View Full Version : Physical contact vs. "no-touch" policy

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05-16-2005, 05:35 PM
Hi, this is kind of a spin off, of the recent debates here on aikiweb concerning the case with mr. Klickstein and the case with a woman leaving aikido allegedly due to inappropriate behavior on the part of an assistant instructor.

I am an young woman, and I am currently "working" as assistant instructor in the children's class in the dojo where I train. In contrast to what has been discussed with the "hands off" approach when dealing with children, (meaning that instructors should have no/very little physical contact with students), I personally have a very "hands-on" approach.
This would include stuff like physically moving a child's foot to make the child stand in hanmi, and other things like this.
I do this because I find it easier to "show" than explain the significance of a specific detail of a technique to a 5-10 years old. This is also the approach of the other (male) instructors.

There has never been any issues with this at "my" dojo, nor does it seem like any child or parent see anything problematic in this approach. I would find i quite restrictive if I were to refrain from making ANY physical contact with the children when trying to "teach" a technique.
It should also be mentioned that the head instructor uses the children for demonstrations of techniques... This would also have to be abolished with a "no touch" rule?

I guess I am just wondering what others think of this? Should we really consider a "no contact" regulation in dojos? Should it be more gender divided? If a little boy comes to me and asks me to help him tie his belt properly, should I then send him to the male instructors? And vica versa?

Now, that was the adult-child issue, here comes the adult male-female issue...
There are very few women in the dojo where I train, but we are very uhm, integrated with the guys. We train, joke, "fight" etc. Basically we get very close to each other physically. This has never caused problems, at least to my knowledge. Over a period of time I had some troubles with muscle pains (my back, shoulders and so on) and some of my friends from training, as well as my sensei tried to help me with this by massaging the areas which caused me trouble.

I have never felt sexually harassed by any of my "dojo mates", or that anybody has behaved in a inappropriate manner towards me. On the contrary the people whom I have trained with these years are now people whom I trust more than many of my non-aikido friends.

But I guess that this trust has been gained slowly. Had some of the men in the dojo tried to massage me for whatever reasons, when I started my training, I would probably have been out of the dojo faster than you can say "domo arigato...". The intentions of an individual you do not know, can be very hard to recognise. Even more so when you are a teenager or a child (I was 15 at the time of my first aikido lesson).

Aikido is indeed very physical, and often very "close", and I find it sad to hear so many accounts of when this closeness is abused. But I am really at a loss with what could be done to prevent this.

So I guess that that... please excuse any spelling errors, english isn't my first language :-D


Jill N
05-16-2005, 06:21 PM
Hi all:

Something that I always explain to women who join the dojo that this is such a physical activity, and there is so much "hands on" stuff between students, that touch in inappropriate places can occur innocently. I also encourage them to feel very welcome to talk to me or one of the senior students if anything has given them the gut feeling that something was not an accident. This would be important to tell to children and their parents as well, for safety sake, as well as part of self defense training. Learning to put aside politeness when personal safety may be compromised is an important skill for everyone to learn. We can't always judge everyone in the dojo accurately.

I also ask permission before I touch new students to correct positioning etc.

e ya later

05-16-2005, 08:30 PM
We've got all adults or teens in our aikido classes. It's of course very physical, but I've never felt touched inappropriately. Accidentally, yes; but I wear all the appropriate layers including my nice thick gi so I don't think much of it. Occasionally, new male classmates will be afraid to touch me; but they generally get over it fast once they know I'm not going to freak out. Ignore accidents and it's less embarrassing for everyone; but if I ever thought something was inappropriate not accidental, you can be sure I'd say something about it!

If we have a new classmate who's having trouble with something, I'll explain and demonstrate and if that fails will physically move the person unless the person shies away or otherwise indicates s/he doesn't want to be touched.

I help teach kids karate, not aikido. With younger kids, you've got to move their hands and feet and sometimes turn their shoulders or they just don't get it. Once they're teens, I explain and demonstrate without touching -- teens, I've found, are some of the most body-conscious people and they're often not comfortable in their skins yet.

When I started coaching kids in karate, I never touched them. But my Sensei told me that sometimes you just can't get the littler ones to pay attention if you don't touch them on the shoulder, and it's easier to get them to line up straight if you put your hands on their shoulders and gently move them. Reposition feet and hands by explaining and physically moving them. He's right, and their parents don't mind because it's clear that this isn't "bad touching." And I've noticed that the kids warm up to me faster and more than when I never touched them. And they pay attention better, and learn how to move themselves better than when I used just words.

