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rachel
12-02-2004, 01:06 PM
Hi everyone,

This is just a random thought I was having last night. I was wondering what you'd all think of the topic. Do you think you it matters if your sensei is male or female? I mean, do you think it will make a difference in the way or what you learn? Do you feel that you have a preference to having either a male or female sensei?

I don't think I do, but maybe that's because I've always had two Aikido Sensei, one male and one female. Just curious what others think...
-Rachel

akiy
12-02-2004, 01:17 PM
I'd say that the way or what I learn differs between any two instructors -- regardless of their gender.

-- Jun

rachel
12-02-2004, 01:30 PM
A very good point. I just wonder if it varies more?

Don_Modesto
12-02-2004, 03:08 PM
No difference.

I've recoiled from some women teaching on the mat, but this was not because they were women but because they seemed to be compensating for their own perceived shortcomings with shortness and rudeness. I've stopped training with men for the same reason.

But if you offer a seminar with a confident veteran like Patty Saotome, Mary Heiny, or Pat Hendricks--I'm there.

Amassus
12-02-2004, 03:27 PM
My club has about three male teachers and two female teachers, I enjoy learning under all of them. I see them more as individuals rather than a 'man' or a 'woman'.
Each has their own style of teaching and strengths and weaknesses, gender doesn't seem to affect things much.
I hit the mat with the same intensity when thrown my any of them :)

Holly Nesbeitt
12-02-2004, 04:18 PM
Agree with most of the others here. The differences between my teachers seem to be purely personal, not gender-related.

If I've noticed any difference at all between men and women on the mat, it's that women may actually be a bit more fierce. This may be because they don't fully realize how powerful they are (whereas a 200 lb guy knows he's big and tough, and may be careful to be gentle accordingly). At a seminar a couple years back, Chiba sensei said something like "You're all too macho. Especially the women."

Janet Rosen
12-02-2004, 04:26 PM
I've trained with both high and not-so-high ranking instructors of both genders and haven't noticed any differences either in them as a group or in my own reactions to them.

Zoli Elo
12-03-2004, 03:20 AM
Generally no difference.

But on personal note, there has been several occasions were female practitioners have employed a double standard in regards to technique drills - expecting cooperation from uke when nage but not cooperating while being uke. Not giving what they wish to receive. I have yet to experience this double standard with a male practitioner.

Noncooperation is fine, the double standard is not.

Zoli Elo

dan guthrie
12-03-2004, 08:02 AM
I've been very happy with all of my senseis. The women seem to be more sensitive to blending and flowing. Rather than overcompensating for their smaller frames they truly seem, at least to me, to be using the appropriate advantages of Aikido. Our dojo cho makes this comment at least once a week:
"If you're bigger and stronger than your uke, this might work but . . ." then she shows her preferred way. Of course, the preferred way is expected at your kyu demonstration.

Maybe I'm being Captain Obvious??

Also, a large number of women in a dojo means a less intimidating atmosphere for new women. It's hard enough for some people to walk in for the first time. Imagine how difficult it is for a 100 lb woman to walk into a dojo where the smallest other person is nearly twice her size. Or for that matter how hard it is for an overweight woman to walk into any all-male dojo.
I think a female face at the front door is a big factor in increasing female membership.

Jordan Steele
12-03-2004, 08:49 AM
Some of the best instruction I've had is from female sensei's and also the best training. Women, in my opinion learn Aikido better and they naturally figure out how to use aiki instead of muscle making their techniques extremely powerful.

rachel
12-06-2004, 08:23 AM
Interesting everyone. Thanks.
:)

rachel
12-06-2004, 08:29 AM
Also, a large number of women in a dojo means a less intimidating atmosphere for new women.
Absolutely, a good point. My dojo used to have (as does Aikikai Hombu) an all womens class, mostly to encourage new female students to get comfortable with practice, but they of course were also able to participate in regular classes. :)

MaryKaye
12-06-2004, 09:55 AM
The two female sensei I've trained under are as different as night and day, about as different as any two aikidoka I've ever met. One is a technical perfectionist who thinks nothing of spending a month on the entry to a single throw (last time it was kata tori nikyo--wonder what it will be this month?) The other is a rough-and-tumble practical person who doesn't care much what the throw looks like as long as it works, and teaches sixteen throws a night.

