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George S. Ledyard
01-30-2005, 11:18 AM
I originally posted this as a blog on Aikido Journal and received some poitive feedback so I thought I'd place it here as well...

Martial arts have traditionally been the domain of the strong male. Despite the stories of mythic woman warriors who rode with the boys and fought alongside them as equals and even superiors, this was always the exception rather than the rule. Samurai women were taught to protect themselves and their families yet how many of us can name any of these fighting women? No, it’s pretty much a boys club and the few females who get let in are the ones able to play as the boys do.

There are probably more women doing Aikido on a percentage basis than any other martial art, although that would be just a guess, I have never seen figures on this. Despite their wide participation, which goes back to the early days in the 1930’s in Aikido’s development, women are notoriously absent from positions of prominence in Aikido. I know of no female instructors who have regularly taught at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo. In it’s hard to find any woman acting in the capacity of dojo cho in Japan, regardless of what organization one is referring to.

The contribution of the wives of the prominent instructors are sometimes alluded to when the Shihan recount their young days as uchideshi but then only in reference to their caretaking roles even though many of these wives trained as well. One almost never hears reference to women in terms of their skill on the mat.

Not until one leaves Japan does one encounter significant female presence in the ranks of those teaching the art. But even overseas, the leadership of virtually all Aikido organizations is almost entirely male. Woman may have significant responsibility, and in fact be indispensable to the various organizations, but their efforts are largely in support of the male leadership of these organizations.

I believe that Aikido should be different. I think that few would maintain that its raison d'etre is imparting fighting skills to the public yet we continuously use a performance standard which places, not just women, but the less athletic, and the elderly of both sexes at a disadvantage when compared with the young male practitioners of the art.

Recently a book on Aikido appeared in which the author, a senior Aikido practitioner, stated that any fourth kyu male in his dojo could take any woman in Aikido in a fight. The sheer lack of sensitivity it took to make such a statement tends to hide the fact that it also shows a complete misunderstanding of what Aikido is all about.

First of all, Aikido is not a combat art as normally taught. The techniques of our art are derived from a system which was taught to members of the samurai class and only make real sense when considered, not as a comprehensive empty-hand fighting system, but as part of a wider system which assumed that both the practitioner and his enemy were armed. When the equalizing effects of weaponry is removed as a factor, a distinct advantage is had by the student who is more physically powerful and can over power his adversary. This advantage exists until the opponent reaches a very high level of technical skill at which time attempts to use that type of physical power would no longer have any advantage but would rather be a detriment to the strong but not as skilled practitioner. If one were to look at Aikido from a true combat standpoint in which the practitioners were armed there would be a great equalizing factor between men and women and pure physical power would be secondary to smooth and quick movement and an understanding of openings.

Since normal practice of Aikido is done empty handed (unless one is doing actual weapons training), a distinct advantage is had by those of larger stature and more aggressive disposition in terms of overcoming their partners. The problem here is, of course, that Aikido isn’t primarily about overcoming one's partner. Masakatsu Agatsu is the term the Founder used to describe the point of Aikido training. "True Victory is Self Victory" is clearly not about how to defeat some outside enemy but rather it’s about dealing with our own internal demons. When O-Sensei said Aikido is the True Budo, he didn’t mean that Aikido was the most bad-assed fighting system. He meant that Aikido was, in his mind, the fullest expression of the aspect of Budo which teaches us how to live fully, to see ourselves as caretakers rather than destroyers.

The Dan system was originally set up in an attempt to assure that a certain quality level was maintained in the art. The real problem with this was that the system tended to focus on only one set of criteria, the technical, martial side of the art has been greatly favored over other factors and not to the overall benefit of the art. We are all familiar, I am sure with various high-level teachers who, while having a certain relatively high level of technical expertise and martial ferocity in no way embody the basic values which we would like to incorporate into our lives. Just as in the case of measuring intelligence in which the focus on the IQ has given way to a recognition that there are actually multiple types of intelligence and that a given individual could excel in one and be quite ordinary in another, our Aikido hierarchy needs to better reflect the different contributions one can make in an art which has so many facets.

I met a woman just recently who had started Aikido well after her fiftieth birthday. She has now been training for well over ten years and feels that Aikido has changed her life. In an Aikido world which only values strength of technique and difficult ukemi this person has no real status. Yet her age, while making it difficult to train as physically as the young folks do, gives such a depth to her practice that she is in a position to address in a meaningful way all sort of folks for whom instruction from someone like myself would have less relevance.

There are all sorts of Aikido teachers out there who are quite capable of going toe to toe with some hypothetical aggressor but who lack the ability to speak in any meaningful way to the hearts of a group of students whose needs don’t really encompass daily requirements for self defense techniques. There are a quite large and growing number of teachers who, while not being terribly interested in the martial application side of the art, are taking technique into whole new realms of exploration and can provide great insight into the connection between physical technique and the spiritual side of the practice. Many of these teachers are female instructors who have run dojos for years and have a tremendous depth of teaching experience, often bringing students into the art who would never have been interested in training in the more macho world of traditional martial arts including much Aikido.

This is not to say that there aren’t women who have successfully gone toe to toe with the men in their training and succeeded. Virginia Mahew, Pat Hendricks, Mary Heiny, Lorraine Dianne, Patty Saotome, etc. all managed to get ahead in the male dominated hierarchy of Aikido. But this shouldn’t be how we measure success. Women should not have to measure their worth according to their ability to be "like the guys." To insist on this is to place only secondary emphasis on the contributions which they make well in excess of what their male counter parts often make.

It has been my experience that women are generally more interested in the social/relational aspects of the art than in the martial. The community bond between dojo members is often created more through the efforts of a group of female students within a dojo than by those of the men. It has been my experience that the women within a dojo are far better at nurturing students who are emotionally damaged or are physically less confident.

In the absence of a different way of recognizing the wide-ranging nature of accomplishments and contributions, the Dan system should be administered in such a way that equal recognition is given to those that are contributing to the growth of the art in any such substantial way. The female instructors who have well over thirty years of experience in both training and teaching but who still find themselves down a rank or two below their equally experienced male counter parts should be brought up to parity. There should be more female instructors on the seminar circuit. The high-level teachers should go out of their way to include senior females as well as males as ukes. It makes a strong and very public statement about the support they can expect from their organizations.

No more should we encounter the dojo which places the male students at the top of the technical and hierarchical heap while the women, all ranked in the second tier, do all of the organizational and administrative work thereby actually keeping the school going for the men. No more should we recognize the accomplishments of women only to the extent that they resemble those of the men but also for the unique contributions they can make which perhaps most of the men can’t or won’t.

Aikido must be inclusive to accomplish what the Founder saw as its essential mission of bringing people together. People may have exceptional talents teaching children, they may be exceptionally nurturing to those of us who have been damaged in various ways. We will find those individuals who have great insight into the spiritual side of the art and they may not be the ones who are best able to show how to handle a roundhouse kick to the head. Instructors should make it a priority to create a new generation of instructors both male and female, young and old, who are empowered to make their own explorations of what Aikido can become and our organizations should support these teachers in following their visions. It is only by doing this that Aikido can grow in such a way that it is both inclusive and has the elements which a widely divergent group of practitioners requires.

SeiserL
01-30-2005, 11:26 AM
Couldn't agree more with your thoughts posted on the Aikido Journal site or here on Aiki-Web. My deepest compliments and appreciation.

Janet Rosen
01-30-2005, 12:44 PM
George, thank you for a wonderful and thought provoking essay. A couple of thoughts on first reading:
I would think that many of the things you write would equally pertain to valuing what the older male beginner brings to the art.
"No more should we encounter the dojo which places the male students at the top of the technical and hierarchical heap while the women, all ranked in the second tier, do all of the organizational and administrative work thereby actually keeping the school going for the men." This should be posted on bulletin boards, not just in aikido dojos, but in many places people congregate to work and play together!

malsmith
01-30-2005, 01:44 PM
that was an amazing article! i totally agree with all of it!!!

George S. Ledyard
01-30-2005, 01:59 PM
George, thank you for a wonderful and thought provoking essay. A couple of thoughts on first reading:
I would think that many of the things you write would equally pertain to valuing what the older male beginner brings to the art.
"No more should we encounter the dojo which places the male students at the top of the technical and hierarchical heap while the women, all ranked in the second tier, do all of the organizational and administrative work thereby actually keeping the school going for the men." This should be posted on bulletin boards, not just in aikido dojos, but in many places people congregate to work and play together!
Hi Janet,
I certainly meant to include men when I said "and everybody else". There is a great contribution to be made by everyone, not just the young, athletic, and tough young males.

From the standpoint of empowerment one would like to see everyone attain all that they are capable of. But it's a recognition that the methods may need to be different that is important for the teachers. I made the mistake for many years of thinking that simply training the women exactly as I did the men was the answer. But I have seen that this doesn't work for the avarega e female student. The ones that hung in there have their own dojos now but the numbers who stayed were always small. It's clear to me now that I can make the training far more accessible and in the long run turn out far more strong female students if I pay attention to the different reuirements which men and women have. This should also hold true for older students and students of smaller stature etc. Everyone needs to be brought along in ways which support their own requirements. Not just using a cookie cutter approach which worked with small groups of exceptionally tough males in Japan. Frankly, looking at how far many Aikido teachers seem to be from what I believe O-Sensei had in mind for his art, the old way of training may not have really worked at all.

giriasis
01-30-2005, 03:03 PM
Everyone needs to be brought along in ways which support their own requirements. Not just using a cookie cutter approach which worked with small groups of exceptionally tough males in Japan.

Ledyard Sensei,

I'm glad your addressing this issue as it is very important to me. But the quote above is key. I like to be treated according to my own individualities and I believe one can easily as much pigeon hole people into "train women like this and train men like that" as easily it has in the past as "train young Japanese men like this." I made a rather lenghty response over in AikidoJournal http://aikidojournal.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6752 I won't repeat it here, but I have questions, is the answer really changing the ranking structure or is it to truely delve within our own psyches' as well? For the most part the problems I have faced are not really a result of "gender disparities" but dealing with jerks in general. I am well aware of the differences at least organizationally, but how much of that difference is really related to a conflict of cultures rather than just gender bias in general? Because for the most part my experience is quite similar to the man's experience?

Qatana
01-30-2005, 09:48 PM
[we continuously use a performance standard which places, not just women, but the less athletic, and the elderly of both sexes at a disadvantage when compared with the young male]

And how is this statement exclusively about aikido? It seems to be the pervasive attitude on most of this planet. About everything.

Cmon, look at what women have acheived in the past hundred years as compared to all of history before that. Granted that women have accomplished far more than the average (male) published historian can say, at least now we are being recognised by, and are writing our own history.

I always hear that Change Takes Time. The more we support and encourage Change, in whatever society or community we refer to, the quicker it will come.

George S. Ledyard
01-30-2005, 10:44 PM
I always hear that Change Takes Time. The more we support and encourage Change, in whatever society or community we refer to, the quicker it will come.

Hi Jo,
I couldn't agree more. But the key to change sooner rather than later is for those who have the power to create change to work for it. For instance I am one of the beneficiaries of the system as it has been. I have rank , certain status within my organization, and two forums for my views (Aiki Web and Aikido Journal). Plus I have my own students for whom I am responsible. I see it as part of the way in which I repay my teachers for all I have received for me to try to leave Aikido better than when I found it. Some of that is by contributing my own take on technique and how to teach it. But another part is by trying to create a more functional Aikido society than the one we first encountered thirty years ago.

