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cck
10-03-2005, 12:22 PM
Many guys tend to think and say that women have an easier time "getting" aikido because they are not as strong as guys and hence are forced to adopt the subtleties of the art (or eventually quit). Also, there is a lot of insistence that women know how or have some genetic ability to employ their hips better. This drives me crazy! My hips do not automatically swing into action in aikido just because I am of the female persuasion! I struggle with my mind to make them move instead of my shoulders, arms and other body parts (and then I struggle with my mind to shut up/off, but that's another story). I have never once perceived an advantage to being a woman in this art - not physically, at least. And yet it is such a common generalization. What am I missing? Am I the odd bird/stickwoman out? What say you other womenfolk?

I guess it bothers me that there is an expectation of natural ability based on gender which I just don't see in myself or other women. And if I believe it, the disappointment is much greater when it does not actually materialize in measurable ways. To have someone tell me that "you have center! You are a woman!" makes me want to bite the mat in frustration.

j0nharris
10-03-2005, 12:52 PM
I occasionally get the same kind of thing, because I'm a little smaller in stature, & don't have to worry about naturally trying to muscle the technique.
:rolleyes:

Pauliina Lievonen
10-03-2005, 12:52 PM
I train in a dojo with 50/50 men and women. So far I haven't seen ANY difference in "natural ability" by gender. All beginners muscle through and use their shoulders more than their hips, to various degrees.
Hope this helps. :)

kvaak
Pauliina

Kevin Leavitt
10-03-2005, 02:10 PM
I don't think physically women or more or less inclined to aikido simply based on their gender.

Women, I believe, mentally many times tend to be wired slightly different than men. I think the disposition of many women make "getting" aikido much easier than many men. But this is not related so much to gender as it is to societal conditioning.

Men, myself included have many years of muscling to overcome, whereas women may tend to be able to steer clear of this.

That said, many women may carry years of emotional issues that are ingendered into them by society that they need to over come, but I have seen this true of many men too!

So maybe it is a wash?

Also, I believe lighter people in general have a much easier time moving around the mat than a big guy such as myself.

I don't think any of this is related so much to the gender as it is societal conditioning and simply the physics of size.

In the end, each person brings to the mat their own strengths and weaknesses and it is the responsibliity of the sensei, the dojo community, and the individual to discover and identify those and work toward either exploiting them, tempering them, or improving them.

Since Aikido tends to be about the individual does it make much sense to apply broadbased stereotypes though?

John Boswell
10-03-2005, 02:15 PM
Well, when it comes to generalizations: ALL generalizations are wrong all the time and everybody knows it... everywhere. And that's true for anyone with no exceptions whatsoever.

I just wanted to make that perfectly clear.

That, and I never exagerate. Ever.

That is all. ;)

odudog
10-03-2005, 03:44 PM
Well, according to my Sensei who has a lot of experience in the arts and also teaches a women only self defense course. He says that ladies get Aikido much easier than guys. Guys always try to out muscle one another, its how we are taught as kids. Ladies don't have that conditioning so there is nothing that has to be unlearned. This is main point of the commen said statement. However, I'm a light weight, so I too didn't have to unlearn.

Qatana
10-03-2005, 03:50 PM
Begging your pardon Mike but I have tried to muscle through every technique with every person larger than me in the dojo, which includes everybody in the dojo.I will try to muscle my way through any conflict be it physical Or verbal, so the entire reason I train is to let go of that.
Conversely, a friend in another forum says her sensei is pushing the women to try to use More Power, not less.

rob_liberti
10-03-2005, 03:57 PM
Of course all humans will try to muscle things initially. I think the point is that people with less upper body strength will not have as much "success" in doing that and therefore will have the one advantage of not building up that particular bad habit. There are plenty of other difficult things to keep things relatively the same between genders.

Rob

cck
10-03-2005, 04:39 PM
There are plenty of other difficult things to keep things relatively the same between genders.
I did not mean to appear on an equality crusade, sorry if that's how it came off. It just seems to me a very pervasive and also false assumption that women somehow "get" aikido better than men, and therefore it is something that can very well get in the way of instruction - hence, Kevin, not looking at the individual. As far as size is concerned, well, like the big guy said: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee :-)

I dunno - maybe it is also societal conditioning that lets guys think these things about women. What really rubs me the wrong way is that it's repeated as if it were indisputable fact and that many women may actually believe it. That's what I meant by the potential disappointment being greater.

