and move the dojo closer to the people that do attend.
Boy, I can understand that. I think there is a hesitancy in some religious communities about martial art in general. And perhaps that idea of a Japanese martial art figures in there as well.

Here's an interesting angle; one of my instructors is sansei (3rd gen. Japanese American) who is very active in a mostly 'white' church. He uses his understanding of aikido in a lot of his sunday school teaching, and a lot of his understanding of christianity in his aikido. And he doesn't have much patience for the 'old school' japanese 'stuff'. People in the church seem to really like his topics and perspective.

Have you ever done a presentation of aikido to the church members? I'm not suggesting that you should, I'm just currious.

Ron

Chuck Clark
12-17-2003, 01:41 PM
Interesting discussion...

I've wondered about this for many years. I'd like to present a different position that I've come to finally.

I practice budo and teach it because: 1. I want as many practice partners as possible as I get older. 2. This is one way I try to balance my responsibilities to my teachers and their teachers. 3. I love it.

I would prefer to have a dojo with a balance of men and women, ethnic groups, income groups, people of varied ages, etc. However, it never, never works out the way I want it to. I have given up trying to manipulate or manage the dojo mix.

We practice traditional Japanese budo (taught through "modern educational methods"). People are either ready for this type of practice or they aren't, it's that simple. Advertising, marketing of any kind, etc. doesn't seem to work. We just do our practice and people that want to practice with us show up for some reason. We even try to talk people out of joining (sort of...)and somehow, enough people stay for the long haul. I have given up really caring what demographic they represent. We seem to have a diverse group, but really they're just people that want to practice. I don't seem to be "smart enough" to do it any other way.

Safe and Joyful Holiday Season to All,

Eric Joyce
12-17-2003, 02:01 PM
As far as the church example goes, perhaps the reason some in the church don't practice it is because when the see the bowing, kneeling, the picture of O'Sensei...that they interpret aikido not as a martial art, but rather as a religion or cult. I don't know if this is the case, but it may be a possibility. I remember telling one of my friends that it wasn't a religious cult that the bowing and so forth was the custom and just using proper etiquette. I do sense your frustration Greg.

Ron Tisdale
12-17-2003, 02:02 PM
I don't believe the smart thing, Clark Sensei! :)

I'm not sure we *should* 'manipulate or manage the dojo mix.' I can see though how my posts would give that impression. I'm more just currious about it. And I have seen interesting demographics result from just doing your thing in interesting places (like North Philly).

I'd like to think I share your reasons for doing Budo. I didn't mean to suggest any agenda here, more just a general curriosity. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Ron

jducusin
12-17-2003, 03:32 PM
Great topic, Ron! This has also been on my mind lately.

In my own limited experience thus far, I've been feeling "doubly" a minority as an aikidoka, being both Filipino-Canadian and female. Throughout my life, I've simply grown used to this in general, but I suppose that I was somehow optimistically hoping to find more of my peers in an art that is so important to me. :)

Not only am I the sole female in what had consistently been an all-male dojo for some time, but I have yet to train with very many other female (and absolutely no minority female) aikidoka. This certainly hasn't discouraged me in the least --- quite the opposite. On the plus side (and I always find a plus side), this situation only motivates me further to persist in training so that perhaps one day I might myself become a good role model for other minority female aikidoka.

As a (not so off-topic) aside, I'm really looking forward to an upcoming solo trip to Toronto, during which I'll be training at two dojos --- one of which is run by a 5th-dan Japanese woman who my Sensei recommended my looking up in order to glean from her experience.

I'll have to try tackling the whole of your questions later when I find more time...

aikidoc
12-17-2003, 05:04 PM
Being in Texas we have more Hispanics. One of my yudansha is Hispanic and we have some students periodically. I correct my original. I forgot about another black student-he just did not stay long. The one senior black student had to leave due to lying about being a black belt-we checked-he wasn't. Lots of excuses. I've had others lie (white mostly) as well so I always check rank. When you're not honest it makes for a difficult future no matter your ethnic back ground.

We do not have much of an oriental population here (mostly Chinese). We also do not have much of a female population in the dojo either (owner) which is unfortunate.

Steven
12-17-2003, 08:07 PM
Hi Ron,

In response to the Yoshinkan and ranking instructors. In addition to Amos Parker and Gilbert James, don't forget Herman Hurst and Alvin McClure, both Godan's.

At my home dojo, we've had our share of students from the afro-american community, one of which is one of our black belt instructors. Great Aikido, great martial artists, Artists and overall great person.

Josh Manning
12-17-2003, 09:43 PM
I'd like to start by saying that this is a remarkably (and refreshingly) civil thread. I haven't posted in quite some time,partly because of a negative discussion tone, but mostly due to a lack of knowledge base to draw from.

My Sensei is black, as are roughly half of the students. It seems to be a matter of utter unimportance on the tatami, which is, i think, as it should be. I suspect that the racial composition of a class will typically have more to do with the location of a dojo than any other factor,(ours is near a military base, with obvious implications for student draw) but wonder if perhaps the harder styles of aikido will tend to be better blended than the softer styles.

I do strongly believe that marketing a art in any forceful fashion cheapens it, and targeting specific demographics in that way (even though no one really suggested it) is a bad approach. I think I saw a cheesy 80's kung fu movie that had a decent line in it, something along the lines of "when the student is ready, the master will appear.

anyway, thats my nickel.

Nafis Zahir
12-17-2003, 10:15 PM
Ron,

I am an AA and I train in Philadelphia @ Aikido of Center City with Waite Sensei. I also use to train in New Jersey. IMO, I think that AA's are not attracted to Aikido because it doesn't look violent enough to them. Many times I have seen AA's sitting on the bench watching class, and they seem very unimpressed. Whenever I get the chance to speak to any of them, I try to encourage them to join and explain to them the effectiveness of aikido for self defense. Another sad aspect to this, is that, even at dojos like mine where there are a few AA's, none of them are AA women. And you would think that in this day and age, and in a city like this, you would see more women period. I don't think it's demagraphics, but I'm not sure what the reason is. Maybe we should get together and have a conference about the matter.