I don't think I have a preference for gender of sensei, but I do appreciate it when there are senior women (whether teachers or students) in a dojo--it's encouraging to see other women up there. I find dojo with women beginners but no women seniors particularly daunting--I start wondering what happened to them, why they left....

I find that, while I admire my sensei greatly, the people I identify with most strongly are kyu ranks a few grades above me, and it's particularly helpful to have women there. The fourth dan sensei has wonderful aikido, but it's so far above me I have trouble seeing it as a goal. First kyus make mistakes I can actually see, which makes them seem more accessible.

Mary Kaye

pezalinski
12-07-2004, 02:03 PM
When I had only few years of experience in aikido, I might have had another opinion, but after more than 15 years, the only real difference I've been able to see aikido-wise between male and female aikido instructors is the sign on the door of the restroom they use. (Really.) The sensei I've trained longest under (c.6 years) was a woman, the others have been mostly men. And people are, well, people. If I had to generalize, I would have to say that the women were usually shorter than the men, with lower centers of gravity -- no more and no less effective at teaching or at demonstrating their skills at any given level on the basis of their gender.

However, I have observed that the politics of being female in a mostly-male environment can get a little uncomfortable, for some women -- and vice versa, for some men. (And even more strangely, the converse of both situations, as well). We always bring more onto the mat than just our persons. But we work with whatever we are presented with, on the mat and off, and blend with it as best we can.

senshincenter
12-07-2004, 02:50 PM
How about this then:

- In our training, do we really escape all of our personality, our personal history, our emotional content, or does our Aikido really remain "our" Aikido (i.e. it is always processed via these things)? If it is the latter, do we mean to suggest that our own gender identity and/or gender experience has not marked our personality, our personal history, or our emotional content?

Alternatively, perhaps the gap by which we can escape our gender identity and gender experience lies in our training.

- Is our training of such a nature that it never reaches the depth of our personality, our personal history, or our emotional content such that gender identity and gender experience can remain irrelevant?

I was wondering about these things as I was prompted by the thread to compare two different times in my training. When I first started, a husband and wife taught me Aikido. Between the two, of course, there were differences, but as others said, those differences could really be chalked up to stylistic differences that are not really part of a gender identity and/or experience, etc., or if they were it was really too subtle a difference in order to distinct one cause over another. However, now, in my own training, teaching others, gender identity and experience, as part of a personality, as part of a personal history, as part of an emotional content, seems to be popping up in a way that it can't always be passed off as "stylistic" preferences.

When I looked deeper, there is a difference between the two types of training, and this may be where the first difference is coming from. In the first case, training was mostly centered on waza training. I think in waza training, things can only get so deep, and hence things like gender experience/gender identity, etc., might not come to the surface at all. In the type of training we are practicing now, training is centered on acquiring spontaneity. Such training seems to go a bit deeper, I feel, and so a whole lot of stuff comes to the surface - gender experience and gender identity often being one of them. (Of course, this applies for men and women.)

So maybe not just who we are may play a role in how our Self comes through in our training, maybe what we are doing also plays a role.

rachel
12-08-2004, 11:16 AM
When I first started, a husband and wife taught me Aikido.

It has always been interesting to me how many husband and wife 'aiki teams' seem exist. It's great. :)

Dan Gould
12-08-2004, 01:04 PM
To be honest, I feel a little awkward training with women on the whole, because it's a physical thing, and I'm afraid of touching er, heh... I feel childish as hell saying this :p I'm old fashoined, ok? I'm really afraid of touching something I shouldn't as I'm grabbing her, or something.

Although I got over this to great effect at the start of aikijutsu. I kept punching to the side of a woman's head, afraid of hitting her (was the same with the guys, mind), and I was told by sensei "When she puts on that gi, she's not male or female, she's a martial artist" or words to that effect, along with "That's not a woman, it's just Angela", lol. Madem e realise, she's there to train too.