David Yap
05-17-2005, 01:23 AM
Hi all,

I used to teach kids class, mixed kids & adults class and mixed adults class in karate. I don't think one can teach a class with a "no-touch" policy unless one uses a shinai (kendo bamboo sword) as the late Enoeda sensei used to do. He would correct ones stance, posture and arms/hands by hitting the appropriate part of the body with the shinai.

During a seminar we were practicing ma-ai using chudan oi-zuki (lunge or step-up punch) our fists were required to stop within millimeters of our targets. I was paired with a senior lady instructor with fairly big blossoms. I didn't really think of her as an opposite gender and I could manage my punching very well with full speed and power. After a few punches, she looked disturbed and her eyes were staring at my fist each time I finished a punch close to her chest. With that she had upset my concentration and after that I stepped and punched with half the speed to the disgust of the shihan.

My point is that touching is inevitable in martial art but there are zones that strictly off limit as far as gender (including children) is concerned. I also want to mention here is one can tell difference between a fondle and a touch.

Best training

David Y

05-17-2005, 05:33 AM
Great post, Stina. I think anytime you mix genders or teach kids these issues come up. It is a mined field in some places and less of an issue in others. As for gender personality and background play a huge role in what is acceptable and what isn't.

The Sensei is the leader of the class and he sets the mood, and tone for training. If the dojo atmosphere and expectation demands respect for and from each adult student, and the students take that serious, on their best manners and behavior then inappropriate touch becomes a rare issue. What an easy thing to do in an Aikido dojo then to have respect. I think it is the vigilance is what keeps respect alive. If this is the case then when accidental contact with the gender parts is an accidental part of training. This goes for the same in all training contact. Because you have to touch each other to do Aikido and be instructed.

A violation is type of touch. For different places different types of touch are not acceptable. For example, rubbing someone in on the back, in some places, who isn't injured during practice isn't an acceptable part of training; other places no big deal. On the other hand elbowing, or slapping someone isn't proper touch in some places as it is in other. Then again some people are more tolerance then others in what they personally define as good or bad touch. For a safety rule to avoid bad touch, there maybe a rule in the dojo that only allows massage by a professional in the dojo. Bad touch isn't just passive touch, it can be a strike or slap as well. Any touch outside of practice and training can be bad touch.

Proper touch and bad touch is something that is dictated by the Sensei and the responsibility of everyone.

As far as children go, it is pretty clear cut in my mind, also tone and attitude play a role in what is inappropriate. I have never worked with children or anyone 17 years or younger.

05-17-2005, 06:29 AM
It is the Sensei who insures and sets the proper tone of what good and bad touch is so that people are not experiencing bad touch. When a Sensei doesn't do this he isn't an Aikido Sensei.

It is important to mention that what acceptable touch is and isn't are different in different places and people concerning adults.

05-17-2005, 08:23 AM
It can be a little vague as what a "bad" touch can be as it can also depend upon context.

I was on the receiving end of some predatory behaviour from someone at our dojo recently. He had in a very roundabout sort of way asked me out on a date (I am not single by the way), and ran off before I could give an answer. During the warm-up of the class, he keeps turning round and staring directly at me. The following class, he shows up late. He makes an extra special effort to sit next to me during the grading taking place and rather than watch the grading stares at the side of my head. Then he spends the rest of the class trying to practice with me as much as possible. When I grab his arm for practice, he keeps stopping, taking hold of my hand and replacing back on his wrist. Which he has not ever done before and is totally an excuse to try and hold hands. He was also very lacking in respect and control toward me that day. One can only guess, this sad individual, doesn't get any other contact with women.

So, what he actually did could be classed as legitimate. What he had done as a package was harrassment.

BTW: I complained to Sensei, who is taking care of the problem and the asssistant instructors are being fantastically supportive.

I suppose my point is also, that it needs to be made clear that the dojo is a place of training and not a hook-up joint! And respect for ALL is essential to prevent lowering the tone. If you can't trust or respect the person you are training with (and vice versa) then it makes things very difficult.

05-17-2005, 10:19 AM
I think so much of sexual intimidation and inappropriate contact is dependent on the complex relationship between two people. I myself am naturally a very physical person - both in the dojo and outside the dojo. Also I sometimes make jokes with sexual inuendos as well (outside the dojo). However it is extremely important to judge what is appropriate with a particular person, so that they are not upset by it. Basically, if someone is upset by the physical contact or the lecidiousness, the other person has made a bad judgement and should be made aware of the fact immediately - and future behaviour disciplined.