Bronson
12-17-2003, 10:58 PM
Wow, it seems that this is a topic that weighs on a lot of us.

One of my first instructors is AA interestingly he also did Yoshinkan for a while. He still trains at my sensei's dojo when he can, he recently got the police chief job in our city so his schedule can get a little busy. It's something I've wondered about over the years and I think I may bring it up to him the next chance I get. I'll ask him if I can paraphrase or quote him on the forums.

Other than him most of our students are white. We have two other AA students that I can think of one is a sandan in our style and a hachidan in Uechi ryu karate, the other holds a shodan in aikido. We have a few students of asian descent (korean, japanese, vietnamese) and maybe 7-9 women, one of which is the highest ranked student (yondan). We are located in a predominately AA neighborhood, occasionally we'll have people stop to watch but few of them ever start classes...white or black.

I have no real theory about why more minorities aren't attracted to the martial arts. When I've seen the above mentioned hachidan's students giving a karate demo the only AA I've seen was his son (lots of women though). I recently visited a BJJ/JKD school here in town. The instructor there is AA, very competent, a good instructor from what I saw but I didn't see a single AA student on the mat for either the BJJ or JKD class I watched. The dojo I teach in has several arts that share the facility. I can think of maybe two AA students that I've seen on the judo mat and one or two in the okinawan karate and/or kobudo class (I've not watched the other classes so can't comment). I've had AA students come for a little while but leave with about the same attrition rate as white students...but fewer AA students even come in the door.

The BJJ instructor I mentioned works for the Justice Dept. and is part of a youth anti-violence program. He is setting up a big, all day martial arts demo with all the arts in town being invited to participate. He feels that people have a misconception that MA's promote violent behavior when in his experience martial artists are consistently some of the least violent people he knows. We'll see if it draws any interest. My gut feeling is that we'll get a small surge of new students right after the demo but most, if not all, will leave...just like any other demo.

Bronson

philipsmith
12-18-2003, 03:12 AM
Interesting and though-provoking thread.

In my dojo we have only one Afro-Caribbean student (who also runs his own dojo)and interestingly he has no AC students either!

Also an AC friend of mine has a predominantly white dojo.

We have no asian (Indian/Pakistani) students despite our dojo being in a 50% asian area.

However, Karate in particular appears in the UK to have a predominantly AC/Asian profile. Perhaps its the competition aspect which makes the difference.

ian
12-18-2003, 04:59 AM
When I was in Northern England there were several black students (though no asian students) in the dojo. I'm not sure if there was the extreme division between the black population and white population (in terms of wealth and location) that would be found in the south of England or the US.

Don't forget we have excellent black aikidoka like Donovan Waite.

Although different types of clubs can have a certain 'culture' which may discourage minority groups (golf springs to mind), I think it's stupid targetting minority groups and trying to redress the balance in some way (although I have found females tend to stay away if there are no females already within the club). In my mind discrimination is a problem within certain personalities, and having 'positive discrimination' does nothing to redress this. Besides, anyone could be considered to be part of a minority group if you classified people differently.

In Ireland there are very few black people, especially outside the cities (I think I've seen 2 black people since I've been here), but we have a higher asian population. We do have asian (chinese/japanese) students that train (sporadically!) at the dojo.

Ian

Ron Tisdale
12-18-2003, 06:49 AM
Thank you all for your posts, and being willing to look at this question openly and civily. I really appreciate the thought each of you has put into your posts. A couple of quickies...

I too have noticed that while AA and other minority males do train, and progress in the art (like Waite Sensei, I should have mentioned him), not very many minority females seem to train. I know of only one AA female personally at a dojo in Philly, but there are a few at the Doshinkan Roxbourough dojo I believe.

One reason I think about this sort of thing is that I have also been thinking about ways to give back to the community I come from, since I have been able to glean some small sucsess in my life. The benefits that I believe come from training in aikido are only one small way to do that. But it is something which I really enjoy, and that I believe could be usefull to communities in distress. I really hope the demo that Bronson mentioned yeilds some positive things in that community.

As to marketing, our presense and example is probably the best marketing. Not high pressure sales, or false claims.

Nafis, I would really enjoy meeting and hopefully training with you some day. It would be interesting to share our perspectives in person. And I want to thank you for your post which inspired me to start this thread.

Keep those posts comming...

Ron

Ghost Fox
12-18-2003, 06:53 AM
My dojo, located in Brooklyn, has a decent African-American, African-Caribbean mix. Our Dojo-Cho is black and so are two of our senior instructors. I think we are pretty close to the matching the racial demographic in the city. Iíve visited a few other dojo in the city and I canít say the same thing holds true in most other dojos.- One of the senior instructors in our dojo who is African Caribbean makes it a strong point to encourage Latinos and Blacks to continue their practice because he feels it very important that they are represented in the Aikido community.

In the city (NYC) though I think African Americans have a strong representation in Jujitsu, and might even be the majority. They also have strong representation in karate and the hard styles of kung fu. I donít think it has to do with the level of violence like Nafis states but with an issue of practicality. Growing up in the ghetto, hood, street whatever, there is a big need for practicality, so styles like Jujitsu and Kyokushinkai Karate have a definite leg up over aikido. It is probably also the reason why Yoshinkan does better than other school of aikido (Please donít get into a pissing contest about aikido being effective).

Also, in general I think most other martial arts in the city anyway, refer to Aikido as a yuppie martial art, and the ratio of Yuppie to Buppie is a lot more extreme than the normal demographic.