SeiserL
10-03-2005, 05:32 PM
IMHO, generalizations are just that generalizations. While they are not always true, they can be generally useful. Don't take them too seriously or too personally.

nekobaka
10-03-2005, 07:16 PM
That's interesting, I usually get the opposite kinds of comments. "it must be hard throwing around guys that are much bigger than you"
and actually I think it is harder when you are throwing a much larger person for a break fall, especially koshinage. I can think of about 5 people in my dojo that I literally can't throw properly ever. that said, for a woman I am taller, larger, and stronger than any of the other women in my dojo. that's mostly because most Japanese women are so small boned, and certainly that wasn't the case in the US. there are a lot of college students at my dojo, and I find that age is often another obstacle of not using strength.

So as far as my early morning rambling goes, it's annoying when people push their assumptions on you, no matter what those assumptions are.

Amassus
10-03-2005, 08:47 PM
In my limited experience, it is not gender that holds people back. It is what they hold within themselves from life experience.

Whether they be a man or a woman, those that have an accumulation of negative experiences from their life so far tend to be more protective, less trusting, more tense and as a result find things more difficult.

The generalisation that women are able to 'pick up' aikido easier is certainly not something I have experienced at the dojo. We are all individuals and learning at different levels.

My humble opinion. :D

aikigirl10
10-03-2005, 10:02 PM
It just seems to me a very pervasive and also false assumption that women somehow "get" aikido better than men, and therefore it is something that can very well get in the way of instruction -

If someone told me that women "got" aikido better than men , personally i would take that as a compliment.

Its always good to have one up on the guys ;).... not that its anything new... :p

senshincenter
10-03-2005, 10:04 PM
I'm with Dean on this as well - my experience, both studying and teaching, has been the same.

mathewjgano
10-04-2005, 03:50 AM
I of course am not a woman, but I would say there is at least a very small amount of truth to the idea that people who are not very muscular (I have often been the smallest, skinniest guy where ever I went) are more inclined to use finese rather than brute strength. Growing up, my friends loved to wrestle around and like I said, I couldn't use muscle to "win." However, like all generalizations, those ideas aren't truly representative. As a small guy, I still have to learn to not get stuck in my muscles. You might take the reverse and say that smaller, less muscular folks like us have a harder time engaging our partners while "tough-guys" have it more easily. For every attribute there's a pro AND a con I think.

asiawide
10-04-2005, 05:34 AM
As far as I've seen, girls learn aikido fast since many guys ardently help them learning aikido. This is my observation. :)

Jaemin

rob_liberti
10-04-2005, 06:59 AM
Generalizations:

(1) "BJJ is aikido on the ground." I get the idea really, but no one who can speak about the depths of aikido has said that yet. We'll have to wait for a shihan-ability in Aikido who is also a grand master in BJJ to make that statement.

(2) "90% of all fights go to the ground." 70% of all fights involving LEO trying to capture fleeing bad guys go to the ground. That's the only stat based on actual data that I'm aware of in this area.

While I find the basic idea behind those statements true-enough "in general" I don't take them as fact. There is typically an agenda behind such statements. Much like the agenda behind:
"Women have an easier time "getting" aikido because they are not as strong as guys and hence are forced to adopt the subtleties of the art (or eventually quit)." I'm sure that wasn't said by a women in the dojo. It was probably said by a guy in the dojo who:
a- on the surface level, thinks he is encouaging the women in the dojo
b- probably doesn't realize that he is feeding his own ego that "he has it much harder"
c- probably doesn't realize that he is starving the women's ego who want to think they have it much harder or offending the women who would like to believe that we have it equally as hard.

The reality is that we can't really know.

Rob

roosvelt
10-04-2005, 09:41 AM
What's wrong with generalization?

When I do certain technique which involves pushing chest, I modify it to push shoulder of female partner. Because I assume that she doesn't like being rubbed in that area. If any of you female readers stand up and dispute my assumption/generalization, and think it's a commpliment to be teached on that area, I'd like to train with you, on mat or off :D

I do believe that woman in Aikido master it faster in general. Reasons:

1.Women are more flexible in general.