George S. Ledyard
01-30-2005, 11:00 PM
Ellis Amdur Sensei was kind enough to steer me towards Yoshiko Shindo Sensei, 6th Dan, who has a dojo in Tokyo and I looked up Miyako Fujitani, 6th Dan, whose dojo is in Osaka using the dojo search.

It would be interesting to see how many other female teachers have schools in Japan. It would be great to have a list...

ruthmc
01-31-2005, 03:36 AM
THANK YOU for writing this article - I'm so glad that you are happy to stand up and say what many of us feel - that Aikido should be about many things, not just how to do technique harder!

Regrettably it has been my experience that the young macho male attitude is still very prevalent, even in dojo where the chief instructor is a strong supporter of women in Aikido. These young men may be able to throw each other around very hard, but they can't teach anybody anything. They are poor training partners, as their measures of success are solely based on their own selfish goals. A large part of Aikido is helping others, and these guys just don't get that.

Recently a book on Aikido appeared in which the author, a senior Aikido practitioner, stated that any fourth kyu male in his dojo could take any woman in Aikido in a fight. The sheer lack of sensitivity it took to make such a statement tends to hide the fact that it also shows a complete misunderstanding of what Aikido is all about.
Can you tell me who the author is, and the name of the book? PM me if you'd rather not say on the forum!

Thanks again,

Ruth

skyetide
01-31-2005, 07:52 AM
Very interesting! Thank you for bringing up this subject.

I agree on many points, but I worry about “train women like this and train men like that” as Anne Marie said. Each individual is different…by way of personality, body structure, motivation, psychology, etc. I am attracted to the idea of harmony of mind and body. I am also interested in the martial aspect of the ability to avoid violence or protect if I have to. Another man or woman might be interested in Aikido for different reasons. I would want all aspects available to me when training.

I think the lack of women recognized in Aikido must have to do with cultural and historical traditions. I wonder what O’Sensei’s philosophy was on this. I remember seeing film footage of women ukes working with him. Hmm. Now I wonder what happened to them? And, of course, it is not just in Aikido that women have been excluded. An example close to me is the history of women in painting. As you said George, regarding women samurai…how many women renaissance painters can you name? They existed. It really hasn’t been until the early to mid 1900s that we see the O’keeffes and Kahlos being given the spotlight. That wasn’t long ago. Similarly, it is amazing for me to think that it was only just in my grandmother’s lifetime that women won the right to vote in the U.S. As in any minority situation, I think as more women break through the ranks, young women will see themselves reflected in the Aikido image. Then Aikido becomes a more realistic and attractive option. A young girl or a woman can say YES! that CAN be ME! But I think that it will take not only women breaking through the ranks but also taking positions of authority in organizations. Those, I imagine are few and far between.

Cheers, and many thanks to the women pioneers in Aikido who are blazing the trail!

senshincenter
01-31-2005, 08:35 AM
Thanks for writing the article - very interesting and very timely I think.

Granting that one actually wants to keep the dan grading system as part of their Aikido training (which I don't), and being quite accepting that discrimination against women goes much deeper than such a system, if one wants to address these abuses across the board, then isn't the flip-side of all of this NOT GRADING/PROMOTING FOLKS who can only demonstrate physical prowess in the technical application of forms under highly artificial and/or controlled environments?

Though we are an independent dojo, we make use of a grading system, however that grading system only goes up to shodan. The system is used primarily to show folks what they don't have - rather than what they do have. Personally, I can see no other reason for having it.

Someone that can only demonstrate physical prowess in the ideal phases of the art can at best maybe be only reach sankyu or nikyu. In our system, you can't even be considered for nikyu if you don't participate fully in things like zazen, prayer, etc., and fully demonstrate at least a will to developing a nurturing and caring nature to those inside and outside of the dojo.

People can do whatever kind of aikido they would like, but the institution of the dojo has its own position on what aikido is and is not and what it should and should not be. Part of that position is that technical skill in ideal phases ain't worth crap. A person can train how they want, when they want, for how long they want, and they will always be welcome, always be a part of the dojo, but the dojo will never see anyone that gets stuck in the techniques, stuck in the trivia of aikido, as moving beyond an immature practice. The same, however, goes for folks that cannot demonstrate this physical prowess. While a developing mature spirit may make them eligible for ranks like nikyu and perhaps even ikkyu, the absence of such physical proficiency would prevent the dojo from recognizing them as shodan. Underneath all of this, it goes without question that folks should all be respected and treated decently for how they are opting to relate to their own practice. It is understood that there own practice is indeed a meaningful part of their lives and of their self-identity (at whatever level that may be). So it is understood that their contribution to the dojo is alway a very real and vital one.

I've started this system, rejecting rank entirely for myself, precisely because of things that are in the subtext of your article. It is my personal position, that at some moment, when Aikido reaches a deep enough place in one's life, such institutional frameworks have to come under enough scrutiny that they may actually be rejected by the individual or at least totally revamped. In some very real ways, the institution is precisely that thing that prevents all of us from going deeper in our practice. I think that is one reason why you always see some very real protests against institutions whenever you see some very real and potent spiritual systems develop - throughout human history. It is the nature of the two beasts - they are antagonistic to each other. Whereas the valid spiritual system addresses what is most real in human beings, the institution thrives on what is the most unreal in human beings.

Roban
01-31-2005, 11:20 AM
Very interesting article. All I can say is that my sensei is a very petite lady with over 30 years' experience in Aikido (7th Dan) and as far as I am concerned, she has demonstrated great strength in her approach to teaching, both in technique and in mental focus. She is not strong physically but she can flatten me quite easily because she IS so focused.

I am simply very impressed by her whole approach and am enjoying learning from her immensely.

Rob

George S. Ledyard
01-31-2005, 12:41 PM
Ellis Amdur Sensei was kind enough to steer me towards Yoshiko Shindo Sensei, 6th Dan, who has a dojo in Tokyo and I looked up Miyako Fujitani, 6th Dan, whose dojo is in Osaka using the dojo search.

It would be interesting to see how many other female teachers have schools in Japan. It would be great to have a list...

Steve Miranda was kind enough to write me about Chizuko Matsu who is Rokudan under Terada Sensei in Yokosuka. This is within the Yoshinkan organization.

George S. Ledyard
01-31-2005, 12:43 PM
Very interesting article. All I can say is that my sensei is a very petite lady with over 30 years' experience in Aikido (7th Dan) and as far as I am concerned, she has demonstrated great strength in her approach to teaching, both in technique and in mental focus. She is not strong physically but she can flatten me quite easily because she IS so focused.

I am simply very impressed by her whole approach and am enjoying learning from her immensely.

Rob

A while back we were making a list of the senior teachers in Aikido world wide and I don't think I remeber a female Seventh Dan where you are. Could you post her name so I can make sure she is on my list?
Thanks.

akiy
01-31-2005, 12:50 PM
If I remember correctly, Ah Loi Lee sensei who trained under Tomiki sensei is 7th dan.

Hmm... This sort of list could be kept in the AikiWiki...

http://www.aikiweb.com/wiki/people/home

-- Jun

akiy
01-31-2005, 12:57 PM
With George's permission, I have made the top post in this thread into a column here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2005_01.html

-- Jun

jonreading
01-31-2005, 12:57 PM
Twice recently has this issue come up. I find it very interesting and educational. I respect Ledyard Sensei very much because he tends to have the same feelings towards many things as I. He is right, we should protect Aikido and make it better for those that come after us. That may mean weeding out problem students, that may mean weeding out bad instructors, that may mean weeding out poor dojo, but it can also mean improving how Aikido is passed on, and to whom it is passed on. Pretty tough to change the staus quo though...

I always start with "What is Aikido to the dojo you train in?" In my dojo, aikido is a martial art; I learn with greater emphasis on the principles of combat and training. Some dojos are not as physical, and create a greater sense of the budo of Aikido. When I interview prospects that I see are less interested in the physical aspects of aikido, I send to to a dojo that can satisfy that need. When I interview prospects that I see are more interested in the physical aspects of combat, I send them to a judo dojo or karate dojo that can satisfy that need. My job is to give students the best aikido for them, and if I can't do it I will find someone that can.

But that only addresses half the problem. We still have to improve how we pass Aikido on. I look at Patty Saotome Sensei as a great example of a solid martial artist that can demonstrate a wide range of appeal in aikido; it also happens that she is a women. I have seen some high ranking instructors that can't pull off this demonstration; they happen to be men and women. I think we need to continue to push a better instructional system to encourage and prepare all students, should they choose to become more involved in aikido oragnizations. Today's pioneers need to prepare towmorrow's leaders...

There is a swedish golfer that is a major tournament winner. This golfer is intimidating, inspiring and photogenic - a great catch for the press. This golfer is very knowledgeable about the sport and can be found in major golf magazines instructing better methods to drive, putt, chip, and play. This golfer is simply an all-around great role model that has invigorated golf. In 2003, this golfer missed the men's PGA Tour final cut by only four strokes. Her name? Annika Sörenstam.

Mary Eastland
01-31-2005, 02:41 PM
Thank you for an interesting article.

We are an independant orginazation with a high percentage of women. 80%. We used to belong to an organization where sexism and objectifacation (sp?) of women was commen. Women were regurlarly rejected for uke during testing for their own "protection". When my teacher announced we were leaving the oganization we lost three men.....the women were all estatic that we would no longer be going to camps.

Our new orginazation is very respectful of the indivudual. We believe anyone can train....with respect and patience.

Mary Eastland
Berkshire Hills Aikido

E.D. Gordon
01-31-2005, 03:17 PM
If I remember correctly, Ah Loi Lee sensei who trained under Tomiki sensei is 7th dan.
-- Jun

In my language ignorance, I could go to this person's seminars and never know the difference.

This is the way it should be.
Women in budo should be a non-event. I will consider us "there" when it becomes so.

Until then, let me share with you an event I was thrilled to participate in, even in absentia, up in Canada:

http://www.ejmas.com/proceedings/GSJSA03klensintro.htm

At about 70 centimeters short of two meters and slightly over 70 kgs, I'm the same size, and (due to manual labor, disposition, and sheer tenacity) very close to as strong as, the average male.

I just have more options.

Should I be disappointed, that it takes a prominent male teacher to bring the subject of Invisible Women up?

I am.

What the hell are we doing, as female budoka?
What more can we do?
What helps us survive and evolve?
How can instructors cultivate female budoka, objectively?

I don't mind not being "marketed" that way lies ruin, but where is the common-sense commentary? I mean, besides "The Mirror" here on Aikiweb (waves to Janet et al).

E.D. Gordon
(first beer's on me, George, next time you're in Bavaria :)

Janet Rosen
01-31-2005, 05:45 PM
What the hell are we doing, as female budoka?
Training?
Setting as good example as I can.
Balancing training with everything else that is equally (or more) important in my life (which is another way women, esp older women, are often very different from young men (and isn't it telling that some of the very high ranking exemplary American women instructors early on/when fairly young picked up and spent time in Japan?)


What more can we do?
What helps us survive and evolve?
How can instructors cultivate female budoka, objectively?
)
I'm doing what I can. I take responsibility for my survival and evolution. I would like instructors who are sensitive to some of the issues I bring to the mat (the knee, general aging) but frankly don't feel I need to be "cultivated" on account of being female. Just not have my femaleness count as a negative in anybody's eyes. And have me AS AN INDIVIDUAL taken into account.
Every dojo I"ve been a member of called women up for ukemi and women who train regularly are able to advance as quickly as men who train regularly.