I also think that Eric is right in saying that demographically speaking most AA and Latinos have less disposable income readily available.

YMO

AsimHanif
12-18-2003, 09:07 AM
Ron, that's exactly what I was getting at. I will have to get with you off this thread because it is impossible for me to get it all out here. For now I will try to respond to your questions-

1- No it doesn't matter to me as an individual that I stand out because I am a very confident person.

2- My family and friends know that I love the art and the Japanese culture but they also know how committed I am to empowering people with the knowledge of their own history and culture.

3- My reception in the Aikido community has been mixed. I find that practitioners that are confident in their abilities do not find me a threat but those that are not have definitely had to deal with some issues. I also have studied other arts which I think gets overlooked at times. The other arts that I studied have made my progression easier in many ways and I think some may attribute my progression to "althletic ability".

4-Feelings about race? I find that there are more similarities among people than differences. The issue I see is that we are still so distant from one another we don't have the chance to get to know each other on a personal level.

Ron I'm glad you moved on this topic. I honestly wasn't sure if it was just me. I see I am not alone. BTW- this is MY personal mission - to bring this art to people who wouldn't normally be exposed to it. But I believe to make this happen we need more open minded and dynamic individuals of all ethnicities. We have to take a look at some of the ways in which we present ourselves to the public at large. Aikido tradition and basic essence should never be lost but I don't think we can stay "stuck" in the past. The average person in the inner city has a need for the self defense aspect first and foremost. So yokomenuchi is meaningless to them at first glance. We have to expand the types of things to catch a person interest then hopefully they will be around long enough to see the full scope of aikido. But this is just the visual aspect. As I said - I could go on for days about this one.

aikidoc
12-18-2003, 10:49 AM
"most other martial arts in the city anyway, refer to Aikido as a yuppie martial art".

I have noticed over the years that the students who tend to hang around are generally more white collar and educated. Lots of doctors, professors, lawyers, professionals with a second group with more of a law enforcement background. Just my observations so don't filet me on this. I'm not sure why it appears to the professionals more-perhaps its the lack of emphasis on damaging techniques and the cultural issues between professionals and blue collar workers-don't know the answer. In California we had one group I trained with where we had: Medical doctor, professor (instructor), chiropractor (me), another professor, computer programmer, district attorney, college student working on her masters degree in criminal justice and another college student. Occasional blue collar workers would come in but usually ended up going for the shotokan.

It would be an interesting study to see what the demographics of aikido versus other martial arts with a cross section study of the softer versus harder styles of aikido. This would be more revealing at the yudansha level since there is so much turnover in the lower ranks. Who sticks it out and what is their academic, work, ethnic, and cultural background?

AsimHanif
12-18-2003, 11:05 AM
I think you're right on point John. I tend to think it is less an issue of location but more in terms of (I hate to use this term) class? Maybe not even culture. But people of a certain class tend to share experiences. Poor White and Poor Black folk have to deal with many of the same issues. Both are more likely to encounter violence on a day to day basis. So I would like to know if these were issues that persisted in earlier aikido times. Were there trends in demographics at certain periods based on Japans socioeconomic circumstances before and after the WWII and then again in better economic times?

AsimHanif
12-18-2003, 11:07 AM
Ron/John,

sounds like we need a commission huh?

kung fu hamster
12-18-2003, 11:20 AM
My personal feeling is that if Jun would move this thread to the Anonymous forum you would get much more response and quite a bit less 'sanitized'... in case you want to really know what people think... I'm glad Jun doesn't have such a thing but I wonder what a 'No Holds Barred' forum would look like, could we bear it? I like my rose-colored glasses...

kironin
12-18-2003, 12:56 PM
I think you're right on point John. I tend to think it is less an issue of location but more in terms of (I hate to use this term) class?
Not necessarily. Sometimes it is location.

There is one dojo in town that has a sensei who is originally from eastern europe, but his students are over 90% Latino. It makes sense for the demographic around that dojo. It is not an economically affluent area. The caucasian sensei speaks no Spanish and has advanced degrees. Some of his best students have trouble paying their dues.

Another dojo has a sensei who is Latino but last time I was visiting enough to know, it was perhaps less than 50-50 Latino-Caucasian and that made sense to the demographics in his area. A hodgepodge area of affluent and not affluent.

In my dojo there is a mix of caucasian,asian,Indian American and in the past black and latino. Mostly caucasian which makes sense for the demographics of the local area. Yes, the area is affluent but that includes African Americans. I have had black students who earn much more than I do at my day job. Actually the other issue is that with two male instructors, we have only one dedicated female student though hopefully another maybe joining in January. critical mass ?

on the other hand, the longer more established dojo in Austin with a female head sensei has several female black belts and more gender balance.

We try to keep in touch with what we may or may not be doing. A senior student does a simple interview with new students after they have been in the dojo for a month to see if improvements can be made. We try to understand why people leave - the primary reason seems to be location and schedule if it's not this is just more work/physical than I thought. Job changes, family changes, life changes, etc.

You do what you can to try to make everyone feel welcome, the rest really is up to individuals and what they are looking for.



The aikido dojos in the Houston area are on the west side and north of town and perhaps for that reason there is no dojo with a large number of African American students. There is also no Yoshinkan dojo in the region. So I have only been wishing for a while that Amos Parker Sensei would open a dojo in the right demographic area and kill two birds with one stone. I would certainly visit!

Craig

Paul Sanderson-Cimino
12-18-2003, 01:18 PM
At the Pleasant Hill dojo, there is a Kempo Karate (I think?) class right before ours. We usually arrive in time to watch them in pads/gloves finishing their sparring. The sensei is Latino (at least partially, I believe), and I notice the class has many more Latino and African-American students. Our class is not all white (some Asian students, etc.), and I emphatically state that it would shock me to find any rascism in our dojo. However, the distinction is notable.