Personally I find it easy in aikido since the concentration on training and teaching means I never think of any sexual undertones. To some extent I do think it depends on the 'purity' of intention. In aikido there is no need for contact which is in any way overtly sexual (even though some contact may be considered 'intimate').

I would hate to see an increase of the aversion to physical touch - I think it is essential to human psychological health, and I do believe that the contact in aikido is actually psycholigcally beneficial. This is especially the case with children, who should feel relaxed with normal physical contact (both giving and receiving). Of course your have to be careful about contact, to prevent court cases; but if you are aware of how comfortable the person is with different levels of contact, and there is no sexual objective perceived by either party, I cannot see a case being brought.


P.S. I don't work with children - obviously what is acceptable with children is slightly different since they are much more vulnerable to accepting what we, society (and their parents!) will consider inappropriate behaviour.

05-17-2005, 12:48 PM
Hmm, I don't quite know where to start... and I don't think I can quote when I'm not registered, so here we go:-)

To Wendy Rowe: Like you I am also much more careful when dealing with teens. I agree with you, in that they seem to need more space, and that should of course be respected.

With David Yapp I totally agree with the "off limits" zones gender wise. But as you say, there is such things as accidental touching and this should be recognized and accepted. Intend is everything, right? Oh yeah, and I really like the concept that Enoeda sensei apparently used, I could definitely see some advantages of this... (That's of course a joke:-D)

To Jon: I can see the logic in letting the sensei dictate what is "allowed" and "not allowed", but still the idea leaves me with a funny feeling. I would definitely prefer that people would be mature and aware enough to realise the different limits of different persons. Instead of making restrictions which would seem unnatural for some, and natural for others.

To Ian Dodkins: I agree with you whole heartedly. I would find it very weird to combine my aikido training with an aversion for physical contact. Those just don't mix for me.

Finally to "ToothfairyII": I'm sorry to hear of your dojo experience with that guy, but its great to hear that you are supported by the others:-)

Finally, I've been wondering for awhile, is it possible that there is much more acceptance for female instructors to have a "hands-on" approach, at least with children? I have never been worried about a child finding my behavior inappropriate, but I do believe that the male instructors at the dojo where I train, have given the thought some consideration, and are very careful not to do something that can be found inappropriate. Of course I am also careful as to not touching a child in an inappropriate manner, but I am not really worried of being accused of this either. Is it really so gender related, concerning teachers?

05-17-2005, 01:19 PM
Touching is the base for many issues from injury to harrassment. Sometimes we are not willing to view "difficult" students as threats to the dojo because they pay dues. As Sensei, I want to protect all students, including those that might become exposed to an assault or harrassment suit resulting from working with a difficult student. I have the luxury of a dojo without overhead, so I freely turn prospects away if I feel they are a threat; specifically children/teens and sensitive women, but sometimes men too. I find that men cause difficulty mostly when are too violent though, which falls on the assault side of things. Usually, I explain my decision and suggest either another dojo or program.

Sad, but this happens in dojo more often now. Couple of things I use as rules of thumb:
1. Always ask permission to touch. I usually ask with all new students. After a while, they understand what is expected and the dojo relationship develops from there.
2. Prepare your students for physical contact. My "spidey senses" tingle whenever someone comes in that does not accept physical contact in the dojo, or they are too physical (I mean crazy). I encourage those students to go elswhere.
3. Be open for feedback. I try to encourage students to provide feedback if they have issues training with anyone else. I make my e-mail and home phone available for students that want discretion.

I expect all my students to understand and accept there is contact in aikido, both intimate contact and combative contact. I also expect my students to understand that contact on the mat is professional, not personal. Finally, I expect my students to report uncomfortable contact or language so it may be addressed immediately.

05-17-2005, 02:41 PM
Stina, yes you can can quote etc.

Finally, I've been wondering for awhile, is it possible that there is much more acceptance for female instructors to have a "hands-on" approach, at least with children? I have never been worried about a child finding my behavior inappropriate, but I do believe that the male instructors at the dojo where I train, have given the thought some consideration, and are very careful not to do something that can be found inappropriate. Of course I am also careful as to not touching a child in an inappropriate manner, but I am not really worried of being accused of this either. Is it really so gender related, concerning teachers?

Great question. That is why I don't train or work with kids. I am male. Yes males are looked at differently. I don't want to be accused falsely. If Micheal Jackson is convicted this will not be good for men who work with kids. Just as so many high profile child cases recently ( the little girl in Fl.) and of the past have shaped the way we look at men in who deal with children. How about those female teachers sexually abusing their young male students. The fall out was so bad for woman. Thus, I don't teach kids. I don't want to be in a position where I am falsely accused due to public hysteria. There are plenty of adults around to have as training partners.