Don_Modesto
01-31-2005, 07:18 PM
Can you tell me who the author is, and the name of the book? PM me if you'd rather not say on the forum!

Me, too.

YOROSHIKU.

SteveTrinkle
01-31-2005, 11:33 PM
I'd just like to mention my teacher, Lia Suzuki Sensei,(5th dan, Aikikai). Nine of her 25 years or so of training were in Japan with Takeda Yoshinobu Shihan. Her main dojo is in Santa Barbara, CA. Her skill and dedication to aikido are inspiring to me. Her energy seems boundless. I know very few men who can keep up with her in training.

Roban
02-01-2005, 05:46 AM
A while back we were making a list of the senior teachers in Aikido world wide and I don't think I remeber a female Seventh Dan where you are. Could you post her name so I can make sure she is on my list?
Thanks.

My sensei is Eve Aitkenhead, who runs the Glasgow Ki Aikido Club - link in my signature.

Rob

George S. Ledyard
02-01-2005, 11:59 AM
My sensei is Eve Aitkenhead, who runs the Glasgow Ki Aikido Club - link in my signature.

Rob

Thanks! I have added her name to my list of teahers world wide who are 7th Dan and up. I must say it's a big deal for anyone to get that highly ranked, I would think your website would have a bit more about her. I had to dig before I found her name in there..
- George

Roban
02-02-2005, 03:14 AM
Hey, she's very modest :) But you are correct, we should have a biog for her - I'll mention that to her at the next training session. Thanks for your comments.

Rob

Erin Kelly
02-03-2005, 07:46 AM
Thank You!

giriasis
02-04-2005, 02:43 PM
Should I be disappointed, that it takes a prominent male teacher to bring the subject of Invisible Women up?

I am.


I am, too. But not surprised as it took Nixon to go to China. In other words if a liberal went to China they would have labled him a 'communist', but not a diehard conservative like Nixon.

The same thing, here. If a woman spoke up on these boards with the same post, she either would have been ignored at best or her opinion derided as "reactionary".

Just look at the "warm" reception of the announcement of the Women In Aikido video got. A couple of jerks got on without seeing the video and decided that it wasn't needed or called for. One other man watched it and gave it a very lukewarm review. It was an excellent video, but many seemed to have ignored it. Put a man's name behind it and voila! instant agreement. (sorry for my sarcasm folks).


What the hell are we doing, as female budoka?
What more can we do?

Other than train and continue to train and continue to break down barriers by our mere presence. Other than that, I started my bulletin board (link in my sig) Women in Aikido. After about 6 months, I was going to delete it do to inactivity then women started to join thanking me for starting this board. Now, we have over 125 members.

What helps us survive and evolve?
By never giving up no matter what is said. It also means speaking up when required, even when doing so would not be popular. Also, just being there when someone (male or female) needs the support helps a lot.

How can instructors cultivate female budoka, objectively?
By being objective and subjective to their individual needs. I'm afraid by focusing training on someone's feminity or gender will just turn into patronizing mush such as being afraid to throw me because I'm female or only teaching me the "soft-way" of doing techniques.

I don't mind not being "marketed" that way lies ruin, but where is the common-sense commentary? I mean, besides "The Mirror" here on Aikiweb (waves to Janet et al).

Come check out Women in Aikido (click the link below.)

Ron Tisdale
02-04-2005, 03:12 PM
Without wanting to sound patronizing, I had an excellent training session last night, mostly due to being able to train with one of the few 3rd dan women in our dojo. I remarked to her after practice, that she was still helping me with the same thing I had trouble with in a class of her's six years ago (pivoting to a pin after applying nikajo). :)

This certainly isn't true across the board, but I'd have to say some of my best training has been with partners who happened to be female. Something about the nature of the interation that is often different. I've even known couples who train and teach together, and I wouldn't train with the man to save my life, but the woman would be high on the list.

I guess it still sounds patronizing after all...but anyway, thanks for training with us apes, and occationally actually getting something through our thick skulls... :)
Ron

John Boswell
02-04-2005, 04:23 PM
Personally, I KNOW women in aikido (but also sports in general) hold great value. When I have had the opportunity to train with a woman, I find it disarming. Growing up "old school" in west Texas, women were to be taken care of and protected, not competed against.

Facing off with a nidan in TKD, a woman weighting less than half my own weight... I can't help but enjoy the fact that her skills in martial arts are what is throwing me around like a ragdoll! And it is a lesson big guys like me need to learn to keep us honest (humble ;) ).

But just yesturday, I was commenting on another thread how Patricia Hendricks Sensei is a 6th dan and with every new thing I learn about her... I can't help but believe she should be at LEAST 7th Dan. Granted, Aikikai doesn't teach weapons specifically (I think?) but she was the FIRST PERSON, male or female, to be awarded recognition from Saito Shihan for her skills and ability in weapons work. That's gotta be saying something...

Okay, I'm rambling so I'll go. Keep going ladies and give 'em hell! Keep us all honest and on our toes. :D

ruthmc
02-05-2005, 03:45 AM
What the hell are we doing, as female budoka?
What more can we do?
What helps us survive and evolve?
How can instructors cultivate female budoka, objectively?
Great questions Emily :)

As a female, all I can do is to keep training. I will not give up. I have trained with men who believed that women should not be in the dojo - this just made me even more determined to continue!

What we can do is to encourage other women to train. Some women like to be the only female in the dojo, and discourage other women (the perceived competition) from training there. This attitude is despicable and ruinous, and incredibly short-sighted. Please don't do it ladies.

What helps us to survive and evolve is the support and encouragement of other good people, male and female. And a certain degree of dogged determination ;)

Instructors have to make their dojo accessible for women. They have to care about us and our progress, and make sure that nobody tries to discourage us or sideline us. A dojo led this way will have a healthy population of male and female students who are respectful to each other and train well.

Ruth

genkimono
02-09-2005, 12:40 PM
I would just like to say that I train at a number of Dojo's in and around London with both Male and Female instructors. I work just as hard physically and mentally as any of the men, and I am treated and graded just the same, based on my own merits.

I am possibly missing the point of your message (and am going through it again), but I do not feel like I'm treated differently because I am a woman, or that there is any need for attitudes towards us to change.

Mark Freeman
02-09-2005, 06:46 PM
Hi, I know Rob's teacher as I practice in the same organisation, albeit at the other end of our crowded island. Firstly can I say that I really enjoyed your article, and that I agree with the contents. I'd like to just add that I'm very new to the Aikiweb Forum ( first posting! ). So a bow as I enter the on-line world of discussion. Secondly, I am happy to report to you that much of what you call for in your article I find in the organisation that Rob and I practice in. Although the gender percentages in the organisation may not be exactly 50/50 there seems to be no advantage to being male of female when it comes to achieving high rank. So I am not that surprised that there is not more about Sensei Aitkinhead on the website, as her role in Aikido is as a teacher, the fact that she is a woman seems to me to be irrelevant.

More power to the women I say, I've enjoyed every practice I've had with both men and women young and old. One of the most satisfying aspects of Aikido is that it can be practiced by all, it is available to everyone. When practicing non dissension, physical size, strength and gender should cease to be relevant. An area where women seem to have a slight advantage in learning is that unlike some of the men, they know using strength is just not an option, so they often explore the avenues of blending and mental focus being offered to them, somewhat sooner than their male counterparts.

I guess I will now try to figure out which button to push to post this reply

Mark

E.D. Gordon
02-10-2005, 09:32 AM
Training?
Setting as good example as I can.


It's the best we can do.


Balancing training with everything else that is equally (or more) important in my life (which is another way women, esp older women, are often very different from young men (and isn't it telling that some of the very high ranking exemplary American women instructors early on/when fairly young picked up and spent time in Japan?)


I think it's harder for women to "break off" their lives to go do something their mate does not do. Granted, I feel upset every time I hear of a mate sabotaging the growth of their partner (intentional or not). Most of the time, though, by not trying to balance and find a way, we (both genders) allow the sabotage.


I'm doing what I can. I take responsibility for my survival and evolution. I would like instructors who are sensitive to some of the issues I bring to the mat (the knee, general aging) but frankly don't feel I need to be "cultivated" on account of being female. Just not have my femaleness count as a negative in anybody's eyes. And have me AS AN INDIVIDUAL taken into account.


I don't like the idea of "cultivation" either, I think it leads to unhealthy relationships.

Each person is such a marvellously complex interplay of factors that gender is truly only as big an issue as we make it.


Every dojo I"ve been a member of called women up for ukemi and women who train regularly are able to advance as quickly as men who train regularly.

You live in a very evolved area, for the most part.
You have superb human evaluative skills, you know what you want, and you don't take any caca.

There's a skill set there, and a choice of environment.

Aikido is supposed to be an 'open door' art and everyone is supposed to be welcome.

That said, I've ended up in more than one "boy's club" and it's been good experience, but not always in an easy way.

In any case, I will be happy when gender is simply not an issue any more, on any level. Sure, it makes a difference, but Who a Person Is, is of far greater importance.
We have the luxury of looking at it this way, in our time.

Interesting how history and culture cycles back and forth:
http://www.ejmas.com/proceedings/GSJSA03svinth.htm

edge

E.D. Gordon
02-11-2005, 11:10 AM
I am, too. But not surprised as it took Nixon to go to China. In other words if a liberal went to China they would have labled him a 'communist', but not a diehard conservative like Nixon.


I had this extremely silly brief vision of George Ledyard in gi and hakama, doing a Nixon impression... :D


The same thing, here. If a woman spoke up on these boards with the same post, she either would have been ignored at best or her opinion derided as "reactionary".


Yep. Several folks may remember the row I got into with Dan Linden over his decision that women had no place in his dojo.
The end of it was that he is free to run things as he pleases, but others are free to criticize the decision and underlying reason, or lack thereof.
That interaction inspired me to write a paper for presentation at the Guelph Sword School. That and Deborah Klens-Bigman telling me to quit whining about not being able to make it that year and contribute.


Just look at the "warm" reception of the announcement of the Women In Aikido video got. A couple of jerks got on without seeing the video and decided that it wasn't needed or called for. One other man watched it and gave it a very lukewarm review. It was an excellent video, but many seemed to have ignored it. Put a man's name behind it and voila! instant agreement. (sorry for my sarcasm folks).


A high-ranking man, anyway. Thanks George :) how's that Nixon impression coming? :p


Other than train and continue to train and continue to break down barriers by our mere presence. Other than that, I started my bulletin board (link in my sig) Women in Aikido. After about 6 months, I was going to delete it do to inactivity then women started to join thanking me for starting this board. Now, we have over 125 members.


Who are all grateful for a place to communicate and support.
I'm hoping to start something similar for women in budo, sometime over the next four weeks. Maybe we can start a new thread talking about resources for women in budo?


By never giving up no matter what is said. It also means speaking up when required, even when doing so would not be popular. Also, just being there when someone (male or female) needs the support helps a lot.

By being objective and subjective to their individual needs. I'm afraid by focusing training on someone's feminity or gender will just turn into patronizing mush such as being afraid to throw me because I'm female or only teaching me the "soft-way" of doing techniques.


Agree on speaking up, and I've done it, and it's not fun, but it has to be done.
Teaching according to gender, to me, is pretty short-sighted. Should men only do punchy-kicky things and competitive (Olympic) judo?
Should women only arrange flowers and do Tai Chi?
The Tai Chi teacher in my first massage class (a fellow student) used to toss me around vigorously.
American society is pretty mixed up about gender roles, but we are improving. My mom used to pin a doily on my head when I went to church because females were supposed to "cover their heads before the lord".
Certain sections of US society would have us go back that way:
http://freebooks.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/gncr.pdf
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/5/21/13392/6893
Just FYI...