I wouldn't have a complaint about training under a female sensei, to me skill is more important. It's better ot have a skilled female sensei than, well, me :p

Sita Nanthavong
12-10-2004, 12:33 PM
Hi everyone,

This is just a random thought I was having last night. I was wondering what you'd all think of the topic. Do you think you it matters if your sensei is male or female? I mean, do you think it will make a difference in the way or what you learn? Do you feel that you have a preference to having either a male or female sensei?

I don't think I do, but maybe that's because I've always had two Aikido Sensei, one male and one female. Just curious what others think...
-Rachel


I've never had a female sensei. :( The closest I could ever get, at this point in time, would be to attend a seminar with someone in the Bay Area, like Patricia Hendricks, or perhaps Mary Heiney. It's a goal of mine, though, to actually do just that so I can see what a female instructor is like... being a female myself, it would be a great learning experience.

Joezer M.
12-10-2004, 09:32 PM
Difference between male and female sensei? Female senseis don't stop mid-technique to look at passing girls... my dojo being a university dojo and placed in a busy spot, we get a lot of.... distractions... :D And of course we share our training hall with a traditional dance group... more distractions... :D :D :D

Regards,
Joezer

rachel
12-30-2004, 12:51 PM
my dojo being a university dojo and placed in a busy spot, we get a lot of.... distractions... :D And of course we share our training hall with a traditional dance group... more distractions... :D :D :D

Regards,
Joezer

Sounds like a terrible situation... ;)

susan bosco
12-30-2004, 03:49 PM
This conversation is fascinating. I walked into an all male practice and was perfectly fine with it. In response to Dan's comment regarding the "overweight" woman in a room filled with men. I'm noticeably overweight and feel that part of my practice is overcoming any discomfort or self-consciousness (I would experience with men or women). Also, I find men and women equally intimidating depending upon their individual personalities. I'm new to Aikido but from the research I've done so far it seems that we need to move beyond and above the superficial and self-conscious to something far deeper in order to pracitce effectively. When I'm able to do that I feel empowered and confident.

Andres Moliver
12-30-2004, 09:06 PM
I've been to a couple of Mary Heiney seminars, and the teaching hasn't been different. :)

xuzen
12-30-2004, 10:48 PM
difference btw male and female sensei...

Female sensei in hakama are filled with grace, beauty and elegance. Sugae and spice and everything nice.

Male sensei in hakama are just drag queen wannabes.
(Bye guys, many top notch shihan will be after me after making this comment... I'll have to hide in some deep jungle in Borneo).

Hakama? I ain't need no stikin' hakama. (Not my fault, couldn't resist... It's Horisan's fault)

Boon.

Bill Danosky
01-02-2005, 05:21 PM
My awesome Sensei is a slender and graceful female. Our resident Shodan is a large, powerful man.

I feel I get different benefits from training with each of them, so I'm fortunate to have both.

spook show
01-02-2005, 06:28 PM
Male or Female sensei ? I never care much. I just want to take the class of someone who can teach me something. I`m a 1st kyu who is probably the lowest grade on my class. The women who do the class all know more than I do. One of them is a 5th dan who has her own class. (my teacher is a 6th dan) Whenever possible I go to her class as well. What difference can it make what sex a teacher is, if He or She is a good instructor you still have to benefit from the lesson

ali og
01-03-2005, 09:36 AM
I don't think I have a preference for gender of sensei, but I do appreciate it when there are senior women (whether teachers or students) in a dojo--it's encouraging to see other women up there. I find dojo with women beginners but no women seniors particularly daunting--I start wondering what happened to them, why they left....

I find that, while I admire my sensei greatly, the people I identify with most strongly are kyu ranks a few grades above me, and it's particularly helpful to have women there. The fourth dan sensei has wonderful aikido, but it's so far above me I have trouble seeing it as a goal. First kyus make mistakes I can actually see, which makes them seem more accessible.