2. Woman in Aikido are more motivated.

3. The beginning woman in Aikido are better spicemen in their gender. I've seen many men, who can't touch his own toes, who has bad kneed cap, who's over 60, who's lazy (a guy regularly late for 6:00pm class because he can't get up. No, he doesn't work night shift. He just likes long afternoon nap), come to our dojo. While the women are young, fit and eager to learn.

giriasis
10-04-2005, 10:42 AM
I think the problem with the generalization here is that her male sempai/ sensei are assuming she should know how to do the techniques just because she's a woman instead of showing her how to do the techniques correctly herself. It sounds like she's getting, "what do you mean it's hard, you're a woman it should be easier so what are you complaining for?"

Just because we (women and the small in stature) face resistence more often because we are not as strong as the typical guy does not make it any easier to learn aikido. Actually, it can make it more frustrating and challenging to learn, especially when you turn around and see the guys and stronger people muscle through and are treated as if they are better as a result. When your stronger than someone it is harder to really feel whether you muscle through a technique, but when your smaller/ weaker than someone you notice it right away. But being able to notice this right away doesn't mean it's easier to learn as a result. Yes, eventually, we will learn to find our center and learn to apply the technique without muscling but that's because we don't have any choice otherwise.

Let's turn this about face. There are many times I see guys, in general, learn ukemi faster -- especially breakfalls. And as a result, the ability to take ukemi aids in learning aikido. Also the ability to breakfall gets them incorporated faster with the dojo since the higher ranks are more apt to train with someone with better ukemi so they can throw harder. But once again, that's a generaltiy. (i.e. guys learn ukemi/breakfalls faster) How would you like to hear from a sensei/sempai, when your a guy who is having a problem with ukemi and he/she then says, "why do you have such a hard time with breakfalls, it's easier for guys to learn breakfall so what's your problem?"

Given that, I think generalities can help in understanding, but generalities should be only taken so far since they lead to pitfalls in training -- assuming women should or can only do "soft aikido", assuming guys only like to take "hard" ukemi or prefer harding training, assuming women can't do breakfalls, assuming that just because someone is significantly stronger you can't hurt them, assuming that just because women have a lower center of gravity it should be easier, assuming that since women are weaker they really can't do aikido and should only be patronized, etc.

And well, we all know what "assume" means. ;)

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 11:02 AM
Begging your pardon Mike but I have tried to muscle through every technique with every person larger than me in the dojo, which includes everybody in the dojo.I will try to muscle my way through any conflict be it physical Or verbal, so the entire reason I train is to let go of that.
Conversely, a friend in another forum says her sensei is pushing the women to try to use More Power, not less.It's funny how there seems to be this stuck record about "muscle", "power", "Aikido", "women", etc. Even a superficial reading of O-Sensei's history shows that he worked diligently on personal training. All the uchi-deshi working many hours a day for many years could not but help develop conditioning and power. The "don't use muscles" only means "don't use normal strength but use kokyu and ki training". There should be some sort of secret cabal where the women in Aikido with some physical ability and sincerity get together and practice the "secret ways of unusual power".... sort of like the Bene Gesserit in "Dune". ;)

FWIW

Mike Sigman

giriasis
10-04-2005, 11:09 AM
There should be some sort of secret cabal where the women in Aikido with some physical ability and sincerity get together and practice the "secret ways of unusual power".... sort of like the Bene Gesserit in "Dune". ;)

What makes you think there isn't? ;)

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 11:19 AM
What makes you think there isn't? ;)Well, the sort of power I'm talking about, and I mean realistically, would cause consternation and a LOT of discussion in the Aikido community. Ipso facto, there isn't such a cabal. ;)

Mike

senshincenter
10-04-2005, 11:33 AM
Some more things came to my mind after reading Ann-Marie's post.

- The whole idea of not muscling is not quite the same thing as having no muscle (or having less muscle). Really, what one is looking at is not the total absence of muscle tension and/or not using one's muscular system. Rather, one is interested in gaining a particular type of muscle usage. This use, in truth, is not hindered by a well-developed muscular system -- it is aided by it. Here, I feel, we must realize two things. First, a well-developed muscular system can have one more physically coordinated and thus more capable of cultivating the particular muscle usage being required to practice the art correctly. Second, the particular muscle usage being sought requires (indeed!) a great deal of muscle development -- one that can act to support the particular forms of selective (muscle) relaxation being used. In particular, one has to have great development in the core muscle groups -- with special attention given to the legs, hips, and the back (both up and lower), etc. The stronger you are in these areas, the better.