Of course, there's also an age difference. I'm a bouncy college student, but I'm the odd one; mostly middle aged. The karate class has almost entirely younger students. Even the sensei seems strikingly young. (Of course, the middle aged people in our dojo are quite fit; some probably more than me, if not more 'resilient' in the way that youth provides). It could be that there is a distinct 'yuppie mindset' of some sort that enters into our dojo on account of the age, and that this mindset is not as prevalent in the Latino and African American community.

I don't know about differences in dues. Ours are not that heavy, and they do all go right back to things like fixing up the mats. I seem to recall something that suggested the karate class has similar fees, but I can't verify this.

This would be a fascinating study...you'd probably want to ID some relevant factors, like:

-Race (primary dependent variable)

-Age

-Available income

-Crime (as suggested by the individual who felt that 'practicality' might be a consideration)

-Style (w.r.t. emphasis on what the average person might consider to look the most effective)

-Instructor qualifications

Looking at these both with respect to the community, one or more aikido dojos, and one or more non-aikido dojos.

We're sort of doing this right now, though not in any hard-and-fast statistical way.

Paul Sanderson-Cimino
12-18-2003, 01:23 PM
Also might be worthwhile to look at 'available free time'.

Steven
12-18-2003, 03:01 PM
There is also no Yoshinkan dojo in the region. So I have only been wishing for a while that Amos Parker Sensei would open a dojo in the right demographic area and kill two birds with one stone. I would certainly visit!
Funny you should mention this. Did you see my post that was moved to the seminars section? Drop me a private note and let's talk.

Nafis Zahir
12-18-2003, 11:18 PM
Nafis, I would really enjoy meeting and hopefully training with you some day. It would be interesting to share our perspectives in person. And I want to thank you for your post which inspired me to start this thread.

Keep those posts comming...

Ron
What post are you talking about? I also would like to train with you one day as well. Let's see what's available after the new year starts!

Ron Tisdale
12-19-2003, 08:05 AM
Hi Linda,

Well, I wouldn't mind someone addressing this in the annonymous forum if that's what they'd like to do, but I would resist moving this thread there. One of the halmarks of this thread is that the people participating sound like they are being honest, forthright, and POLITE about their views. Some people have felt comfortable enough to say that they don't think race should even be a consideration, and I appreciate that viewpoint.

Race is one of those issues that is often avoided at all costs, by everyone. So feelings and thoughts fester and turn sour from lack of acknowledgement and confrontation where appropropriate. This, in my opinion, is bad. I think we need forums like this one, where we can demonstrate that there ARE reasonable ways people can discuss issues WITHOUT vitriol.

I have had racist experiences in the past, and racist feelings and thoughts as well. I thank God I was raised to do my best to engage my mind, confront the issues, and move past hate. I think aikido has been a part of that for me...on a deeply personal level.

I'll give one example, and hope that the person I'm refering to will forgive me using him as the example. There's a gentleman in my dojo who has a Confederate license plate on his car. I have personally always found that symbol highly distastefull. A racist room mate in college (I say that for other reasons than the incident at hand) even hung a Confederate flag from my window just to get my goat in college. So I associate nothing positive with that symbol.

But to my dojo mate, it is a symbol of independence and the willingness to fight for your beliefs. Nothing more, nothing less. He is one of my best friends, I trust him implicitly on the mat, even in the most rigorous practice, and he knows and does work for my parents. I couldn't ask for a more faithfull friend.

My point is, somethings are not always as they might appear, good people can disagree about things that are really important to them, and this doesn't always require the letting of blood (figuratively or literaly).

I think I've rambled on long enough...more later.

Ron

Ron Tisdale
12-19-2003, 08:19 AM
What post are you talking about? I also would like to train with you one day as well. Let's see what's available after the new year starts!
Oh man, is this embarrasing! I gave credit to the wrong person! It was Asim Hanif who wrote the post I was refering to in my original quote. My appologies Asim! And thank YOU for the inspiration.

Ron :freaky: (must reduce cafine intake...)

AsimHanif
12-19-2003, 09:14 AM
No problem Ron. I just glad everyone is willing to talk about this. I do agree that this is very polite - an indication that there may be some discomfort about this.

funny thing - the other night I was talking to two members of my dojo about this issue. One is an influential member of my dojo and stated that he wanted me to do some demos with him in a particular AA area. I appreciated that he was quite honest in his intent to reach out to others. He also told me that I was the really the first person that he felt comfortable talking about race issues. Now that says a lot coming from someone with close to 30 years of experience in aikido.

My point is if we don't open up about this along all lines - race, gender, age, etc, it will continue to be an issue.

Craig - I didn't mean to convey that location was never an issue just not a major one. I'm sure I'm not the only who has made a committment to travel when necessary to find a good dojo. If you find a place you truly like and feel comfortable with, my guess is you will make the effort.

Ron Tisdale
12-19-2003, 10:28 AM
Thanks for your patience with me Asim!

One more thing...I do think the annonymous forum has a place for discussing issues where you don't want to identify a particular dojo or teacher. But in general I really see a problem with someone who calls themself a martial artist, but will not mark their words with their name. That just doesn't sit right with me. Just my opinion, which as we all know...ain't worth the price of tea in where ever [insert location of lowest tea price].

RT

AmyGilgan
12-27-2003, 04:57 PM
There was an interesting documentary about inner city martial arts on Freespeech TV (DishNetwork 9415) last month. I believe the film was called "Southside Warriors," but I am not certain. It focused on the African American community in the southside of Chicago. I wish I had more info about it.

Michael Karmon
12-28-2003, 05:15 AM
Hi,

1. Generaly speeking, minority and underprivileged groups will prefer boxing, basketball, baseball and other sports that may promise a swift horizontal mobility (don't I know fancy words). There is no fast fame and money in Aikido. Mike Tyson got there by the age of 19, Seteven Seagal practiced for 20 years in order to 'get there'.