Yes, reading over the voices in this topic, I see a lot of strong, grounded, "voices from the trenches" who are more interested in training, learning and sharing than politics.
The political machine needs the occasional tweak, or swift kick, but it's not the main thing.

I adore having other women in the dojo, but as long as I have training partners, I will teach to their strengths and enjoy the lessons they have for me.

mle
(hoping George Ledyard appreciates goofy humour :) )

George S. Ledyard
02-12-2005, 03:18 AM
A high-ranking man, anyway. Thanks George :) how's that Nixon impression coming? :p



I am not a crook!

Meggy Gurova
02-12-2005, 07:12 PM
Yep. Several folks may remember the row I got into with Dan Linden over his decision that women had no place in his dojo.


Amazing! Or is that some kind of joke?

I've only 3 kyu and I'm the woman with the highest rank in our dojo. I'm going to move to another city in 6 months and I do everything possible to encourage the women in the dojo to do their best. I always try to tell them how good they are.
I though my teacher really treated me the same way as the men, but now when the 3 men ranked 4 kyu joined the advanced group, he has started throwing them harder than he throws me! And I'm not happy with that! One of these men is the same size as me, so why is he making a difference!!!???

Bronson
02-14-2005, 12:40 AM
One of these men is the same size as me, so why is he making a difference!!!???

Could it just be that his ukemi is better? I've worked with rokkyu and gokyu students that had better falling skills than some of the dan ranked students so of course we could sometimes go at it with a little more enthusiasm. It had nothing to do with rank or gender, just skill.

Bronson

Meggy Gurova
02-14-2005, 08:31 AM
Could it just be that his ukemi is better?

That has to be the last reason I can think off. (I've been a dancer and very acrobatic). I've done so much more than everybody else in the dojo. I've been uchi-deshi, I'm the only one doing to seminars etc and my teacher still sees me as ambitious and not taught. I'm prepared to work harder than everybody else just to be considered to their level. But to work harder and still be considered to have lower level, that makes me very angry
:grr: :mad:

Bronson
02-15-2005, 08:52 AM
That has to be the last reason I can think off. (I've been a dancer and very acrobatic). I've done so much more than everybody else in the dojo. I've been uchi-deshi, I'm the only one doing to seminars etc and my teacher still sees me as ambitious and not taught. I'm prepared to work harder than everybody else just to be considered to their level. But to work harder and still be considered to have lower level, that makes me very angry
:grr: :mad:

Meggy please understand that I'm not picking on you I'm just offering some thoughts. If indeed you have the requisite ability to handle some harder training then by all means that training should be available to you...and to everyone who has the ability for and desire to do it. However acrobatic ability, uchi deshi status, seminar attendance, or willingness to work hard does not automatically equate to high ability as uke...there's a better chance but it's not automatic. I have students who work VERY hard and/or attend many classes but still they just don't get it. I'm not saying this IS the case with you but since I've never seen you as uke I have to consider it as a possibility....just as I consider that you are right and are being overlooked for other reasons. Either way I suggest letting your instructor know that you are interested in taking your training to a higher level and ask them what they feel you should do in order for that to happen.

Good luck,

Bronson

giriasis
02-15-2005, 02:06 PM
That has to be the last reason I can think off. (I've been a dancer and very acrobatic). I've done so much more than everybody else in the dojo. I've been uchi-deshi, I'm the only one doing to seminars etc and my teacher still sees me as ambitious and not taught. I'm prepared to work harder than everybody else just to be considered to their level. But to work harder and still be considered to have lower level, that makes me very angry
:grr: :mad:

I can understand your frustration that you feel like your being segregated because of your gender. I would suggest to just ask your sensei why he chooses others over you. And also just give it time, keep training and don't give up.

senshincenter
02-15-2005, 02:12 PM
Perhaps it just might be a bit easier to ask in a more positive manner - i.e. ask what your sensei what he/she feels you can do so that you get more experience being called up as uke. Sometimes, for some people, it comes off better if you address things in as constructive a manner as possible.

E.D. Gordon
02-15-2005, 04:21 PM
Amazing! Or is that some kind of joke?

Sadly, no.
Go here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=63112#post63112
but I wouldn't beat that rotting equine corpse again.
I'd give an honest beer to know who that anonymous user was.


I though my teacher really treated me the same way as the men, but now when the 3 men ranked 4 kyu joined the advanced group, he has started throwing them harder than he throws me! And I'm not happy with that!

So attack him harder.
Just be ready for it.

I once rattled one of my Yanagi Ryu classmates so hard that I kind of woke up and shook the little birdies off from around my head afterwards (I don't do that art any more, women aren't known at the highest levels there, either, and there's enough glass ceilings for me to bang my head on).

I've been in many dojo situations where some dear chivalrous man was catching me (pull him down and pin him) or not *throwing* me (throw him instead) or fluffing technique (give him something to work with).

All of the men in my dojo are bigger or stronger than me. My teacher likes to throw one of them (former judoka) sometimes, instead of me, but I don't mind. I don't consider "harder" favoritism, merely an indication that the teacher is showing something which works better on the other person.

Besides, as the sand slips through the hourglass, harder is not always better! :p

edge

MaryKaye
02-15-2005, 06:49 PM
I would strongly agree with the advice to ask your sensei, perhaps phrasing it positively as "What would I need to improve to be called for ukemi more/thrown more vigorously?"

We always have a few advanced students at the beginners' classes to take ukemi. A month or so ago I spent a whole class watching while a (male) student much junior to me took all the demo ukemi. Afterwards the teacher offered me a ride home, so I took the opportunity to ask him. He said, "Well, he was sitting at the right end of the line." Pause. "Actually, I like the beginners to see a small person like me throwing a 250 lb. gorilla like him. It shows what aikido is capable of, and it makes me look good."

I think it was much better to find this out than go on wondering if I'd offended him, if something were wrong with my ukemi, if he was being sexist, etc....

Mary Kaye

Don_Modesto
02-15-2005, 07:09 PM
A month or so ago I spent a whole class watching while a (male) student much junior to me took all the demo ukemi. Afterwards the teacher offered me a ride home, so I took the opportunity to ask him. He said, "Well, he was sitting at the right end of the line." Pause. "Actually, I like the beginners to see a small person like me throwing a 250 lb. gorilla like him. It shows what aikido is capable of, and it makes me look good."

Yeah. It's often not about you (or me). The teacher has a lot on his mind--how the trainees are handling what he throws at them, what he'd planned to do next over and against what he sees in front of him, safety, his return flight, his hangover...

Then again (as you already know too well)...

I'm prepared to work harder than everybody else just to be considered to their level. But to work harder and still be considered to have lower level, that makes me very angry
:grr: :mad:

In Blink, author Gladwell relates the experience of some orchestra whose cadre of grayback decision-makers conducted a blind audition and unanimously found the best wind player to be a woman, much to their surprise. They knew that women weren't strong enough to do winds. They'd never had this truth contradicted when they did visible auditions, i.e., their eyes saw more than their ears heard. The author himself was surprised to discover he possessed a certain bias against blacks having taken an internet test for that propensity--his mother is black.

It's a tough row to hoe, but GANBATTE. There're numbers of us rooting for the likes of Mary Heiny, Patty Saotome, Pat Hendricks, Penny Bernath... More than there were 10 years ago.

E.D. Gordon
02-16-2005, 03:18 PM
Yeah. It's often not about you (or me).

This is important. Don't assume that you and your instructor have the same limitations. I have found that my assumptions of limitations are, often, strictly my own. The majority of my instructors have been ruthless egalitarians.


It's a tough row to hoe, but GANBATTE. There're numbers of us rooting for the likes of Mary Heiny, Patty Saotome, Pat Hendricks, Penny Bernath... More than there were 10 years ago.

How much has aikido, or any art, lost due to discrimination and "double-loading" (women/gaijin/whatever have to do twice as well as "native" aikidoka to get anywhere)?

I train in a sort of modern hybrid sogo budo (www.the-dojo.com) now, and aikido is just where I come from. I pay my debt, at this time, by asking questions and participating.

I'm going to train, but I'm going to go where I am encouraged and can train honestly. I'm not going to waste my time in political morasses. Koryu is not without politics, but I screen instructors for political addiction, and won't train with the politically ambitious. I got no use for it.

There's got to be a place for people who just want to train.
People like me, aren't going to waste their time.

This assumes that you want demanding students who will extract every last bit of your art from you if they have to use a spring trap to hang you up-side-down and shake it out of you.

mle
"there ain't no brakeman on this train" --John Mayall

Meggy Gurova
02-16-2005, 05:13 PM
Thank you all for your answers!
I have very good contact with my teacher indeed and I have talked with him about the "girl issue" several times. I know for sure that he thinks that womens body's are not made for to be "destroyed" that way, he thinks women must take care off their body's because they are going to be mothers, and so on... I still want to be the one to decide over my own body. I've even asked him to keep pushing me because I need some kind off challenge and he is doing it but not with the uke training. On the other hand I should not be complaining because all the other teachers I've trained for like me as uke. I'm sorry for my bad English.

Janet Rosen
02-16-2005, 06:12 PM
Meggy, your English is FINE. And so is your attitude (smile). Keep challenging yourself and keep expecting others to challenge you too.

Jeanne Shepard
02-16-2005, 07:51 PM
In Blink, author Gladwell relates the experience of some orchestra whose cadre of grayback decision-makers conducted a blind audition and unanimously found the best wind player to be a woman, much to their surprise. They knew that women weren't strong enough to do winds. They'd never had this truth contradicted when they did visible auditions, i.e., their eyes saw more than their ears heard. The author himself was surprised to discover he possessed a certain bias against blacks having taken an internet test for that propensity--his mother is black.



That is an AMAZING book, as is his other, The Tipping Point. I can't recommend them too highly.

Jeanne

senshincenter
02-16-2005, 08:48 PM
I know for sure that he thinks that womens body's are not made for to be "destroyed" that way, he thinks women must take care off their body's because they are going to be mothers, and so on...

Jeesh! I'm sorry, but I can't say which is more surprising to me: That someone actually thinks like that and calls themselves a teacher of Budo, or that someone actually knows all this about their teacher and yet remains their deshi. Had to say it - apologies.

Personally, I would find a new instructor. How can you be all you can be when someone else has already determined the "ceiling" for you. I couldn't imagine teaching anyone in good faith and already determining what they can't do and/or cannot be.

I'm not saying you have to leave angry or be angry - it's just "math" - no emotions are needed. The guy doesn't have what you need and/or deserve - find someone that does.

Meggy Gurova
02-17-2005, 06:17 AM
Jeesh! I'm sorry, but I can't say which is more surprising to me: That someone actually thinks like that and calls themselves a teacher of Budo, or that someone actually knows all this about their teacher and yet remains their deshi. Had to say it - apologies.


He is another generation and I understand his way off thinking... In all the other aspects he is my hero and I respect him from the bottom off my heart and I'm really sorry he is getting to old to teach. If he was still teaching I'm sure I was going to be his uke more often, if I just spoke to him and tell him that this is for my best, and if I beg him to throw me than he must do it if it's for my best. But still, why do I have to fight to be treated the same way as the others... It's supposed to come natural.

senshincenter
02-17-2005, 03:25 PM
Well then, Meggy it sounds like you are "working" within a place you are fine "working" within. For many, that is a state seldom reached, so I would say you could consider yourself lucky.