- Much of Aikido's power comes from gravity -- either directly or indirectly. More accurately, we can say, that much of Aikido's power comes from our capacity to allow gravity to pull down upon our mass. The more gravity is allowed to pull down on our mass, often, the more powerful our technique. Thus, the more mass that can be pulled by gravity, the more powerful our technique. Since muscle development is one way of increasing one's mass, muscle development can assist us in making our techniques more efficient and thus more powerful. A lack of mass, and/or a lack of muscle development, therefore, can make our technique less powerful and less efficient -- relatively speaking.

- For me, based in part upon those things mentioned above, as a practitioner, I very much seek to develop myself muscularly. For example, lifting weights is a huge part of my personal training regiment. Moreover, as a teacher, I encourage every student, both male and female, to lift weights as well. For me, a well-developed muscular system helps one's training -- it does not hinder it. If anything, a poorly developed muscular system hinders one training more than most things.

- A capacity to use something does not hinder one in choosing not to use that thing (i.e. that if one has muscles, one cannot opt to use them incorrectly). Equally, an incapacity to use something does not mean that one will not still try to use it and/or that one will come more easily to use something else. It is like this: If you want to learn Japanese is the States, it is "x" hard. If you go learn it in Japan, it does not become "less than x hard." What might change is the need to learn it. However, need never made anything less difficult -- it only makes it more pressing, which more often than not tends to make learning more difficult.

In the end, my opinion is this: The weaker you are, the harder it is to learn to do Aikido efficiently, correctly, properly, accurately, as it was intended, etc.

Ron Tisdale
10-04-2005, 11:35 AM
Generalizations:

(1) "BJJ is aikido on the ground." I get the idea really, but no one who can speak about the depths of aikido has said that yet. We'll have to wait for a shihan-ability in Aikido who is also a grand master in BJJ to make that statement.

Rob
Hi Rob, would this person count?

http://www.realfighting.com/0702/yamashtaframe.html

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 11:41 AM
David, I think you're way off target for what Aikido is. My opinion. Give me a reasonably coordinated, dedicated woman to work with for perhaps a week in order to make sure she's on track. You take a woman with similar physical ability and dedication to show her your take involving weight training. Let them continue with their training and Aikido practice. At the end of six months, I'll bet the farm on the one with the ki and kokyu skills. At the end of two years, the difference should be astonishing. ;)

FWIW

Mike

senshincenter
10-04-2005, 11:54 AM
Hi Mike,

I did not set up an opposition between ki/kokyu skills and overall body conditioning. I do not see it as one or the other - that was my point. I'm more of the opinion that overall conditioning allows for a better use of technique (which of course includes ki/kokyu development, etc.) and a quicker learning curve in acquiring technique. If this last statement is something you got to disagree with, yes, perhaps we are saying something very different.

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 12:09 PM
I did not set up an opposition between ki/kokyu skills and overall body conditioning. But you can't develop ki/kokyu skills while you're doing weight training, David. Hence my comment.

FWIW

Mike

senshincenter
10-04-2005, 12:26 PM
Hi Mike,

Thanks for the follow-up.

You mean to point out a time management problem?

If so, well, for me, that is where dedication comes in. One does it all because one doesn't just find time to train, one makes time to train. Right?

To be sure, if one has "no time" to lift weights, then one should opt to undergo their body development through the activity they are participating in (in this case, Aikido - which includes ki/kokyu development). However, before I as a teacher opt to encourage a student along this route, I seek to assist a student in reflecting upon the difference between having time and making time. When a student engages in this self-reflection, at their own pace, 9 times out of 10 the time management issue you mention goes away. Hence, one has a student that not only understands the discipline necessary for training, necessary for going from finding time to making time, you as teacher, and they as student, also gain the benefits that being well-conditioned brings to the learning and application of technique (which includes ki/kokyu development).

There are lot of skills to learn to practice Aikido correctly - so time management issues are always going to come up. Wouldn't you agree? In my opinion, time management issues do not suggest that being well-conditioned prevents one from attaining any other particular skill or that being under-conditioned brings one better to any other particular skill - which is the current of the thread.

That is where I was coming from. Hope that makes sense,
dmv

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 12:32 PM
You mean to point out a time management problem? [[snip]] In my opinion, time management issues do not suggest that being well-conditioned prevents one from attaining any other particular skill or that being under-conditioned brings one better to any other particular skill - which is the current of the thread.No, I was just saying that doing weight-lifting and other forms of conditioning/movement which involve "normal movement" will simply block you from learning the "must-be-trained" type of movement in kokyu/ki skills. You can't do both at the same time and ever get anywhere with the ki/kokyu skills.