Mary Kaye

Mary, this is a good point. My main MA teachers are large men. All are very good-natured and welcoming, so it's hard to feel intimidated as a student. My main aikido teachers are also aware of some of the physical differences between men and women in terms of teaching (there aren't really many, but our forward breakfalls were taught with thought to not landing on one's breasts...sounds funny, but it was important). So perhaps teacher gender is not all that crucial.

However, as Mary points out, having women at a range of ranks is helpful to everyone - men and women. For women, it may be less intimidating to try/stick with a class. Personally, I'm not intimidated walking into a mostly male dojo, but there are women who would be. When I first came to my dojo, there was a younger woman there who was unranked, though she'd been practicing for a year. Within a couple of months, she tested and holds a rokyu rank. I was glad she had tested because a) her skill level is good and b) it gave me a sense of the possible.

For men, I would suspect that it allows them to see women in a different light - to touch women in a very different way than they might otherwise. There is an intimacy of aikido because of the partner work that forces you to "feel" and "listen to" someone's center. At our dojo, we've discussed whether womens' centers are different than mens', so as much as everyone has a different center, perhaps there is a different energy women bring to their practice. I don't know - I'm throwing this out there.

Anyway, thanks for starting this thread, Rachel!

David Yap
01-03-2005, 10:29 AM
Male or Female sensei ? I never care much. I just want to take the class of someone who can teach me something...<snip>...What difference can it make what sex a teacher is, if He or She is a good instructor you still have to benefit from the lesson

Absolutely true. After all, Wing Chun kungfu was founded by a woman and so was White Crane (from which Goju-ryu karate derived).

Regards

David Y

rachel
01-21-2005, 06:48 AM
This conversation is fascinating. I walked into an all male practice and was perfectly fine with it. In response to Dan's comment regarding the "overweight" woman in a room filled with men. I'm noticeably overweight and feel that part of my practice is overcoming any discomfort or self-consciousness (I would experience with men or women). Also, I find men and women equally intimidating depending upon their individual personalities. I'm new to Aikido but from the research I've done so far it seems that we need to move beyond and above the superficial and self-conscious to something far deeper in order to pracitce effectively. When I'm able to do that I feel empowered and confident.

Actually Susan, I am quite big myself, and I also, like you don't feel intimidated by these situations. I don't think it's really because I'm bigger than average that I don't feel scared, I just think it's because I'm so used to Aikido class, and like situations. However, I imagine that some women DO feel more comfortable seeing other women in the environment.

bbleeker
01-21-2005, 08:59 AM
Hi Xu Wenfung,

What does the quote in your sig mean?
I think "iitai? iitai? iitakunai daiyo!" means "hurt? hurt? that doesn't hurt!" (right?), but what does "Yowaimushi dese ne!" mean?

cck
01-21-2005, 10:01 AM
How about this then:

...
However, now, in my own training, teaching others, gender identity and experience, as part of a personality, as part of a personal history, as part of an emotional content, seems to be popping up in a way that it can't always be passed off as "stylistic" preferences.

When I looked deeper, there is a difference between the two types of training, and this may be where the first difference is coming from. In the first case, training was mostly centered on waza training. I think in waza training, things can only get so deep, and hence things like gender experience/gender identity, etc., might not come to the surface at all. In the type of training we are practicing now, training is centered on acquiring spontaneity. Such training seems to go a bit deeper, I feel, and so a whole lot of stuff comes to the surface - gender experience and gender identity often being one of them. (Of course, this applies for men and women.)
.

David, how do you practice acquiring spontaneity? And how does gender experience and identity manifest itself in that training?

giriasis
01-22-2005, 05:23 PM
Actually Susan, I am quite big myself, and I also, like you don't feel intimidated by these situations. I don't think it's really because I'm bigger than average that I don't feel scared, I just think it's because I'm so used to Aikido class, and like situations. However, I imagine that some women DO feel more comfortable seeing other women in the environment.

I'm with Rachel, here, too. I never meant my comment to mean that all women feel intimidated by men, but some do. I never really felt intimiated by men either, but seeing other women at higher levels was just a little more comforting. It means that you could have someone to talk to after or before class like all they guys do. It means, you have someone to hang out with in the locker room. I like the comfort not because of intimidation but just out of a need to connect with other women as I tend to socialize with more women than men.