2. When comming from a rough and violent neighbourhood you will go to what is percieved as the most effective and intimidating way. Aikido is not percieved to be as intimidating and effective as boxing.

Our dojo is very diverse, we have a VP of a software company and all the range of people white and collars, former taxi driver, unemployed, students etc. There is no corrolation between your standing in the dojo and your social position.

We also have Arab students which in the current political situation in Israel is a big thing. All students are treated with respect and we try very hard to keep non Aikido issues off the matt.

It is my believe that the martial arts specially Aikido are a way of commnicating between cultures and promoting positive connections between people of different origins and positions in life

Amelia Smith
12-29-2003, 06:38 AM
This is a really interesting thread. I was having a hard time thinking of any African American women in aikido, too, then I remembered Lorraine DiAnne. She's a 6th dan, trained with Chiba Sensei in Japan, and has a dojo in Springfield, MA. So there are a few, but not very many. .... Wow! Just looked at the dojo website and she's been appointed shihan! Huge congratulations!!!

I grew up in a fairly homogenously white and liberal community, which is to say that intellectually, I was brought up very anti-racist, but with little exposure to people who were racially different from myself. I think that practicing with a variety of people in aikido has helped me get over that last, lingering bit of difference-anxiety.

--Amelia

AsimHanif
12-29-2003, 01:05 PM
Michael K, I have tried to properly digest your comments regarding the preference of boxing, basketball, etc by minority/underprevileged groups as opposed to aikido. This seems to be a comparison of aikido to sports. It is also a comparison of materialism to self improvement. Another element of your comments I am having trouble with is that you are generalizing minorities. I think this is the primary reason aikido is having trouble infusing the dojo with diversity. If aikido is a Budo what does "fast fame and money" have to do with anything? Implicit in your comments are the notion that minorities and the underprivleged are not interested in a moral code or harmonious living. I'm an AA raised in Harlem and the Bronx and I didn't come to aikido or karate for that matter to learn how to fight. I was seeking something else, although at the time I wasn't sure what that was.

My point is how are we marketing aikido? I agree that different people will be interested in different aspects of aikido. But the marketing of aikido's effectiveness will ultimately be dependent upon the person introducting it to perspective students.

BTW- Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal practiced their respective arts/trades for very different reasons.

Micheal I am really glad you posted your comments and I hope I am not coming off as disrespectful. I value your honesty. I only hope that you have the opportunity to have discussions with women, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc to truly ascertain their wants and needs.

Amelia - thank you so much for that input. That's great to hear.

Morpheus
12-29-2003, 10:41 PM
I haven't started actually study yet, won't be starting until February. I was studying Jujutsu but there were only two days available for training per week and it was constantly being pushed aside to deal with personal responsiblities and work. The time that practice started didn't help either.

I'm not into the new African American description thing. African American is non-descript, if someone is from Nigeria and becomes a US citizen, they don't call themselves African American. By the same token, if Pik Botha came here and became a citizen, what would you call him? He's African isn't he? As a matter of fact, he is more African than anyone born here. I prefer to be called black or Jamaican or Black American (which I am both and the latter, 1st generation). But I digress.

In terms of a lack of blacks in martial arts in the inner city, Aikido wouldn't be a real consideration for most. The majority of Americans were really introduced to martial arts when Bruce Lee hit the scene, not Toshiro Mifune.

Our next influence (blacks in particular) was Jim Kelly. Was he doing Jujutsu? No. Iaijutsu? No. Kenjutsu? No. Aikido? Definitely not. He was doing karate. Fancy, impractical high kicks. Looking cool. Looking tough.

The early eighties, we had Sho Kosugi. Everyone wanted to be a ninja. This is what we were fed by the movie industry.

Look at the websites out there, we (and I mean Americans in general now) were shown these things and this is one reason why there are so few blacks or other people of color in Aikido and jujutsu, etc. There are higher numbers in the Gendai American systems because the old timers saw Prof. Powell and decided to cross train or study Sanuces Ryu.

This is also why you don't see as many non-asians doing Tai Chi. In America, it's about marketing. Aikido is seeing more people of color these days because of the marketing in Seagal Sensei's films. He made it cool to be studying Aikido.

My personal influence, is (this is a long one) my wife's, cousin's, brother-in-law, Sensei Luqman Abdul Hakeem in Morocco.

For those who don't find Aikido, it's because of the lack of marketing. I'm not saying, go out and put up these flashy commercial ads like Tiger Schulmann, but going out into the community is a step. PAL programs, things like that. Just my thoughts....'Nuff Said ;)

Michael Karmon
12-30-2003, 02:15 AM
Michael K, I have tried to properly digest your comments regarding the preference of boxing, basketball, etc by minority/underprevileged groups as opposed to aikido. This seems to be a comparison of aikido to sports. It is also a comparison of materialism to self improvement.

We get offended when being defiend as 'sport' rather then an ART. But to outsiders there is little difference between Aikido and the sproting MA's and to that perception I am refering

Another element of your comments I am having trouble with is that you are generalizing minorities. I think this is the primary reason aikido is having trouble infusing the dojo with diversity. If aikido is a Budo what does "fast fame and money" have to do with anything? Implicit in your comments are the notion that minorities and the underprivleged are not interested in a moral code or harmonious living. I'm an AA raised in Harlem and the Bronx and I didn't come to aikido or karate for that matter to learn how to fight. I was seeking something else, although at the time I wasn't sure what that was.

Never did I imagine that my remarks can be interpreted as me suggesting that striving towards self improvement has anything to do with race or money.