If I can use your post as a springboard - one I feel does touch upon the underlying subtext of this thread...

Perhaps we can reflect a bit on the ways relating to the ideals of Budo often touches upon the usual dismissals we make for ourselves and/or for our teachers when we are too ready or too quick to jump to the usual slogan of "we are only human" (and its many variations).

After all, training involves cultivated states. That means in some ways that we are “moving” from states that are (at the least) less cultivated to states of being that are more cultivated. Training involves change, a sense of progress even, etc. In change, in a sense of progress, in a sense of moving from non-cultivated states to more cultivated states, we must note that there is no room for the status quo to act as its own justification. In other words, true, we are all human, we are all prone to our mistakes, to our ignorance, to our delusion, to our pride, to our fear, etc. However, what makes us humans that practice Budo is that we do not justify a lack of cultivation or a halting in cultivation by falling back upon the status quo that marks the masses of those that do not measure themselves by the ideals of our art and our Way. Either we train or we do not. We should not be so ready to bow and enter the door of the dojo if we are just as ready to dip a toe back into the outside world when we find it easier to do so than to continue moving forward.


I think when we say, “we are only human,” and use that phrase to keep our feet on the ground, to not slave ourselves to the possible depression of experiencing failure, or even at times to lighten the constant burden of measuring ourselves against ideals, AND we are still progressing toward our ideals, AND we are still investing as much as is possible for us to invest in these ideals, then that is fine. That is healthy. However, when we say, “we are only human,” and we seek only to justify our halting, or our lack of further cultivation, or our lack of progress and continued investment in our practice, then we have strayed from the Path. Under such actions, no longer are we a human that practices Budo – we are merely human (i.e. like someone that does not train).

Many of the abuses, the straying from the ideals of Budo and of Aikido by the institutional constructs that affect most of us, are often grounded in this type of behavior. In my opinion, this type of behavior resembles the type of coping responses that abused children often exhibit more than it does the Way of martial prowess and spiritual cultivation. I have trained in dojo where instructors abuse alcohol and other drugs, where they abuse their students, where they are about as spiritually mature as a piece of scrap paper, where they are plagued by pride, fear, and ignorance as much as anyone else that has never set foot in a dojo (of any art), etc., and always within such places, I also found a group of deshi that were more then ready to dismiss every shortcoming and outright contradiction of the Way with the phrase, “we are only human.” This is no mere coincidence. The two types of action and of being are feeding off of each other.

The more I think about it, the more I feel this phrase of “we are only human” has nothing to do with Budo – at least not the way it is usually used. Perhaps we would be wiser, more practical in our pursuits, if we could learn to do without this phrase and instead find other more proactive and healthy means of addressing our always-present distance from the ideals of our Way. I think, when we can do that, the gap can close between practice and activism – which is what it will take for the issues that were brought up in this thread to be resolved. For it is not until practice and activism are reconciled that one can prevent one’s practice from contributing to the status quo of institutions in question. It is not until practice and activism are reconciled that one can prevent one’s activism from being deemed irrelevant by the masses that make up the status quo of the institutions in question.

dmv

E.D. Gordon
02-17-2005, 03:26 PM
Thank you all for your answers!
I have very good contact with my teacher indeed and I have talked with him about the "girl issue" several times. I know for sure that he thinks that womens body's are not made for to be "destroyed" that way, he thinks women must take care off their body's because they are going to be mothers, and so on...

Even a quadriplegic can become a mother. Nature has made sure of it. Your generative organs are better protected than his. If anything, he should be the one taking care. Something so small as regular hot saunas can endanger fatherhood. By comparison, he should never wear briefs, or tight jeans, or have a hot bath, or take highfalls, or ride a bike.


I still want to be the one to decide over my own body.


In your country, you still are. We are entering the Dark Ages again, by comparison..


've even asked him to keep pushing me because I need some kind off challenge and he is doing it but not with the uke training. On the other hand I should not be complaining because all the other teachers I've trained for like me as uke. I'm sorry for my bad English.

Stop apologizing for your English! most Americans have no mastery of any other language, for which we should be ashamed. We simply don't understand the need, and, therefore, the rest of the world.

It may be that this very nice man is not a good teacher for women. Now, I have never had a woman teacher, but I have some long-distance woman mentors, and they don't let me get away with any slacking. Nor does my current teacher, a male, and my husband. He does not play favorites, but is a compassionate sharpener of my edge.

Until we hold everyone to the highest standard they can perform at, and not withstand damage, we are playing some bizarre fantasy game and not paying attention to individual ability.

Men are at so much of a disadvantage. They don't live as long. They are more susceptible to disease and disability. In spite of being born in greater numbers, so many die that this, by the end of the human lifespan, is reduced by many percentages. Men survive longer when cared for by women. Men are more likely to die, and in fact, this is their biological imperative, to die in some heroic, defensive, or simply stupid act. If generative organs and physical strength were factors for dominance, then sperm whales and orangutans would rule the world. If you want to be popular, be a halfway fit man in a retirement community (just ask my dad ;).

Women have a deep systemic strength, a length of evolutionary stride, that men can only respect and cherish. This is their proper, evolutionary job. No one needs to limit us, in doing it.

When I first asked my parents to find me a martial arts class, at age 13, they all but laughed at me. I grew up in Texas, BTW... five generations there, and you'd think they'd know better. Oh well. When I left home, at 19, the first thing I did was enroll in aikido at the local community college, in addition to my other courses. That was 1989. I had to take a break or two, but I never gave up.

mle
(ruthless egalitarianism means never worrying who takes out the garbage. we both do.)

Don_Modesto
02-17-2005, 05:26 PM
Even a quadriplegic can become a mother. Nature has made sure of it. Your generative organs are better protected than his. If anything, he should be the one taking care. Something so small as regular hot saunas can endanger fatherhood. By comparison, he should never wear briefs, or tight jeans, or have a hot bath, or take highfalls, or ride a bike. ...Men are at so much of a disadvantage. They don't live as long. They are more susceptible to disease and disability. In spite of being born in greater numbers, so many die that this, by the end of the human lifespan, is reduced by many percentages. Men survive longer when cared for by women. Men are more likely to die, and in fact, this is their biological imperative, to die in some heroic, defensive, or simply stupid act. If generative organs and physical strength were factors for dominance, then sperm whales and orangutans would rule the world. If you want to be popular, be a halfway fit man in a retirement community (just ask my dad ;).

Ha! What a hoot!

Thanks for this. Turning things around is so insightful. And here is Nietzsche vindicated: Truth is a woman and her name is Emily Dolan Gordon!

Sometimes we all need to think out of the, um...that is, we need to change our perspective.

Yeah.

Meggy Gurova
02-17-2005, 06:55 PM
Perhaps we can reflect a bit on the ways relating to the ideals of Budo often touches upon the usual dismissals we make for ourselves and/or for our teachers when we are too ready or too quick to jump to the usual slogan of "we are only human" (and its many variations).


I'm not going to apologize again for my bad English, but I hope that you understand what I'm writing ;) :D
I think that following the :do: we have to change and off course everybody thinks s/he is changing to be a better person. Even the people that don't practice any budo are still trying to get better... Everybody is working on some level and develop in some way. I can not change another person just by telling them to do this or that. The only thing I can do is to be a good example so good that the other person chooses to become like me (role model) or the opposite to be a very bad person so the other sees my mistakes and tries not to do them herself / himself. So off course, if I see another persons "mistakes" I'm going to react "we are only human", because I'm sure that this person is focusing on some other aspect off his /hers development. But I can not make the same excuse for myself (for instance I stop smoking after 12 years off making excuses). But I would like other people to understand my mistakes and think that I'm only human, and be patient with me.
Meggy

E.D. Gordon
02-18-2005, 12:38 PM
Ha! What a hoot
Thanks for this. Turning things around is so insightful. Yeah.

Ain't no turned around, amigo.
This is the the way the world is, from 52% of the population.

I'm more interested in finding meeting ground than generating contests, so I don't often bring it up.

A man can easily best me 9 times out of 10, but unless he kills me outright, I'll outlive him, the same 9 times out of 10.
It's just evolution.

I think at this time it is more important to be egalitarian than to be strictly "feminist" as men have rights which need attending to as well.

Imagine a career man trying to take paternity leave in the states. We have German friends who have done just this, and it is perfect for them. Of course, they get three years. Just enough to get the little monkey to humanity. I think it's three months in the US? Barely enough time to get the lil' critter weaned.

Imagine a world where no one fears cooking, or nurturing, or being in command and kicking @ss. No one fears it, everyone can do it, and no one feels the need to do any immature finger-pointing when someone crosses some arbitrary "roles" line.

If Afghanistan can elect a female governor, the rest of the world can handle this.

Don, come to Bavaria, and the first beer's on me.

mle
(and the difference between US religious right extremists and Taliban extremists is.... ???)

E.D. Gordon
02-18-2005, 12:46 PM
I'm not going to apologize again for my bad English, but I hope that you understand what I'm writing ;) :D

Sprichst du Deutsche, Meggy? Dann, du kannst eine wirklich schlecht Versuche sehen!


The only thing I can do is to be a good example so good that the other person chooses to become like me (role model) or the opposite to be a very bad person so the other sees my mistakes and tries not to do them herself / himself. So off course, if I see another persons "mistakes" I'm going to react "we are only human", because I'm sure that this person is focusing on some other aspect off his /hers development. But I can not make the same excuse for myself (for instance I stop smoking after 12 years off making excuses). But I would like other people to understand my mistakes and think that I'm only human, and be patient with me.
Meggy

I hope I seem patient with you. It is the rest of humanity which seems to try me.

Especially those who will not give others a chance, due to some arbitrary factor.

Stopping smoking, especially here in Europe where it almost seems mandatory, speaks of strength of character and dedication to betterment.

My mother smoked while she was pregnant with me, and beyond. My lungs and throat have been susceptible to infection ever since.

I saw chocolate cigarrettes in the Rewe today.

I spent too much time in my life struggling to breathe, to ever give it away again.

Besides, I prefer dark chocolate.
:)
mle

Meggy Gurova
02-18-2005, 05:13 PM
Sadly, no.
Go here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=63112#post63112
but I wouldn't beat that rotting equine corpse again.
I'd give an honest beer to know who that anonymous user was.


Is this thread still open? I have a story I wanted to tell there.

Janet Rosen
02-18-2005, 06:02 PM
Why not just start your own new thread?

senshincenter
02-18-2005, 07:24 PM
Even the people that don't practice any budo are still trying to get better... Everybody is working on some level and develop in some way. I can not change another person just by telling them to do this or that. The only thing I can do is to be a good example so good that the other person chooses to become like me (role model) or the opposite to be a very bad person so the other sees my mistakes and tries not to do them herself / himself. So off course, if I see another persons "mistakes" I'm going to react "we are only human", because I'm sure that this person is focusing on some other aspect off his /hers development.
Meggy

Well, I was trying to speak more generally - as pertaining to an underlying issue of training with ideals and/or in how we should expect and/or should relate to those people through which we come to relate to ideals. I really did not want to make this a personal issue. However, I think you are making my point or at least lending credence to it through your own personal point of view.

I do not want to take anything from you. You sound like you have managed to create a level for yourself where this is all "working" for you. More power to you. However, such views of women can in no way be thought of as spiritually mature. If we were to qualify spiritual maturity according to the common spectrum of professional and amateur, such a view would fall firmly within the amateuristic. I wonder if we would as a population in general accept such amateurism from our surgeons and/or our airline pilots. I highly doubt it. Yet, we find way after way of making allowances for things that should not be allowed when it comes to Budo and our training in it - when it comes to our spiritual training. While the consequences of such actions are not readily felt, it does not take much to realize that the long-term results of this type of behavior is widespread amateurism and spiritual immaturity. After that happens, all of our energy will have to be spent on maintaining the delusion that we have not already lost what should not have been lost.