Regards,

Mike

giriasis
10-04-2005, 12:32 PM
I don't think David is too off base by saying that its important to develop one's overall body conditioning, but I also don't think Mike is wrong in saying that we need good kokyu power.

When I first started aikido, I was significantly overweight at 195 pounds at 5'5" tall. That's obese according the BMI. Then I lost some weight, about 10-15 pounds and maintained my weight around 180-85 for about two-three years. Still obese but not as bad as 195 and I was more physically active than what I was in the past (no physical activity). During this time I would have said that general body conditioning isn't important, but then I took another leap in my physical fitness. I started a physical conditioning routine that included light weights combined with cardiovascular aerobic exercise. Also, during this time I started to learn about my physical health and well-being also I began to strengthen my core -- back, abs, hip flexors.

After about 6 months of these kind of work outs my weight dropped to about 160 pounds -- still technically "overweight" per the BMI but no longer "obese." Yes, I increased my stamina by improving my cardiovascular health and I increased my muscular endurance, but more importantly during this time period "I found my center." At the same time, I started to receive comments from my seniors that I was really moving from my center and generating my power from there. I attribute "finding my center" to this physical fitness regiment because as part of weight training you need to learn to focus on each muscle and NOT use momentum like we do in aikido. But, by learning to focus on a particular muscle I could begin to feel my body working and discover how to make my body move. I could understand the physical clues my body was sending me and then contract or relax the necessary muscles.

Yes, being more physically fit helps, but there are still people stronger than me despite how physically fit I become. I might be physically stronger for my size or health, but still "weaker" compared to the 6'2" 210lbs men that I train with. However, in discovering my "center" in the process I've discovered this sort of kokyu power that Mike speaks of. So for me and my experience, you both are right. Physical fitness and good body conditioning feeds into having good kokyu power. But, you still need to make a conscious effort to not muscle your partners, and when I say "muscle" I mean trying to push through the techniques without proper technique.

Learning good kokyu power and having a well-conditioned body (not an over-conditioned body-builder type or underconditioned "skinny-fat" type body) does lead to good aikido whether male or female. At least that's my experience.

senshincenter
10-04-2005, 01:00 PM
No, I was just saying that doing weight-lifting and other forms of conditioning/movement which involve "normal movement" will simply block you from learning the "must-be-trained" type of movement in kokyu/ki skills. You can't do both at the same time and ever get anywhere with the ki/kokyu skills.

Regards,

Mike

Hi Mike,

I think I understand what you are saying - it is a matter of reinforcing habitual responses while attempting to learn new responses, etc.

Again, that is where discipline comes in - for me. Much of training is like that - since we are not always on the mat and spend more of our day with our habitual self than with our soon-to-be cultivated self. This is true even when we are on the mat - in the beginning at least. Somehow, with discipline, we make it through these odds, so that our less visited cultivated self becomes our more dominant aspect and our habitual self becomes less prevalent (i.e. adopting a new habitual self).

Moreover, one can always overlap certain aspects of their training - or rather, one always has to if one truly wants to mature - as you would know. One type of training does not have to be so contrary to another type of training. So, for example, one can lift weights to condition the body, and to gain the benefits of a conditioned body, while using such time to feel for things like gravity and/or ground paths, etc. This would be the necessary inverse of seeking not to use the muscle one has incorrectly in one's Aikido practice.

We do this overlapping all the time with several aspects of our practice. Sure, we may not get it right at first, but we eventually do with guidance and with discipline. Moreover, this overlapping learning strategy is also one very prime way of seeking to spend more time with our cultivating practices (and thus seeking to spend less time with our habitual responses).

However, again, if a person lacks the discipline (or guidance) to merge aspects of their training so that they can overlap, or if one is a kind of person that cannot transcend their habitual responses but through restriction and renunciation (assuming such people exist), this again would not suggest that being under-conditioned aids one in gaining proficiency in the art (which includes ki/kokyu development). Nor would it suggest that muscular strength is a hindrance to gaining proficiency in the art (which included ki/kokyu development). Moreover, it would not suggest that the more subtle aspects of the art are not aided by physical conditioning - whether we are talking about learning or application.