I believe Aikido to be extremly efficient but for someone uninformed, needing to deal with violence in school and on the street and needing to look 'macho', "Harmony" and "Belending" can sound like a pile of B-S, but "Kick, jab, punch kick" may sound more to the point.

But let us not be too PC, you will be hard pressed to find a white, upper-middle class, top ranking boxers. Is it that "white boys can't"? It is a socio-economic thing with much wider aspects.

My point is how are we marketing aikido? I agree that different people will be interested in different aspects of aikido. But the marketing of aikido's effectiveness will ultimately be dependent upon the person introducting it to perspective students.

I totaly aggree, marketing is the key word. The problem is, it takes a long time to persuade practicing Aikidoka that not using force is the best way. It will take a genious to convince non Aikidoka.

BTW- Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal practiced their respective arts/trades for very different reasons.

True, but if I am a hungry, talanted youth from the inner-city that can not afford a ticket to the beach, let alone Tokyo, who will be my role model?

How many children grow up wishing to be Michael Jordan and how many want to be Condollisa Rise?

It is the same all over the world.

Micheal I am really glad you posted your comments and I hope I am not coming off as disrespectful. I value your honesty. I only hope that you have the opportunity to have discussions with women, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc to truly ascertain their wants and needs.

Thank you for your kind words. I repeat myself, The color of your skin and your credit status has nothing to do with what kind of person you are and to where you aspire. For me, Aikido is a bridge of unifying people beyond trivial matters such as race, creed, gender, social status.

L. Camejo
12-30-2003, 11:57 AM
Interesting comments.

Coming from a Caribbean perspective, often I see that any difference in those who stick it out with Aikido and those who try it and move on or train till they can go out and kotegaeshi someone and then quit is more a matter of general education level instead of race per se.

Mostly, those who tend to stick with Aikido training in our dojo are engineers, doctors or other professionals, or have otherwise been folks who have trained in other MA and can appreciate Aikido principles from that perspective.

Being one who some might say have grown up in our Caribbean equivalent of "de ghetto", I have seen where the "moral code" of Aikido does not apppeal to the majority who seek the quick and (relatively) easy method of "destroy the enemy and his backup as quickly as possible". To tell some of these folks that destruction of the ego is a fundamental part of Aikido training results in being a major turnoff, since ego and pride (mostly gang-based) are the only things these folks DO place some value on, and therefore try to protect as best they can.

So, I would not exactly say that this is a racial thing, at least in our context, but more of an educational/economic thing, since these folks have never had the option of being exposed to these types of values/thought paradigms at a time when it may have done them some good. Of course the level and quality of one's education is greatly related to your income level in this case. So the lack or absence of "certain groups" in Aikido may not relate so much to one's race, but to its appeal to people, regardless of race, who may have much more pressing concerns, such as sheer survival on their mind.

Michael K. is correct in saying one's credit status has nothing to do with where you aspire to be, but unless one is aware of exactly what those choices may be, the obvious, immediate and obtainable often becomes the most popular choice.

Just 2 cents.

L.C.:ai::ki:

Ron Tisdale
12-31-2003, 09:02 AM
I'm not into the new African American description thing.
No need to be. I appreciate and understand why some have difficulty with it. I myself accept the use of Black, Afro-American, African American, Negro, Jerk...[cough, ok not the last one:)].
African American is non-descript, if someone is from Nigeria and becomes a US citizen, they don't call themselves African American. By the same token, if Pik Botha came here and became a citizen, what would you call him? He's African isn't he? As a matter of fact, he is more African than anyone born here.
Well, personally I find it very descriptive of my status. I have African ancestry, and it plays a prominant role in my psychological and sociological make up in a variety of ways. I am also an American citizen. As it happens, I also spent a year living in Africa, but that is not the real issue.

I do have friends that are from Nigeria and other African countries that live here in the US. They refer to themselves in a number of different ways. But there is a crucial link to the continent that they have that I can never have...they were (in most cases) born into a tightly woven specifc culture from the continent. But their condition does not negate mine.

As to Pik Botha, well...I have mixed feelings on that one. I'll defer to the South African gov. (current, not past). There was a reconciliation council, and a **LOT** of sins were forgiven. A lot of water under the bridge. In my opinion, my personal feelings about whites living in Africa, calling themselves African, doing despicable things to the people indiginous to the continent, and then cutting and running when the going got tough for them, are probably not worth voicing.

On the other hand, I personally know Kenyan citizens who happen to be white, that I most definately consider to be African. Go figure...life is full of contridictions.
I prefer to be called black or Jamaican or Black American (which I am both and the latter, 1st generation). But I digress.
Each man has the right to name himself. Welcome to the discussion! and thank you for your views.

Ron

kironin
12-31-2003, 11:38 AM
I

In terms of a lack of blacks in martial arts in the inner city, Aikido wouldn't be a real consideration for most. The majority of Americans were really introduced to martial arts when Bruce Lee hit the scene, not Toshiro Mifune.

Our next influence (blacks in particular) was Jim Kelly. Was he doing Jujutsu? No. Iaijutsu? No. Kenjutsu? No. Aikido? Definitely not. He was doing karate. Fancy, impractical high kicks. Looking cool. Looking tough.

The early eighties, we had Sho Kosugi. Everyone wanted to be a ninja. This is what we were fed by the movie industry.

...
Actually, a pretty good point.

When I consider that our club size is around 20 while the typical karate or tae kwon do school in the area has several hundred students. In a city of 3.5 million, the total number of aikido students in a 60 mile radius combined doesn't amount to more than one of the many large karate schools at best.

as far as general culture goes, we are not exactly on the radar screen. I can say this is definitely true in Texas.

but as I drive around the city I see Karate and Tae Kwon Do store fronts everywhere.

If I win the lottery, I'll be happy to blow thousands of dollars a month on advertising.