05-17-2005, 04:20 PM
Given the sensitivities and varying boundaries associated with aikido or any other contact activity involving the different sexes or age groups it is important that a dojo address the issue up front by establishing a dojo policy on sexual harassment. All instructors should be made to read and sign the policy and all students given a copy of the policy in either a handbook or a separate sheet of paper. At that time, it is my feeling, it would be good to explain that aikido is a physical sport that must involve contact to be practiced effectively. The hands off policy should be stressed but it should also be noted that occasionally, accidental contact may take place. The issue of "intent" should come into play here. If the person intentially touched someone inappropriately or continues to do so after making accidental contact, then I believe harassment is occuring.

This is an extremely complex issue since physical boundaries vary by individual based on their upbringing and history. There are no easy answers other than suggesting one err on the side of caution. When it comes to kids, I'd keep all interactions out in the public domain. A pedophile is not likely to make his/her behavior public and generally uses the threat of violence to keep it quiet.

05-17-2005, 06:34 PM
this question kind of goes along with the thread about physical contact vs no touch policy.
but how do you tell if someone is harassing you? i mean there is this one guy that i train with and he is always touching me, like a bad touch, but it looks like it could be a mistake, but its the same mistake over and over again, and its obvious, like it'll be a stupid mistake.
an example would be if he is supposed to strike to my neck he will strike to my chest instead. :confused:
but like i said it could just be a mistake, but im also not an outspoken person at all, and dont really have the "audacity" to say anything to him or my teacher... becuase what if im wrong... i would feel really bad then.

anybody have any thoughts?

05-17-2005, 08:42 PM
... The hands off policy should be stressed but it should also be noted that occasionally, accidental contact may take place...

So you're saying aikido instruction should be hands off? We certainly have more than occasional, accidental contact.

Chef CJ
05-17-2005, 09:30 PM
I think that anyone involved in the Aikido trainig would know that it is hands on. Talking to new students and helping them accept this is a part of the character and confidense building that is integral to Aikido study. Obviously inappropriate contact is not welcome in the dojo but any good student should be concentrating more on technique and less on poor behavior. I know it is idealistic of me to hope for, that people can all do that but I believe it is possible.

As far as children go, the parents have to be aware of the nature of the training and open communication between Sensei and /or the class instructors and the parents is essential and should be happening on a regular basis to begin with.

Well, that is my two cents. Good discussion.


just me
05-18-2005, 02:53 AM
I think Aikido and physical contact are understood to go hand in hand. After all, it is a martial art and we all sign waivers that cover injury occurred during potentially dangerous training, that would certainly seem to suggest benign innocent touch occurs as well.

The trick is to discern the level of appropriateness and the intention of the "toucher."

For adults, we can maturely deal with accidental "not-so-inocent" touches. For example, a female during Nikkyo or Sankyo on a male uke might place his hand on her chest, depending on the variation. While taking ukemi, he might slip and accidently brush against her breast. Adults can understand that is not the intention and was innocent.

For children, I think that as mentioned above, clear communication with parents is essential. The best solution, if size of dojo permits, is encouraging the parents to observe their children's classes so the parents can see what goes on and how everything fits together. The parents should be active in their children's activities anyway, whethor it is Aikido, sports, or internet use! Whatever is done however should be done in full view of other instructors, and ideally the student's parents. Private one-on-one with a child is just a bad idea.

"Predatory touchers" are a whole separate can of worms, and must be dealt with at least by the head instructor of the dojo after a victim approaches them about it. I doubt that there are any Senseis who would actively allow such abuses to continue once informed of it. If so, it not be a dojo that I would train at.

As far as males vs. females in society, I agree that society does indeed look at males differently, maybe even for legitimate reasons. I am a male school teacher by profession, and one day, one of my students, a 13-14 year old girl, tripped over, and was on her way down backfirst into an overhead projector on the ground. I moved in behind her, over the projector, and placed my arms under hers, catching her and stopping her fall. It took her about a few seconds to regain her footing. All I could think of was "Oh my god, this looks BAD!" Luckily nothing happened, but I think it goes to show that even innocent situations can "look" bad to someone unfamiliar with the context. There have been countless other times where students have stood or leaned over "too close" requiring me to move a few inches away.