Since Mr. Ledyard rightly felt the need to write his article, it makes one wonder if we are not already in that state of things.

Just thinking aloud - only my opinion.
dmv

Brion Toss
02-18-2005, 07:50 PM
Hello,
Long ago, I heard that Ho Chi Minh summed up his revolutionary philosophy thus: "If you have a bent willow branch, and you want to straighten it, you have to bend it the other way." While this concept, or variations on it, have been not always been applied, um, kindly in societies, I find it very useful when dealing with the status quo. In the case of women in Aikido, we in the U.S. are dealing with not one, but two pathologically male cultures; a veritable pretzel of a willow branch.
We men, who commonly behave as though we have something to lose by equality with women, sometimes have to be dealt with firmly as the 'straightening' takes place. But it only hurts for a while, really.
Yours,
Brion Toss

E.D. Gordon
02-19-2005, 08:17 AM
Hello,
Long ago, I heard that Ho Chi Minh summed up his revolutionary philosophy thus: "If you have a bent willow branch, and you want to straighten it, you have to bend it the other way." While this concept, or variations on it, have been not always been applied, um, kindly in societies, I find it very useful when dealing with the status quo. In the case of women in Aikido, we in the U.S. are dealing with not one, but two pathologically male cultures; a veritable pretzel of a willow branch.


Can you briefly explain the "two" and the differences?

Gotta look out for the momentary backlash from that branch. (I haven't read Susan Faludi's book yet.)

I did read Natalie Angier's book though, and that was wonderful. _Woman, an intimate Geography_.

I find myself very curious as to the source of the pathology.
What aspect of culture would it further, to limit any person's abilities according to limited assumptions?

I find myself trapped in assumption as well. As much as a man may assume that I don't know how to change an oil filter, I tend to assume that most men don't cook. More and more often, I am wrong, and so are they.

What kind of changes of character does it take, to simply let people surprise you?


We men, who commonly behave as though we have something to lose by equality with women, sometimes have to be dealt with firmly as the 'straightening' takes place. But it only hurts for a while, really.
Yours,
Brion Toss

Sometimes pain is merely the sensation of change.
That said, I find that people notice painless things, far less.
It's all about options.

"edge" Gordon

Also recommended: _Monstrous Regiment_ (Pratchett)
_Da Vinci Code_ (Brown)

Qatana
02-19-2005, 10:14 AM
It all about Socks.

E.D. Gordon
02-19-2005, 02:09 PM
It all about Socks.

I found the most adorable socks in burgundy eyelash yarn, today. I was tempted. But I already have some in angora, so I couldn't be moved.

Seriously, I thought it was shoes... and since I am impossible to fit (triangular feet) I thought I was SOL.

I'm all about hiking and comfort shoes anyway.

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/pedernal/

edge

Brion Toss
02-19-2005, 07:49 PM
Hello,
Regarding how Japanese and U.S. cultures are differently pathologically male, how about this: in Japan, they are sure there is no reason to live otherwise, and in the U.S., we are sure we DO live otherwise. Please bear in mind that all sweeping statements are inaccurate.
As for transitory pain as an indicator of change, I utterly agree; and by extension, chronic pain often indicates a refusal or inability to change. And any culture that formalizes gender roles without sound physiological basis (men are good for genetic diversity and occasional heavy lifting) is in for chronic pain.
Yours,
Brion Toss

E.D. Gordon
02-20-2005, 02:04 AM
Is this thread still open? I have a story I wanted to tell there.

It's not closed or anything. If you think it fits, go ahead.
Or, heck, tell it here. I'm looking forward to it.

MLE

Meggy Gurova
02-20-2005, 07:41 AM
It's not closed or anything. If you think it fits, go ahead.
Or, heck, tell it here. I'm looking forward to it.

MLE

Yes, it fits here as well.
Well, once at a seminar I met a woman about 50 years off age and 4 dan right now. She has been training between 20 and 30 years, and started to train when aikido was a new martial art in Sweden. I was asking her questions about how it was to train aikido at that time and she told me that when she first started, already from the beginning, there were many women interested in aikido. Her teacher had 1 dan and later on reached 2 dan. Her teacher always helped more the guys then the girls. The girls were left to train with each other in a corner and the teacher didn't bother to explain things to them, he didn't encourage them, they were left on their own. But she just loved aikido and kept on training. Her teacher stopped teaching and training some years later (I don't remember the reason why he stopped training). Then she told me that not for a long time ago she met her old teachers son and talked to him. This guy was in his twenties when she trained for his father and this young guy was giving her hard time, he was one off those who didn't want to see women in the dojo at all. So he asked her if she was still training and she said she was and he asked her if she have reached shodan and when she told him she was yondan he was like :hypno: "That's a lot higher than my father!" She told me she felt wonderful by knowing that the son is going to tell that to his father! ;) :D :D :D

ruthmc
02-20-2005, 09:15 AM
It all about Socks.
:D Apparently it can be helpful to thrust from the Socks when doing tsuki with a jo.... :D

Ruth (who has had that Pratchett quote run through her mind more than once in the dojo :) )

ps If you haven't read the book, don't even try to understand this one!

jimbaker
02-20-2005, 09:22 AM
A man can easily best me 9 times out of 10, but unless he kills me outright, I'll outlive him, the same 9 times out of 10.
It's just evolution.

At one of the Aikido-L seminars my wife Wendy participated in the knife fighting class, which used "Magic Markers" instead of blades. She was quite proud of the fact that while she had several superficial marks on her arms and body, her partner had only one mark on him. It was deep in the middle of his throat.

Men get postumous medals; women get pensions.

Jim Baker
Aikido of Norfolk

E.D. Gordon
02-20-2005, 04:17 PM
At one of the Aikido-L seminars my wife Wendy participated in the knife fighting class, which used "Magic Markers" instead of blades. She was quite proud of the fact that while she had several superficial marks on her arms and body, her partner had only one mark on him. It was deep in the middle of his throat.

Men get postumous medals; women get pensions.

Jim Baker
Aikido of Norfolk

Funny you should mention.. I have a skeleton on my cutting board this evening.
It's okay, he's plastic. Flaco, say hello to the nice people.

As Wendy always proves, style counts.

Intimate knowledge of human anatomy never hurts. Er.. not the knower anyway!

Wish I was there, ya'll.

MLE

Clayton Drescher
03-02-2005, 12:57 PM
May or may not fit into this conversation:

Recently our instructor assignments were changed at my dojo. Now, every evening class that isn't taught by Sensei or our other Chief Instructor is taught by a woman. That's 4 of 10 evening classes during the weekdays.

We're a pretty hard-hitting dojo and these ladies can really dish it out. Sensei has also expressed the desire to increase the number of women training in the dojo. We have a fair amount, and most of them are yudansha, but of course not as many as males right now as is the trend in martial arts.

So there is a conciousness about encouraging women to train and the real desire for that as well.
Good news,
CD

E.D. Gordon
03-02-2005, 03:04 PM
May or may not fit into this conversation:


Hey Clayton.


So there is a conciousness about encouraging women to train and the real desire for that as well.
Good news,
CD

Question is, why should there have to be?
For, or against?
Who cares about gender, if someone is interested?

MLE

Clayton Drescher
03-02-2005, 05:46 PM
Emily,
Every aikidoist I've met has been real open and equal in their views.

I think more females might be encouraged to join a dojo if they see females there already.

While the aikido community is very open, in my opinion, outside observers might think less of us, or most martial arts probably, because of the unequal representation of women. There's no active descrimination, so the lack of representation may just be because women aren't as interested/don't have time/any other valid reason.

But some aikido instructors just may have never thought about trying to actively include women in training. Both dojos I've been a member of have been very supportive of getting women to train and are great environments for any gender.

I dont know if I have a point, but it might just be there generally is a disparity between the amount of men vs. women training and there's no good reason for that, so everyone should be encouraged to train.

*I'm sure that point has been brought up several times in this thread*

CD

Ali B
01-28-2006, 12:57 PM
Hi

I sometimes practice with Sensei Eve and I must say her club is excellent if anyone is thinking of going along. I have practiced in several styles in the UK and Europe and have found that the Ki Federation have relatively high amount of ladies ranking 5th Dan and above.

Light n love Ali

giriasis
01-28-2006, 04:09 PM
The USAF also has quite a few women 5th dan and above and most recenty Barbara Britton and Penny Bernath were promoted to 6th dan this past December.

Kim Rivers
01-29-2007, 07:20 PM
An Interesting article George Sensei. Your words of support and the merit they carry in the larger aikido community is appreciated. 'Tis true most womyn face a general disregard in the world at large, so it is not surprising it happens in the various dojos of Aikido. In readign thse posts though I learn that many womyn are out there and have alot to offer. I am grateful that I get to be part of dojo community that is prodominently womyn. My Sesnei Mary Eastland is a 5th dan. I believe she may have made 4th while stil w/ Aikido Kokikai.
Many of her and her husband Ron Sensei's female students such as myself have come to be there because of Mary's presence. Ron and Mary are soem of the highest examples of how students can be welcomed and encouraged to find their own "inner aikido". Womyn of all size and stature train along side men and I have seen and felt first-hanbd that womyn who dedicate themselves in aikido are very powerful. thankfully the fellows in our dojos have little qualm about treating us as equals and respecting us as ukes and nages. I hope one-day we will see that Aikido organisations like ours are the norm rather than the exception. -Kim

chris w
01-29-2007, 07:48 PM
'Tis true most womyn face a general disregard in the world at large, so it is not surprising it happens in the various dojos of Aikido. In readign thse posts though I learn that many womyn are out there and have alot to offer.

I believe the word is spelled w-o-m-e-n :D

hapkidoike
01-29-2007, 11:36 PM
I believe the word is spelled w-o-m-e-n :D
Uggh, making political points by misspelling words makes one look ridiculous and abuses language. She's just a PROPAGANDIST.

Mary Eastland
01-30-2007, 06:38 AM
Uggh, making political points by misspelling words makes one look ridiculous and abuses language. She's just a PROPAGANDIST.

In your opinion.....another might think she was being creative and courageous. :D

Thanks for your kind words, Kim...I was promoted to 4th and 5th Dan by Ron. :)
See ya on the mat,
Mary

George S. Ledyard
01-30-2007, 09:33 AM
Uggh, making political points by misspelling words makes one look ridiculous and abuses language. She's just a PROPAGANDIST.
Boy, Isaac, that's a pretty strong reaction to the use of alternative spelling to make a point. I certainly do not think it "looks ridiculous" but rather it is a creative use of the language to communicate that women are something other than just an extension of men. It says that in one word rather than requiring a whole sentence; very efficient. To make the jump from the substitution of one letter in a word to convey a particular meaning to dismissing everything she has said by calling her a PROPAGANDIST indicates to me that you have a pre-existing agenda which caused you to react accordingly rather than address any of the points she actually made.

akiy
01-30-2007, 10:17 AM
Hi folks,

Can we please stay on the subject of aikido rather than veering into politics? If you wish to discuss politics, please do so in the Open Discussions forum.