Otherwise, people of whatever racial backgrounds with reasons peculiar to themselves are just going to have to hunt us down. Most of our walkins find us by the website because we are the only aikido school in the particular area they live. The next closest one being at least 10 miles away.

So the question in my mind is there a difference in cities on the east and west coast with a greater density of dojos ? Perhaps it's still not enough to overcome Hollywood and the general cultural impression of martial arts.

Perhaps it's because aikido schools are less likely to offer kid's programs ?

as far as Aikido in Hollywood goes,

we have mutant ninja turtles,

pasty white boy Steven Seagal who runs kind of limply and tries to act like he can talk trash

(don't think so!), long haired white boy Lorezno Lamas I think on the Renegade TV show, and finally Philip Akin (5th dan Yoshinkan) being a trusted side kick and boxing gym owner on the Highlander TV show where no evidence of his aikido skills was ever displayed as far as I can recall.

an now Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.

Maybe Stan Pranin can get Laura Hilllenbrand insterested in writing a book on Morihei Ueshiba's life ?

Craig

Dan Rubin
12-31-2003, 03:00 PM
Of course, when wondering about dojo demographics, the student population should be compared to the population in the immediate area. For example, the concern shouldnít just be about how many African-American students are members (or walk through the door), but rather about how many students per 100,000 population nearby. When figuring it this way, in some places one or two African-American students may exceed the Caucasian representation in the dojo.

Once any student first enters the dojo, the social atmosphere has as much influence on the studentís retention as the art itself. Thus, the typical sole woman will be really self-conscious, as will the typical sole non-white ethnic minority. Of course, this is often true of many other sorts of clubs or, for that matter, neighborhoods. The more effort a dojo puts into making these individuals feel welcome, the more self-conscious some of them will become. And this is in addition to pressure from such studentsí peers, who may question his or her motives for joining such an organization. I would think that a Caucasian male who joins an otherwise all-female or all-minority dojo faces the same challenges.

In my opinion, America is not a racist country (although there are plenty of racists in it). But it certainly is a race-conscious country. Ironically, many of our efforts to reduce racism have made us even more race-conscious. It takes a confident individual to stick around long enough to overcome that (assuming that itís possible to overcome it).

No wonder some dojos that have tried to increase their minority representation have given up.

As for the art itself, if aikido is not as attractive to certain audiences as punch-kick martial arts, then perhaps demonstrations to those audiences should stress the non-fighting benefits of aikido. If aikido demonstrations canít compete with punch-kick demonstrations in the fighting category, perhaps we should not try to compete that way. Rather, we should put the burden on punch-kick schools to demonstrate how their art teaches one how to win without fighting.

Unfortunately, few people want to win without fighting. They want to win fights.

Dan Rubin

AsimHanif
12-31-2003, 08:22 PM
Dan - excellent points!!!

Instead of encouraging the so called fighting aspects of aikido I don't know why there is not as much emphasis on the spiritual aspect. I see a whole lot of churches and temples in the innner city and they have large congregations so it leads me to believe that there are people out there looking for something else. If you are blessed with a charismatic martial style then all the more better.

But again as Dan said - it's really about how we make others feel once they do enter our door.

Michael Karmon
01-01-2004, 01:52 AM
Instead of encouraging the so called fighting aspects of aikido I don't know why there is not as much emphasis on the spiritual aspect. .
I beg to differ on this point. If any, the relative lack of popularity comes from the perception of Aikido making you a wimp, push-over, hippie, geek with all that 'spiritual' mumbo-jumbo.

People want to learn how to fight, excersize well and have fun. 'Spiritual' is so un-cool and such a turn-off for so many people that it is a wonder we get any new students at all.

The traditional way was to teach newbees the budo as a craft. Do this in this fashion and then learn that. Only after the student has got to a given level of proficiency did the teacher introduse the ART part of the budo

Karate and TKD have also a sound Zen foudation and a strong spiritual aspect but they are correct by saing "first learn how to side-kick properly before we philosophize on it". We too should do the same and "Spiritual" ideas should be introduced on microscopic amounts until the student has reached Kyo 2/1.

From the 'Don King marketing and promotion school' point of view , I would give a demonstration under the title of "How to disarm, dislocate, dispatch and dismember multiple attackers the Aikido style" and then chalange anyone in the crowd for dual. This should be done in order to get attention and publicity and people in the door. O-Sensei had no problem demonstrating in a baseball stadium or chalanging other MA experts in order to promote his art.

Practice, perspiration and proficiency are the food of the spirit, talking is not.

aoerstroem
01-01-2004, 08:43 AM
(First of all, English is not my first language, so if I use terms that are incorrect or perhaps appear rude, I assure you that it is not intentional)

In Copenhagen, Denmark where I live the situation is similar.

Even though we dont have many people of African heritage, we do have a big amount of people of Arabian and Middle Eastern heritage.

The tendency here as far as I have seen is that Japanese martial arts, especially the "softer" and more philosophical ones, are mostly studied by "native" Danes (caucasian), whereas the people of Arabian heritage seem to prefer Wing Tsun, Tae Kwon Do, various Kung Fu and other "hard" arts.

Why this is the case I don't know, but there are of course exceptions. In our dojo we have a student with arabian heritage, and he seems to enjoy and respect the art just as much as the rest of us.

Josh Bisker
01-01-2004, 07:28 PM
Hiya,

I'm not sure if this is appropriately within the thread heading, but to throw in two cents...

I rarely meet other jews on the mat. I think that this relates to the kind of demographic inconsistency that you have been talking about here.

The abscence of jewish training partners not been a huge deal for the most part; i have never been a part of an insular jewish community so there's no kind of culture shock going on, but you know sometimes it would be comforting and welcoming to have that shared affiliation and understaning with other people in the dojo.