If there is ever any doubt about the intention of a contact-situation, I think it must be dealt with directly, but allowing the "toucher" some degree of benefit of the doubt. Hostile or predatory intentions I think would be obvious when the incident is discussed with the toucher, over an innocent misunderstanding, or necessary touch.

05-19-2005, 03:26 AM
i mean there is this one guy that i train with and he is always touching me, like a bad touch, but it looks like it could be a mistake, but its the same mistake over and over again, and its obvious, like it'll be a stupid mistake.
an example would be if he is supposed to strike to my neck he will strike to my chest instead. :confused:
Hi Mal,

I suggest that you ask him to improve his aim! It makes it more difficult for you to do what your sensei has just taught you if your uke attacks in the wrong way - this is your main reason for asking him to strike correctly.

but like i said it could just be a mistake, but im also not an outspoken person at all, and dont really have the "audacity" to say anything to him or my teacher... becuase what if im wrong... i would feel really bad then.
Are there any senior women at your dojo you could talk to about this? It's probably a good idea to get a second opinion about this guy before you take the matter any further.

It sounds like he's probably just clumsy and uncoordinated, but if he wants to improve, he needs to learn how to aim his attacks correctly. You are well within your rights to bring this to the attention of your sensei, as you can just say "Sensei, I'm having difficulty working with X as his attacks are so off-course, and I don't know how to deal with them". If it turns out that his attacks magically do improve whenever sensei is watching him, but not when he is unobserved, then yes, you do have a more serious situation which you must bring to your sensei's attention.

All the best,
Take care,


05-19-2005, 05:51 AM
this question kind of goes along with the thread about physical contact vs no touch policy.
but how do you tell if someone is harassing you? i mean there is this one guy that i train with and he is always touching me, like a bad touch, but it looks like it could be a mistake, but its the same mistake over and over again, and its obvious, like it'll be a stupid mistake.
an example would be if he is supposed to strike to my neck he will strike to my chest instead. :confused:
but like i said it could just be a mistake, but im also not an outspoken person at all, and dont really have the "audacity" to say anything to him or my teacher... becuase what if im wrong... i would feel really bad then.

anybody have any thoughts?

Possibly wear a plastic chest guard?

I don't wear one for aikido but I do for karate. I sometimes mention to the guys I'm practising with, that if they hit me there, it'll hurt them more than it hurts me! If he starts "accidentally" getting somewhere else on your body, then you definitely have a problem. It's also a useful piece of protective equipment, and you can't feel a thing through them!

05-19-2005, 08:02 AM
When I and another sempai was about to start up kids/youth class in the dojo again, one of the reasons were the benifits aikido (and most budo) training would be to them. The major benefits however was that today many kids grow up with a different world view and the social and physical contact lessens more and more. To us aikido training would be an excellent opportunity for these kids to actually get away from the indoor motionless asocial activity - to meet other kids, enjoy the new physical skills but most of all to be able to train physically with other kids. Take their eyes from there feet and look into the eyes of their fellow aikidoka - to allow someone to throw you, pin you and in generall controll you and therefor putting your trust into someone elses hands.

For us this was a major reason to do this. Physical contact was not a negative aspect of this it was the possitive benifits of it. That include the contact that I and my co-instructor had to have with these kids as well.

Sadly it seems that events like sexual and physical assault on adults and kids has lead to a sort of public hyper vigilance towards these things - making natural and healthy contact into something bad in many peoples eyes. No touch rules, I think, will only establish this more feer for these things, specially for instructors, who in turn molds the new generation of peoples into same and elevated feer. Much like the hyper vigilance towards crimes directed towards self one sees in the US today. People want to carry arms to protect themself from people with arms, all the while the low life criminals arm themself even more to deal with this armed population etc... (oops OT!)

I just think one should be careful for, so that when one think one protect him/herself agains something too much, the effect of this might backlash...

Ps. I have since let other take over the kids training, since I have way too much to do right now Ds.

05-19-2005, 12:08 PM
It is my experience, people who have been or are athletic who join Aikido have a different experience with physical contact then those who have little or none sports experience.

Aikido is an activity that has physical contact like wrestling. Where the entire body can have contact with another. Not as aggressively as wresting though for instance. A number of people I see who first join Aikido usually don't have much physical contact experience as a result of an athletic background. Or have much experience with physical contact as kids partaking in physically activities. People with limited perspective on physical contact naturally would be different then of those who are experienced with physical contact. Those without minimal or no experience deal with physical contact differently then those who have moderate and more experience with physical contact. What may be uncomfortable for one person is not a concern for the other. How do you negotiate boundaries and thus policies?