Thank you,

-- Jun

Erick Mead
01-30-2007, 10:47 AM
Boy, Isaac, that's a pretty strong reaction.... you have a pre-existing agenda which caused you to react accordingly rather than address any of the points she actually made.Precisely. Caused him to react. Language has meaning, and by using the spelling "womyn," she invites, dare I say, demands, that people reflect or react to hyr pre-existing agenda or view of the world in that usage. It was a bit strong, but hardly wrong to point out that needless distraction in hyr statement. Hyr spelling was utterly extraneous to hyr discussion, and the subtext served only to obscure and trivialize hyr point.

An annoying tendency of usage, really. Sort of passive agressive, and very much not aiki in terms of placing an important personal view of conflict squarely on the table to be resolved.

It is an attempt to make the language fit an ideological paradigm -- which is precisely the thing her usage is implicitly attempting to counter. Originally, in Old English "man" was generic (some would say it remains so) and the gender specific was indicated either by the adjective phrase "wer man" = "male human" and "wif man" ="female human." The evolved usage has made "man" as male to be generic and undifferentiated and "woman" as special and differentiated. Making the differentiation "more special" by altering the spelling to "womyn" hardly redresses the linguistic balance that she implicitly faults.
Women should not have to measure their worth according to their ability to be "like the guys." That was the point in question. The issue is whether women have to have their equality on men's terms. Obviously not. Our biological imperatives are different. Our conflict paradigms are accordingly nuanced.

Man or woman, if I have to argue a point by first changing the perceived meaning of a word in order to win, it is an argument that I have already lost.

An approach in keeping with aiki would cease arguing with the language and use it as it is to address the reality of the conflict that obviously exists in that context, and seek to resolve that conflict rather than merely flagging it with a confrontational marker that is simply designed to lead to more confrontation -- by playing to the peculiar weaknesses of men . ;)

hapkidoike
01-30-2007, 11:07 AM
All I was trying to point out was that she was making the discussion more political than it probably needs to be (hence the accusation of hyr being a propagandist). Also, I am sure I have a 'pre-existing agenda", but doesn't everybody?

mriehle
02-01-2007, 11:33 AM
Okay, I'm not going to tell you my opinion on this subject. I'm just going to tell you about my first student to earn a shodan.

Her name is Lillian. Her goal when she started in martial arts some five or six years ago was to earn her first black belt before she turned sixty. Last July she gave her shodan presentation at my dojo in Rio Vista. Without saying too much, she accomplished her goal with time to spare.

She has trained in Aikido, Tai Chi, Karate and Judo. My understanding is that she kept have dojo's close on her and that's how she wound up with me as her teacher. She tells me she's glad she did.

I have two students who've earned their shodan from me and I wouldn't like to have to make a choice about which is the better student. One is Lillian, the other is Erick.

The next student I have who is likely to earn a shodan is also a woman. I didn't plan this, it just worked out that way. I don't plan who my students are, I take what I can get and do the best I can with who shows up. But I feel like I've been generally pretty fortunate in that I've had some very good students. I've had a few where I failed as well (yes, I really do think it was my failure in some of those cases, in others there was nothing I could have done).

I said I wouldn't tell you my opinion, but I think it shouldn't be hard to work out.

Ron Tisdale
02-01-2007, 12:13 PM
Personally, I don't think language choice has anything to do with "aiki"...but that's just me.

As to women in aikido...there is a women in the dojo where I belong who is 3rd Dan (last time I checked) and her aikido is really good...but I made the mistake of introducing her to my GF as a 3rd dan without mentioning that her husband was also (who was sitting right next to her). :o She corrected me...nicely. ;) I got the feeling that I came across as patronizing...which I didn't desire, but somehow did just the same.

I got to train with a female aikidoka in France who was as strong in aikido as just about anyone I've trained with of her rank. Is that patronizing? I don't mean it to be. I wish I could have taken ukemi from her teacher...she was amazing...probably one of the strongest budoka I've ever been in the room with.

I don't know...maybe all this he she black white stuff is just silly at some point. Maybe it's important too...

Best,
Ron (sorry Jun...)

mriehle
02-05-2007, 03:33 PM
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=63112#post63112
but I wouldn't beat that rotting equine corpse again.


Thanks for that. But I did read the entire thread and it sort of amazes me how people repeatedly missed the point. To me this demonstrates how (sadly) emotionally charged this issue is for some people.

NagaBaba
02-05-2007, 07:17 PM
I think woman need a solid judo/jj background to do high quality aikido. I believe it should be a requirement to avoid aikido being watered down. And your proposed way of practice, George, leads to such sad state of matters. Simply put, you propose to ajust standards down.

High majority of woman are very afraid of solid physical contact or of receiving strong technique. Even if aikido is not an activity with much contact, female aikidoka psychicaly reject it, and I can't see any method to teach it better then i.e. judo does it.

One day during seminar in South France, I was very pleased to practice with Michelle from Spain(Barcelona I believe) one of very rare women with real budo spirit. Later I learned she had jj background. It gave also idea to cross train in judo for my wife. Few years later I still can't believe, how she changed, her aikido became absolutly amazing.

jonreading
02-06-2007, 12:38 PM
First, women are different than men. Nothing will (hopefully) ever make men and women the same. We can treat men differently than women, but that is a different argument then saying men and women are the same.

Second, the standards of an skilled endeavor will separate those who participate in that endeavor. A good martial artist will always better than a bad martial artist, no matter what color belt you hang around his waist or how many trophies to put in the dojo window.

Don't confuse budo with fighting. There is overlap between budo and fighting, but they should not be used synonymously. Women and men should be treated equally in their endeavor of budo and they are not. I wholly believe one can be an excellent budoka and a poor fighter, and I also believe one can be an excellent fighter and a poor budoka. Fighters are a different story and will always be; the effort, training, skill, conditioning, and other factors of a superior fighter excludes most ordinary humans, without regard to gender.

Kim Rivers
02-06-2007, 01:18 PM
How interesting this thread has been. I found it amazing how amped-up an alternate spelling (which is becoming accepted btw) ruffled so many feathers. So much so that that became a point of contention rather than addressing what was really being said. Thank you to those who did not get stuck on symantics and continued to talk about the issue. "Women and everybody else in aikido". I was wondering.... the idea, or rather the accusation that I was not embracing aiki by choosing to use the term womyn. It does indeed make a differentiation. One that says I am an extention of no man and yes, that is political (sorry Jun if I am crossing the line here). But I contend that anytime a woman is treated differently on or off the mat because she is a woman that is also political. Is it any more aiki when that happens? By challenging the norm and putting my views forth I am in the spirit of aiki inviting discussion and creating space for examining long held beliefs, my own first, and if others jump in on that and stir the pot with me then even better. I can't change anyone, but I can definately change myself. For me small choices like spelling of words have great meaning and help create a new paradigm in which I can exist. I thank those who supported my position, your encouragement is important in my personal quest for budo and aiki. Thank you to those who did not offer support, but rather disdain and contention. Your position helps me become stronger and clearer in myself.
With respect and bushin to all,
-Kim

Tom Fish
02-06-2007, 03:30 PM
Women and everybody else in Aikido is a very interesting thread. I find that everyone is treated differently on the mat. People may decide that they are being treated differently for any reason, but they may just be missing the point. I think that too many people judge each other by criteria that may not apply. Most of the people I've worked with are usually interested in the safety of each other and base their judgments accordingly. Bigger people seem to take more of a beating at times as opposed to someone who is smaller. IMO it is not deliberately discriminatory it is rather based in the confidence of each others ability. I tend to be careful with anyone who is new or has not demonstrated their ability to work out at a higher level. I have felt the same treatment from others as well. I just don't look for personal issues like politics, gender, race, religion, and age, to affect the reason we are there to work out. Sometimes this obliviousness can cause enough problems. Safety should be the deciding factor and respect for each other should always be required. Establishing our ability is just part of the job.
Tom

Lorien Lowe
02-07-2007, 12:32 AM
...passive agressive, and very much not aiki in terms of placing an important personal view of conflict squarely on the table to be resolved.
On the contrary, Kim placed one word on the table ('Grab my wrist!') and then watched while a whole group of ukes overextended themselves trying to get it off the table.

Erick Mead
02-07-2007, 04:01 PM
How interesting this thread has been. I found it amazing how amped-up an alternate spelling (which is becoming accepted btw) ruffled so many feathers. So much so that that became a point of contention rather than addressing what was really being said. Thank you to those who did not get stuck on symantics and continued to talk about the issue. "Women and everybody else in aikido". The question is not semantic but in terms of budo, rather: What is the attack you are addressing? What is the enemy?

Don't get me wrong, I do not dismiss the legitimate need for serious discussion of gender equity (I avoid the term "equality", because, given the true differences that exist, "equal" is not really fair to either one). Frankly, I think it is a discussion that can never be over, because society always changes. When I was coming along in the Navy women did not serve on combatant ships. For instance, me, personally, in collective conflict (war) I view men as the more expendable gender (better used as "fighters" in Jon's phrase, even though not necessarily better as fighters in any given case), and thus disagreed with including women as combatants in terms of both "equity" or equality. Evening the balance of dead women soldiers to dead men soldiers, holds no appeal for me. But, I acknowledge that is but one point of view.
I was wondering.... the idea, or rather the accusation that I was not embracing aiki by choosing to use the term womyn. It does indeed make a differentiation. One that says I am an extention of no man and yes, that is political (sorry Jun if I am crossing the line here). But I contend that anytime a woman is treated differently on or off the mat because she is a woman that is also political. Is it any more aiki when that happens? By your usage you are fighting the language and the language is not your real enemy. The conflict is not contained in the language, the conflict is in the chosen uses of the language, which is what I tried to point out.

Th conflict lies in the heart, not in the words, and the intent of the heart will come out words or actions, in one way, or another. In our timescales the language does not change on these words, only our uses and glosses on it do. Changing the language does not change the useage, the intent or the heart of the person speaking.

By challenging the norm and putting my views forth I am in the spirit of aiki inviting discussion and creating space for examining long held beliefs, my own first, and if others jump in on that and stir the pot with me then even better. I can't change anyone, but I can definately change myself. For me small choices like spelling of words have great meaning and help create a new paradigm in which I can exist. But you see language is not a personal paradigm. Language is shared property. And it can be dangerous property to be in dispute over, too. "When in the course of human events... " were some words that recognized a very significant (and ultimately fruitful) conflict. Those words did not start the conflict they merely confirmed its existence and further defined its scope. That is the distinction, in my book: words should recognize and deal with a conflict that already exists, they ought not create a conflict in and of themselves.

A "womyn" can be as abused and beaten up by a sadistic beast as a woman can. Or a man. A woman Aikidoka -- not so much. Or a man. Nor need abuse be merely physical. One heart can wound another in words that cut deeper than any blade. Women have been occasionally known to excel in this sharp art. As Jon mentioned, there is is need for the spirit of budo there as well.

I was just calling attention to that, and the fact that you just made that verbal coup in passing, apparently without thinking much about it. Rather than making it a part of the conversation about that real and important conflict that you put into words, it became a conflict you created with that word. I find some lesson in all that, at least for me.

statisticool
02-08-2007, 07:59 PM
Very interesting things to think about; thanks!

Ron Tisdale
02-13-2007, 02:43 PM
I saw the first televised (that I know of) MMA fight between two women over the weekend. WOW. They were tough, trained, showed more sportsmanship than I have in my little finger. And it wouldn't surprise me if one or both could "school" me.

Good Stuff.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
02-13-2007, 02:56 PM
:D Hey, I'm only 45...though many times I move like 55. Sometimes I feel like 65!