I don't think that it has to do with my location. Sure i train in the midwest (i know, a sweeping generalization and only somewhat true) but i have been in other dojos in other parts of the country and often feel like a member of a significantly marginalized cultural minority in Aikido. Other people had mentioned high-ranking African American instructors that have been role models for them, and certainly i have found a corollary for myself - David Goldberg Sensei and Guy Haskell Sensei are both big inspirations (Haskell sensei was actually a jewish studies professor at my college back in the day). This disparity has not been something that has disuaded me from training or from entering a dojo community, but there are times when it does make me feel uncomfortable.

Have other people faced this same feeling, of being the only jewish aikidist on the floor?

-josh

Qatana
01-01-2004, 08:45 PM
What is "white"?

I am female, of Russian/Persian/Jewish descent.Being Persian i consider myself ethnically Caucasian (of/from the Caucasus Mountain region),and i consider that to be more Asian than European, so i do not consider myself as "white" or "white" as Caucasian.

I have read that the term came into use because ethnic Caucasians( Persians, Armenians, Georgians in terms of "modern" nationality)were lighter skinned than ethnically Arabic, so one day an Arabic person saw a European person and made an assumption.

Sort of like assuming anyone Black to be African American.

I generally enter under "race"- human, and under ethnicity "other".

We have a total of four "Other" or mixed ethnicity & at least one other Jewish person in a dojo of 16 members, and in a formerly rural farming community...

Michael Karmon
01-04-2004, 12:33 AM
Hiya,

I rarely meet other jews on the mat.
You should joing our dojo, no shortage of Jews here :-)

We lit the Hanuka candles, prayers, songs and all, on the shomen and did a nice party after class.
...sometimes it would be comforting and welcoming to have that shared affiliation and understaning with other people in the dojo.
You do have a point here, joining a new place has allot to do with 'friend brings friend' and feeling comfortable socially before getting hooked on the Art itself.

AsimHanif
01-04-2004, 08:09 AM
Michael K, indeed you make some good points. When you say that "People want to learn how to fight, excersize well and have fun. 'Spiritual' is so un-cool and such a turn-off for so many people that it is a wonder we get any new students at all", of course this is true in many cases but in my travels not too much. I am wondering if this is an issue of place rather than race. The people I encounter in the inner cities of Philly, NYC, DC, etc actually are quite comfortable in their ability to fight. They have had many opportunities to "train" in a live environment. Let's be real - there are many people who would come right off the street and mop of many of the people wearing hakama today. The people I encounter are more interested in finding a place they can go to find a peaceful social atmosphere and peace within.

Also - "The traditional way was to teach newbees the budo as a craft. Do this in this fashion and then learn that. Only after the student has got to a given level of proficiency did the teacher introduse the ART part of the budo " - In all my years of training and researching various arts I have never come across this method, although it may very well exist. In my experience the ART part is never introduced as separate from budo. Practice becomes ART as a result of years of vigorous training. This is a process that no teacher can "introduce" to you. It is up to the practitioner to discover it on his/her own terms. And yes, some practice never becomes art.

So while I am aware that some may choose to emphasize one aspect of aikido (martial or spiritual for example), I personally feel that is not the most effective method to appeal to others outside of the present aikido community. In the inner cities there are more liquor stores, funeral homes, and churches than any other business. This tells me that there is a market for something that appeals to the inner most spaces of those who live there. To me aikido is the perfect tool for healing to give to those who would otherwise have crutches and bandages.

Is this a radical concept - no. Isn't this what O'Sensei had in mind after WWII to aid in the healing of his country? But once again, I go back to the premise that WE must make all people feel welcome and wanted when they appear at our dojo doors.

Ron Tisdale
01-05-2004, 09:53 AM
Josh, I used to train under Goldberg Sensei...he is fantastic! Definately a good role model. And I haven't been his only AA student either.

Jo, please don't take offense at the use of the word 'white'. And like I said, each person has the right to name themselves.

Ron

barry.clemons
04-29-2007, 05:28 AM
I found this thread referenced in another thread, referenced in another thread.

[QUOTE=Ron Tisdale;59979]On another thread, I found the following statement:

Some questions if you are part of a minority group:

Does it matter to you that you might stand out in aikido settings?

I suppose it's crossed my mind; I believe everyone has apprehensions toward stepping on the mat their first time, no matter what the reason. For minorities, it could be race. For women, it could be gender. For youth, it could be age. For the elderly, it could be age as well. I personally try not to let a thing such as race interfere with a decision to join a dojo. Luckily, before I ever stepped foot in an Aikido dojo I believed myself to be thoroughly informed on the art as far as its perceived martial and philosophical benefits. What I've found though is that I stand out more because of my enthusiam on the mat than because of my race. I couple that with this; I've found the dojo to be much like being in the military. There are no color lines or gender differences for me.

Does it matter to you that friends of the same ethinic group and family find it strange that you choose to practice a Japanese martial art?

I have no family that practice the martial arts, so this one is pretty simple for me; however I do have friends that train in martial arts other than Aikido who question my motives. I have one friend in particular who is a sport MMA'er (actually competed in 2 matches, both of which he's won). He's actually quite interested in what Aikido has taught me (martially) and has requested on numerous occasions that we train together so he can learn and apply tenkan/irimi footwork in his technique (I'm no teacher; I told him to pay a $$ mat fee and have an instructor teach him).

What do you feel your reception has been in the aikido community?

My reception has been warm and inviting.

Has your practice of aikido influenced your feelings about race in general?

No, I can't say that it has. The idealist in me comes out now. My mentality somewhat transcends race, especially with respect to the MA's. Whether it's boxing, wrestling, UFC, Karate or Aikido; it's you and the other person. Skill, proper technical execution, and training mixed with a little luck. Race has nothing to do with it for me.

Ron Tisdale
04-30-2007, 11:50 AM
Thanks for the responces, Barry!

Best,
Ron