This is my opinion - for me weight lifting does not hinder the learning of technique - even technique that seeks not to use particular muscles groups that are often key to weight lifting. For me, overall conditioning always assists us, no matter what we are doing, even if what we are doing is sitting at a desk and typing.


thanks,
dmv

senshincenter
10-04-2005, 01:03 PM
I don't think David is too off base by saying that its important to develop one's overall body conditioning, but I also don't think Mike is wrong in saying that we need good kokyu power.

When I first started aikido, I was significantly overweight at 195 pounds at 5'5" tall. That's obese according the BMI. Then I lost some weight, about 10-15 pounds and maintained my weight around 180-85 for about two-three years. Still obese but not as bad as 195 and I was more physically active than what I was in the past (no physical activity). During this time I would have said that general body conditioning isn't important, but then I took another leap in my physical fitness. I started a physical conditioning routine that included light weights combined with cardiovascular aerobic exercise. Also, during this time I started to learn about my physical health and well-being also I began to strengthen my core -- back, abs, hip flexors.

After about 6 months of these kind of work outs my weight dropped to about 160 pounds -- still technically "overweight" per the BMI but no longer "obese." Yes, I increased my stamina by improving my cardiovascular health and I increased my muscular endurance, but more importantly during this time period "I found my center." At the same time, I started to receive comments from my seniors that I was really moving from my center and generating my power from there. I attribute "finding my center" to this physical fitness regiment because as part of weight training you need to learn to focus on each muscle and NOT use momentum like we do in aikido. But, by learning to focus on a particular muscle I could begin to feel my body working and discover how to make my body move. I could understand the physical clues my body was sending me and then contract or relax the necessary muscles.

Yes, being more physically fit helps, but there are still people stronger than me despite how physically fit I become. I might be physically stronger for my size or health, but still "weaker" compared to the 6'2" 210lbs men that I train with. However, in discovering my "center" in the process I've discovered this sort of kokyu power that Mike speaks of. So for me and my experience, you both are right. Physical fitness and good body conditioning feeds into having good kokyu power. But, you still need to make a conscious effort to not muscle your partners, and when I say "muscle" I mean trying to push through the techniques without proper technique.

Learning good kokyu power and having a well-conditioned body (not an over-conditioned body-builder type or underconditioned "skinny-fat" type body) does lead to good aikido whether male or female. At least that's my experience.

Yes, this is my point exactly. They are not oppositions for me.

Mike Sigman
10-04-2005, 03:02 PM
I think I understand what you are saying - it is a matter of reinforcing habitual responses while attempting to learn new responses, etc. Hi David:

No, I'm saying you can't mix the two and every really learn good ki and kokyu skills. You can't use "intention" (What Ueshiba called the "Divine Will") to power your movements on occasion and normal movement most of the rest of the time and ever expect to gain any skills in intention-powered movement.

Regards,

Mike

Trish Greene
10-04-2005, 10:25 PM
HI Anne Marie,

I am just begining my journey in learning Aikido and it sounds like I am starting at the same place that you started your training, classified as "obese" on the BMI scale at 180lbs and 5'3" at 35 yo. I have only been training for a month now, but in that month, my body has been doing things that I never thought I would be able to do...rolls, breakfalls etc etc. I have been concentrating more on the grace of the movements and the knowledge that it doesn't take muscle to do the movements that I have been training in.

But I do agree with you and the others about being in a good physical condition, not just for your health but, as you stated, it is easier to find your center when you are more in control of your body.

Only a beginers observation...

MaryKaye
10-05-2005, 03:49 PM
No amount of my teachers' careful and good advice on how to move did half as much for me, on the specific task of standing back up after a backfall, as situps and crunches did. If the muscles just aren't up to the task--and it takes some muscles to get 165 lbs of woman back on her feet--trying to compensate with skill is very hard. (And was very bad for my knees, as it turned out.)

I'm with Anne Marie; I see the two as complementary, not conflicting. It is not the most muscular people in my dojo who are most prone to solve problems via muscling; this seems to have more to do with personality than body type.