No, some of us would take it as a joke anyway, just to protect our massive ego... ;)

But it never hurts to throw in an emoticon (:)) just to be sure...

B,
R

Luc X Saroufim
03-13-2007, 10:31 AM
after 4 pages, can we get into some concrete examples here? i'm sorry if i find this thread rather insulting, considering i don't even blink if i see a woman on the mat.

i'm sorry but if an Aikidoka actually takes the time out of his life to pursue the challenge of Aikido, and truly understand its core values, i don't understand how they see women as standing in the way. are we painting such a broad brush as to say that most men don't understand Aikido's core values? do men choose to learn it because it's the most badassed fighting system in the world?

in my experience, the one and only form of discrimination i've ever experienced came from who's wearing a skirt and who isn't. the number of shodans unwilling to work with beginners at seminars is revolting, and a much more relevant issue to Aikido discrimination than women vs. men.

not even the women in this thread are giving concrete examples. until i see proof that a woman was not allowed to take a test, was sexually harassed, was not allowed to teach, or was simply ignored, i have never experienced any such discrimination.

at the USAF's winter seminar a few years back, they made it a point to mention how far women have got in Aikido, and every female dojo owner was asked to raise their hand. the only shodan in my dojo is a woman. my Sensei is a woman. i've made female friends in class. i'm sorry, i just don't get it.

maybe because a top ranked Sensei started this thread, he might be seeing discrimination at the very top. but down where i am, i show up, work on my horrible ukemi, and go home. i'll probably see a woman somewhere along the path and won't think twice about it.

George S. Ledyard
03-15-2007, 08:35 PM
after 4 pages, can we get into some concrete examples here? i'm sorry if i find this thread rather insulting, considering i don't even blink if i see a woman on the mat.

i'm sorry but if an Aikidoka actually takes the time out of his life to pursue the challenge of Aikido, and truly understand its core values, i don't understand how they see women as standing in the way. are we painting such a broad brush as to say that most men don't understand Aikido's core values? do men choose to learn it because it's the most badassed fighting system in the world?

in my experience, the one and only form of discrimination i've ever experienced came from who's wearing a skirt and who isn't. the number of shodans unwilling to work with beginners at seminars is revolting, and a much more relevant issue to Aikido discrimination than women vs. men.

not even the women in this thread are giving concrete examples. until i see proof that a woman was not allowed to take a test, was sexually harassed, was not allowed to teach, or was simply ignored, i have never experienced any such discrimination.

at the USAF's winter seminar a few years back, they made it a point to mention how far women have got in Aikido, and every female dojo owner was asked to raise their hand. the only shodan in my dojo is a woman. my Sensei is a woman. i've made female friends in class. i'm sorry, i just don't get it.

maybe because a top ranked Sensei started this thread, he might be seeing discrimination at the very top. but down where i am, i show up, work on my horrible ukemi, and go home. i'll probably see a woman somewhere along the path and won't think twice about it.

Of course you don't get it... but pretty much every woman out there does. Even when they haven't felt it themselves they understand what other women mean when they talk about it.

The piece I wrote on the subject was the single most responded to article I have written. I got e-mail from all over the English speaking world from various women. It was reprinted by my permission in the news letter of a karate organization because they felt it spoke to issues they had in their training as well. It sparked a discussion, which I was told about, on another forum for women martial artists. I guess the subject matter revolved around why they needed a guy to be saying these things for them? A valid concern but pretty much symptomatic of what I was talking about.

Look at the AikiWikki:
Look at the list of the top ranked non-Japanese Senseis and then look at the list of the top ranked female teachers. It would, at first, seem to indicate that there are a fair number of women out there who are getting acknowledged with rank, and that would be true. But if you look at the names and ask, who of those people are the featured instructors at the various events one attends, who takes the ukemi from the big guys when they teach, who of these teachers is on the seminar circuit, it's clear that its largely a boys club. It's not that easy for women to train in what is still a male dominated world. It's not that easy for them to establish themselves as peers with the male seniors when they do. Even when they get rank, they are often not valued the same way.

Just look at the list of things one should do at a dojo to attract and keep women students that Linda Holiday Sensei put together. Every item on that list is there because it isn't happening that way in the majority of cases.

Just because you are aware of it, doesn't mean it's not there, it just doesn't impact you.

Lorien Lowe
03-16-2007, 01:55 AM
George Sensei -
Where's the list?

I've never read it.

Thanks,
LK

akiy
03-16-2007, 02:18 AM
Where's the list?
I believe George is referring to the list that Jim Sorrentino posted in the following post in the "Attracting / keeping women members at a dojo" (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12111) thread:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=172005&postcount=14

-- Jun

Lorien Lowe
03-16-2007, 02:28 AM
I found it, thanks.

The Vic....
05-22-2007, 05:59 AM
Hi

I sometimes practice with Sensei Eve and I must say her club is excellent if anyone is thinking of going along. I have practiced in several styles in the UK and Europe and have found that the Ki Federation have relatively high amount of ladies ranking 5th Dan and above.

Light n love Ali

Hi Alison. Is Senei Eve's dojo in Glasgow?

jennifer paige smith
05-23-2007, 09:56 PM
I think woman need a solid judo/jj background to do high quality aikido. I believe it should be a requirement to avoid aikido being watered down. And your proposed way of practice, George, leads to such sad state of matters. Simply put, you propose to ajust standards down.

High majority of woman are very afraid of solid physical contact or of receiving strong technique. Even if aikido is not an activity with much contact, female aikidoka psychicaly reject it, and I can't see any method to teach it better then i.e. judo does it.

One day during seminar in South France, I was very pleased to practice with Michelle from Spain(Barcelona I believe) one of very rare women with real budo spirit. Later I learned she had jj background. It gave also idea to cross train in judo for my wife. Few years later I still can't believe, how she changed, her aikido became absolutly amazing.

To my mind this statement is about 'what is valued' and what is acknowleged as valuable in our collective world. A world where the feminine has been rejected and the masculine over emphasized. Out of balance. The answer is to expand our vision of training and what it is for, to develop appropriate muscle and physical use among all players; not to tell Women what they must do to qualify in a masculine model of our art. This aiki is a do, a tao, how the water flows. Only natural that water depth should be involved as it spreads through many bodies. Not neccesarily 'down'. ,but perhaps through or with.

Mark Uttech
05-26-2007, 06:29 AM
In the aftermath of WWII, when Japan was a defeated nation, it found a little hope in the admonishment of a buddhist priest to simply take care of itself the way it would raise a child; what was not good for the child was not good.

In gassho,

Mark

jennifer paige smith
05-26-2007, 11:17 AM
In the mid 1960's, Bob Frager Sensei was driving through Tokyo in a Taxi with O'Sensei. He thought to himself 'here I am with the founder alone. Maybe I can ask just one question.' He pondered the thought for a moment with full knowledge that this was a precious opportunity, if the question was allowed at all. He weighed his words carefully and asked "Sensei, what should the attitude of nage be toward uke?". Without a pause O'Sensei answered, "Like a parent to a child.".

Jen

Ewan Wilson
12-12-2007, 09:15 AM
Thanks! I have added her name to my list of teahers world wide who are 7th Dan and up. I must say it's a big deal for anyone to get that highly ranked, I would think your website would have a bit more about her. I had to dig before I found her name in there..
- George

Maybe they don't think it's particularly important.

Basia Halliop
12-12-2007, 01:20 PM
To my mind this statement is about 'what is valued' and what is acknowleged as valuable in our collective world. A world where the feminine has been rejected and the masculine over emphasized.

I don't think I could disagree more strongly! I don't much appreciate another person (woman or man) defining for _me_ what kind of attitude is 'feminine' and 'masculine', and therefore what I 'should' value or 'should' relate to or 'should' feel at home with or familiar with as a woman, never mind that it completely rejects a significant subset of women (and probably of men too). I got out of highschool in hopes of finally seeing the back end of that and being free to just be myself, and I don't want it creeping back in my Aikido world.

I have to say I agree much more with Szczepan's advice. Teach women to be comfortable and confident in their bodies and their muscles and have more trust in their own physical power and capabilities.

Basia Halliop
12-12-2007, 01:33 PM
Oops - it appears this thread was dead. Darn, I didn't mean to help resucitate it.

Ron Tisdale
12-12-2007, 01:58 PM
No Problem from me, I like what you said!

Best,
Ron

George S. Ledyard
12-12-2007, 06:25 PM
Just as aside, since this came up again... This was the single most replied to piece I ever wrote (and that's a fair bit between Aikido Journal, Aiki Web and E-Budo).

I got e-mails from women all over the English speaking world... It was re-printed in a Karate organization's newsletter. It was the focus of a spirited discussion on a Women's Martial Art site. Obviously, it struck a chord. Opinions seemed strongly held on this one. But I think that there is a broad common experience which many, obviously not all, women identify with. I find that fact to be a cause for reflection. Sort of the "50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong" idea... I don't think the My Fair Lady "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" approach is going to be very satisfying in the long run.

Shany
12-13-2007, 04:32 PM
George, you wrote about the Dan system and women being 'less' than the boys.
but, in fact, why would anyone really care about grading system? its not really important unless u wanna show it around and boost the ego.

women, being physically less stronger, has way better technique than guys, who usually measure their techniques with physical power.

why no girls have really stood up? i think because no one lets them or society makes it such that they automatically not worthy of teaching.

Lorien Lowe
12-19-2007, 05:29 PM
Heya all-
I just finished a book relevant to this topic, called Training Women in the Martial Arts, by Jennifer Lawler and Laura Kamienski. It offers a good look at why a lot of women come into the martial arts in the first place, and talks about how to support them and how to keep them in the dojo. The book is written strictly from a woman's perspective and is strictly for women in the sense that its entire goal is to help women begin and continue training, and couldn't care less about keeping the average Joe in the dojo (based on the assumption that he has a lot of cultural advantages to doing so already).

A lot of the focus of the book is on women's self-defense classes, and the need for classes that address attacks on women by people whom they know (statistically, something like 85% of rapes) and the need for self-defense for women who might be reluctant to gouge the eyes or break the elbows of men whom they know, until it's too late for them to resist effectively.

I'm going to add this book to the dojo library, but would like to offer the caveat that it is written from a strong feminist perspective that might offend some male readers. The existence of a patriarchy, both within and without martial arts, is taken as a given - as is the negative effects of said patriarchy on the women of the world.

ps I'll repost this over in book reviews too.

onishin
03-10-2008, 07:46 AM
Hi

While reading this thread i came across a list of high ranking women in aikido. At least I think it is.. as I don't speak Russian

http://www.daobg.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t8846.html

akiy
03-10-2008, 11:43 AM
Hi

While reading this thread i came across a list of high ranking women in aikido. At least I think it is.. as I don't speak Russian

http://www.daobg.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t8846.html

The above page refers to information which is currently being collected here on AikiWeb in its AikiWiki page on "High Ranking Female Yudansha" page:

http://www.aikiweb.com/wiki/Highrankingwomen

As always, if folks here see anyone that should be added, please use the "edit" function on that page to update. Thanks!

-- Jun

Mary Turner
03-16-2008, 08:27 PM
No more should we encounter the dojo which places the male students at the top of the technical and hierarchical heap while the women, all ranked in the second tier, do all of the organizational and administrative work thereby actually keeping the school going for the men. No more should we recognize the accomplishments of women only to the extent that they resemble those of the men but also for the unique contributions they can make which perhaps most of the men can't or won't.


Thank you, thank you! I get so tired of being the one to keep up with the paperwork, clean the Kamiza, etc.

Great article.