In my society people are going more and more isolated, we are having less and less physical contact with each other. We are isolating ourselves for the sake of safety as result of street and work play violence and for the sake of convenience. Because we are isolating ourselves more in my society people have more issues and complexity when physical contact takes place.

I remember working with a twenty-something young lady who was clearly nervous about the physical contact in class. It was evident she wasn't use to much physical contact, and working with a male made her nervous. During an introductory class waza of sankyu she got very nervous and self conscious voicing her concerns of her breasts interfering with the technique. As a self fulfilling prophesy she overtly put her male uke's hand (mine) right square on top of her breast. Obviously embarrassed, she marked unwarranted accusations and comments before storming out of the dojo. We all understood her embarrassment, and latter she apologized to the dojo. The type of physical contact in Aikido made her very uncomfortable, as she wasn't accustom to having that type of physical contact with men. It was too intimate for her to be a proper exchange of contact, and reacted as she was brought up to. Needless to say, she stopped coming to class.

In another situation, there was a woman who trained with us about 6 mos. She love Aikido and the class. She was really into it. She was married, and had invited her husband to watch the class. She wanted him to share in her interest. He sat still through the whole class and then left without comment. The next class meeting she was very sad. She informed us she would no longer be attending class because her husband found it inappropriate physical contact. He didn't like her having physical contact with other males in the class. We do a lot of woman self-defense "what ifs" scenarios where a male will approach a woman from behind throw an arm around the females neck threatening a choke, having little or no distance between the the two, as he hold her tight against him so she can't escape. The female is then instructed in how to defeat the male with various waza. Pretty standard self-defense stuff. He insisted she stop training. Who knows what went through his head, I think he was afraid she would leave. And, no she didn't get a massage. No one at that time was giving out massages on their own volition. Massages are not part of the dojo or training culture, regardless of my friend who did give out his own massages. FWIW, he was already gone by then.

On the other hand, we have female students who have a variety of different attitudes more comfortable toward physical contact. One woman who come from a different dojo said, " We are all eunuchs." That was her attitude on the mat. She put aside the sex of her training partners. If a hand landed on her breast ( intended or not, male or female ), it didn't phase her from completing the technique. Another woman's attitude ( who was a victim of a crime ) was to train as if it was real. She expected to me touched inappropriately because that is the criminals intent. A criminal male or female, may do it to distract or to be the intended purpose of a criminal violation.

Not to exclude us men, two friends from South America watch their sister in the class. While watching the class made a lot of physical contact with each other. They sat with their arms around each other, almost hugging one another, very free with physical contact. It made me and the other guys very uncomfortable. We deemed that as gay behavior. Among us we where hoping these guys wouldn't join the class. Well, they did the next class meeting to experience Aikido. None of us guys wanted to work out with them because we thought they would make sexual advances on us. We feared they would approach us and us touch us in a way we didn't feel comfortable with. Well, after biting the bullet and hosting these guys on the mat our fears where false. They where friends and in their country unlike ours this is how men are, it didn't mean they where gay, or interested in coping feel here and there. Their behavior toward each other was only that of good friendship and trust.

Science shows us the importance of physical touch for humans. We can't live in a world where we don't touch. It is impossible no matter how hard we try to isolate ourselves from physical contact of others. Unless we all live in bubbles. Making psychological adjustments in order to understand and cope with the dojo environment is essential to learning Aikido. I was nervous my first years in Aikido. Will I get hurt? What if my private parts or a hand rub up against a woman's accidentally and I can't move away immediately, and what if I get turned-on, and she knows it? EEEEKKKK! I got over that, now I don't even notice if I am in such a situation. I got over the sense of intimacy that can naturally happen between the sexes and with the same sex. After putting sometime in on the mat all those concerns melted away. I became more confident and secure with any type of physical contact situation occurs.

I see it very hard to set a no-touch or limited touch policy for adults where everyone agrees on. That ranges from the current new student to an advanced who has many years under their belt. People who join Aikido don't come from the same household per se. They come from all walks of life. People handle physical contact differently then others, because of the various backgrounds and experiences people have. People have different personalities and needs, and personal zones in order to create comfort zones where they feel safe in. It seems to me a door mat communication helps in informing everyone on a policy. Letting new students know before they walk on the mat what type of physical contact takes place and how the dojo looks at it puts everyone on the same sheet of music. Inform them of what is acceptable and what isn't in the dojo, and what actions are in place. Inform them of what to expect at the first point of contact. Then insure all students walk, the walk and talk, the talk. This way less headaces for the ethical dojo and Sensei. And a choice for people to make before they join.