But sometimes it's fun being the only woman in class. :D ;) Because you can get to beat them up :uch: ;)

Any case, I don't think there is a big difference in teaching style due to gender but there is definently a difference due to someone's personality and life journey. For example, Lorraine DiAnne is very strong and powerful and Penny Bernath is very fluid and soft, but you have men like Harvey Konisberg who is soft or my sensei who's know for being "hard". Of course all these sensei's have great technique and powerful, but I have never seen their teaching style change because of their gender but just due to the nature of their aikido background, training, personalities, etc.

gi_grrl
01-26-2005, 09:22 PM
My main aikido teachers are also aware of some of the physical differences between men and women in terms of teaching (there aren't really many, but our forward breakfalls were taught with thought to not landing on one's breasts...sounds funny, but it was important).

Hmmm. I forgot to remind my class of (mostly) men to keep their legs apart during a sideways breakfall. It looked like it hurt :straightf

Fiona.

senshincenter
01-26-2005, 10:26 PM
Hi Camilla,

Thanks for replying – sorry in the delay in responding – I am afraid to admit I am not watching this thread anymore. However, I will check on it now, since you asked a directed question.

I guess my reasoning works like this: If Budo (which includes Aikido) requires that we invest our total being into our training, etc. (the rhetoric is quite commonly known), and/or if it requires that at some point we reconcile with our own karma (or personal history, if you will, which is part of our total being), then at some point our identity as it is personally experienced is going to have to come to the surface. This in turn will mean that we will all have to confront very real issues that are ours or partly ours because of the gender experience we are accruing as part of any given culture.

As an example, here is a common one in men – it nearly always comes out in spontaneity training (especially in my male students who are law enforcement agents). It is so common it even comes out in kihon waza training – just not to the same degree. In the States, generally speaking, ideas of masculinity, which males are generally geared toward experiencing, is very alien to Aikido’s Yin-based tactics, Aikido’s strategy of Path of Least Resistance, and even Aikido’s tactic of Clearing the Line of Attack. When a male deshi is placed in a spontaneous training environment with high enough intensity, he most often reverts to his habitual way of being – which thus includes cultural notions of masculinity. As a result, a male deshi within such a training environment will almost always attempt to stay on the Line of the Attack, push back against on-coming resistance, and judge what is “powerful” only by how much energy he is wasting rather than how much work is actually being accomplished by the smallest amount of energy spent. To be sure, it is easy to dismiss this stuff as simply “not being skilled,” but this is not wholly accurate. Moreover, we do not so easily solve this attachment to habitual ways of being by simply trying to become more skilled.

Often, the cultural history of person can be easily predicted and therefore stimulated by a different drill and/or a different intensity and this speaks to the fact that one is dealing with habitual ways of being – not purely empirical skills or lack thereof (unless we want to define “skillful” as reconciling with one’s habitual self – which I do). So too, it is not enough to say that we have seen female deshi do the same thing – though I am sure they have and often do. What I am referring too is an almost unconscious drive to be unable to do anything else once a situation has become spontaneously intense (so that habitual ways of being our brought to the surface). I guess the real measurement is not what they do wrong as much as how difficult it is for them to stop doing that wrong thing. It is a question of, “How deep must they go in their practical reflections in order to free themselves and thus become open to new options, or even new habits, etc.?” In my experience, I have never seen a female deshi struggle or struggle as much with dropping such inadequate tactics once the obviousness of their inadequacy is hitting them in the face (literally) during spontaneous training. Again, this is not to say that there are not such female deshi out there. I am sure there are. We are dealing here with general trends. And, to date, it is not a general trend for folks to grow up without experiencing gender and/or without having that experience be deeply intertwined with their own personal identity.

For more on how we do spontaneous training, please see our web site. I have a video clip of our beginner spontaneous drill (with a paragraph explaining things a bit), and there are several writings in all three sections on spontaneity and/or Shu-Ha-Ri as these things are understood at our dojo.

Hope I answered your question properly, thanks.
dmv