Trust does develop overtime through physical contact. I strongly agree with that, as often as it is overlooked in the face of when violations of physical contact occur are discussed.

Kevin Kelly
05-19-2005, 07:38 PM
Great post "Jon".


05-20-2005, 09:56 AM
Jakob Blomquist a.k.a Aikilove makes great point about kids needing to have contact with other kids. Aikido when taught to kids does provide social and character benefits. I think more then then do sports.

I am pleased Kevin Kelly you enjoyed my last post. It is my intention to share with others what is and has been successfully achieved in my experience.

I agree in this day and age we have a hyper-vigilance toward sexual abuse on kids. Therefore, as a parent, I embrace a policy in place for how kids are handled by adults. This includes on and off the mat. It includes verbal communication as well as touch. I realized this goes against what I previously said about human isolation and touch and trust.

As a parent the following is my experience and observations which are support for a policy in the dojo when teaching children.

Children are much more sensitive responsive, accepting of touch and speech from adults. They don't have the development, discernment, filters, boundaries etc. to deal with the complexities when adults interacting with adults. Touch is touch and their are wired to grossly responded to it. Most touch is received as caring. A pat on the head for example, means more to a child then an adult. It communicates a lot to the child and can acceptance and security.

Pre-pubescent children have no discernment of their bodies unless identified by the parent. Most of the time, because they have no real discernment, and because they are children who are under the care of their parents they need to be reminded of which part of their bodies are off-limit to touch. This is reinforced over the years as the child matures into puberty where they are more developed and independent. I am not saying they are capable of making good choices, or are impervious to adult influences yet.

Both of these situations outline what we have to deal with when a child enters a class where there is an adult instructor. Because of the nature of and their under-development of themselves, and perspectives of adults rules of touch and interaction between children and adults is paramount. When we don't pay attention to how children and adults interact this can be a defect to children when in adulthood. Besides a safety factor.

What is good touch and bad touch on the mat? Hopefully, it makes no difference on or off the mat. But it all depends on what a parent and a society considered inappropriate touch and what isn't. Most places and people ( at least I would hope ) universally consider touching in anyway a child's genital, chest (females) and buttocks of a child a serious violation. This is in addition to certain speech by the adult that would allow for an adult to commit the serious violation. Depending on where you live of course dictates what is acceptable touch and what isn't. Another, if not the most important factor, depends on what the parent deems acceptable and not acceptable touch and language for their child.

Another area not talked about much is the other type of physical contact and language that is abusive. Instructors and others who are insensitive to a child and treat them roughly both verbally and physically as if they are in a boot camp. The boot camp reference is used to point to an extreme to get the point across. Adults can be very condescending, mean spirited in an authoritarian manner that may go unnoticed, or acceptable in the context of the activity. Adults can easily physically over power a child intentionally or not causing injury to the child. Adults can routinely allow kids to partake in injurious and unsafe activities in the name of the activity. For example, it might be said, "It's normal for kids to hurt themselves doing that move until they learn it"- it really isn't.

For all these reasons, once again a door mat policy would be a good idea for any ethical and moral dojo to have in place. If they don't already. It allows the parents to ask questions and evaluate the activity, and those who will be working and instructing their kids. It allows communication between the ethical sensei, the students and the parents. It is sad to say, but a fact that it hurts allot of good intentioned people when child molesters and those who abuse children victimize children. Child molesters and abusers seek to be involved with children in all areas and ages of children, and their lives, as well as the lives of the parents. As we all know, Aikido isn't exempt or immune to child molesters in this day and age. A door mat policy on how a child will be treated and talked to professionally that includes acceptable touch and level of trust between the child and the instructor only can help parents insure their child will not fall victim to an unethical and moral instructor or adult in the dojo.

I would like to mention personally where I live and as a parent the following dictum. Regardless of gender, NO sensei, instructing or non-instructing adult of children should have contact or access to the child privately, after or outside the class. There should be a demonstration of the teaching staff of respect for the child on the mat and the parents wishes. Wishes that are not unreasonable that is. There are some parents who are not reasonable and demand of special treatment. The teaching staff should not be too personal with the child and observe professionalism at all times when dealing with children. No boundaries should be tested or crossed at anytime with a child. By having a door mat policy only it protects the child, the parents, and the ethical and moral dojo teachers. Communication, vigilance is key, right action is imperative in protecting a child and those who ethically and morally teach. Hopefully, dojos who set good policies and make parents aware of them when teaching children will detour and choke out any dojo who have less then honorable intentions when teaching and training with children.

Knowing that child molesters and abusers seek positions that involve themselves with kids, and the more we understand and expose their methods for such malicious and heinous behavior on children, does and should make us hyper-vigilant. Child molesters can and are anyone. From a family member to a trusted community or religious leader or child professorial or any sort. As good parents, we should be hyper-vigilant. Not in terms of a crazed witch-hunt of anyone that makes eye contact with at a child. But, instead we need to level-headed, clear minded and vigilant in protecting our child from becoming exposed to and victimized by child molesters and abuse. Prevention on the parents part is the best medicine - includes and not limited to awareness and education all the way around.

12-15-2005, 02:52 PM
:) After reading all of this, it is a good experience to read about this. I was at one time wondering about all of this and how it was handled in a Dojo. I have never wondered about me, but wondered what people thought about the matter. I believe at first it takes some opening up, but when you open up, the physicality is not a problem. I think that you have to admit there are going to be accidents, but it is easy to tell that is an accident and what is intentional. I believe that you have to trust your dojo mates physically, If you don;t it would be very hard to work with them. I think though, as you grow in rank, you will become more intimate with your technique with each individual. Aiki is love. That is all i had to say.

12-15-2005, 03:43 PM
I was startled to hear "never touch the chest" suggested as a rule with kids. This would rule out Ki Society's usual way of assessing balance (a soft push with the palm to the upper chest) as well as attacks such as kata tori and bear hugs. It seems severely over-cautious to me.

I think that it's important to be careful, but also important not to be so careful that people are afraid of contact--that sends entirely the wrong message.

We have both men and women teaching kids' classes, and I think it is important not to let the current societal over-emphasis on how dangerous men are exclude men from this important role. How can children learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate when their elders aren't allowed to model "appropriate"? As others have said, we strongly encourage parents to watch classes--there are almost always parents present, except with the teen class--and so we would have immediate feedback if anything the parents couldn't accept was going on.

A much more difficult question for me personally is when it is appropriate to physically restrain or pick up a misbehaving child. Sometimes it seems essential for safety, but it's getting pretty close to physical discipline of a kind that we don't have the parents' consent for. I have one young student who does not respond to verbal demands to sit down and stay put. It is very tempting to pick him up, put him where he belongs, and hold him there briefly. But it is a much scarier form of touch, emphasizing the adult's huge strength and size advantage, than the usual balance tests or pats on the head.

Mary Kaye

12-15-2005, 08:54 PM
Perhaps it's "inappropriate" if one party has a "problem" with it? ;)

Lorien Lowe
12-16-2005, 01:28 AM
When a child is reluctant to go when their parents call them, I have been known to chase them around the dojo with my hands over my head, shaped like claws, yelling "GRRRRRAAAAARRR!" and then grab them around the waist and carry them squealing and giggling back to their parents, sometimes upside down.

I guess that breaks every rule there is.


Josh Reyer
12-16-2005, 05:37 AM
When a child is reluctant to go when their parents call them, I have been known to chase them around the dojo with my hands over my head, shaped like claws, yelling "GRRRRRAAAAARRR!" and then grab them around the waist and carry them squealing and giggling back to their parents, sometimes upside down.

I guess that breaks every rule there is.


You, ma'am, are history's greatest monster.


12-16-2005, 11:22 AM
If I have to get across "You may NOT kick uke when he is down," the child in question will likely have a "problem" with my behavior unless I am a milquetoast and don't enforce the safety rules. So that's not a completely reliable guide.

Small children are rather different from adults. It is not guaranteed they will be able to articulate "I don't like being touched there" in a way that distinguishes it from "How dare you tell me no!"--either when the touch is appropriate by adult standards or when it is not. So I think we have to bring our own judgement to the issue and not rely entirely on theirs.

Mary Kaye

12-16-2005, 12:09 PM
[QUOTE=Jon Readingso I freely turn prospects away if I feel they are a threat; specifically children/teens and sensitive women, but sometimes men too. I find that men cause difficulty mostly when are too violent though, which falls on the assault side of things. .[/QUOTE]

Remind me never to try to train here. Most people find me threatening.
As a ballet dancer I had to Very Quickly adapt to my partners' hands going places they are "not supposed to". I also had to learn to Very Quickly say "DON"T LET GO!!!!"
I'd rather they got a handfull than dropping me like a sack of onions.
And if there is a No-touching-the -chest policy anywhere, how do yu do nikyo or iriminage?