Mary Kaye

Janet Rosen
10-05-2005, 04:28 PM
I'm with Anne Marie; I see the two as complementary, not conflicting. It is not the most muscular people in my dojo who are most prone to solve problems via muscling; this seems to have more to do with personality than body type.
Mary Kaye
I agree w/ both those statements.
I've got hyperflexible joints and if I don't do strength training, mild but continuous, I cannot support them properly.
I'm a small woman but between growing up in NY and earning a living in my early 20s at a food coop warehouse (hauling 100# sacks of beans, etc) my energy tended to naturally come up and forward pugnaciously with arms ready to work. My first aikido instructor didn't know if he should laugh or scowl when he'd come at me with a strike and instead of getting off the line, I'd stand tall, firm and raise my arms to block with a mean look on my face :-)

macmcluskie
10-05-2005, 08:14 PM
I am new to this board but I think many of you are missing the point. We all come to Aikido with different stuff. Some with too much muscle, some with too little structure, some with poor fitness, some with no coordination, some with no flexibility and some with too much. We also come with goals and steps we want to take, anger and frustration, competition and most of all ego.
We all have some combination of these issues all the time that we must let go of.
One Sensei refereed to all this stuff as our cup. He said to fully embrace aikido we must empty our cup. Our path is not to "Not Muscle" but to let go of all of this stuff.
So please recognize that different people have different obstacles but that doesn't make aikido easier. The truth is if your obstacles are not pointed out aikido might be more difficult Brenda

rob_liberti
10-06-2005, 08:50 AM
This statement is taking it too far in my opinion.

"Just because we (women and the small in stature) face resistance more often because we are not as strong as the typical guy does not make it any easier to learn aikido."

It does make learning easier in terms of the physical aspect, for the exact same reason we _isolate_ muscles when we do weight lifting - you eliminate extra effort and focus your effort where it will help you more.

If there is a poor attitude in your dojo towards encouraging strong arm bandits, that's a separate (isolated) issue as far as I'm concerned. (Which should be addressed of course.)

For me, it all comes down to what you value and therefore what you fail to focus on and when. So for instance, I have no doubt that intention-oriented movement is important to develop. I just generally don't trust that someone knows the "best way" or "only way" if I can't get to work out with someone really great who _exclusively_ learned that "best way". Again, back to isolating...

Ron, I would love to meet that guy. That site says he is a godan. I know plenty of godans who I wouldn't say have the depths of aikido at their finger tips. I could name a shihan or two that tried fairly unreasonable techniques on me (but not on this site!). I guess I would have to get thrown by him a few times to be convinced that he is so grossly under ranked in terms of aikido ability (or should I say standing BJJ ability). It is possible, but I'm sure you would agree that ranking tends to go the other way more often.

Rob

giriasis
10-06-2005, 11:12 AM
This statement is taking it too far in my opinion.

"Just because we (women and the small in stature) face resistance more often because we are not as strong as the typical guy does not make it any easier to learn aikido."

It does make learning easier in terms of the physical aspect, for the exact same reason we _isolate_ muscles when we do weight lifting - you eliminate extra effort and focus your effort where it will help you more.

Well, since you're quoting me. Let's look at the rest of what I posted in relation to that line...

Actually, it can make it more frustrating and challenging to learn, especially when you turn around and see the guys and stronger people muscle through and are treated as if they are better as a result. When your stronger than someone it is harder to really feel whether you muscle through a technique, but when your smaller/ weaker than someone you notice it right away. But being able to notice this right away doesn't mean it's easier to learn as a result. Yes, eventually, we will learn to find our center and learn to apply the technique without muscling but that's because we don't have any choice otherwise. (emphasis added)

The rest of that paragraph was meant to explain my first statement and put it into context.

I agree with your final statement regarding how and why the less strong person learns, but since I've been that "weaker person" I do not think my assestment is too off base. It's based on my experience and my experience is not wrong. Please don't tell me it's easier when you see me struggle with learning to do a technique to someone stronger than me. THAT is exactly what Camilla, the initial poster, was getting annoyed about. You are making an assumption it should be easy when she is clearly saying it's not. We get frustrated because we have a mountain to move which can be just as frustrating as learning not to plow over your partners. (Oh, I can say this as most of the men in my dojo are stronger than me, I am not the most petite woman in the world. I can easily plow over the smaller framed women in my dojo.)

If there is a poor attitude in your dojo towards encouraging strong arm bandits, that's a separate (isolated) issue as far as I'm concerned. (Which should be addressed of course.)

I really wasn't addressing someone who is tanking or being jerk. There are the one or two who like to tank, but for the most part I'm skilled enough to deal with the jerks. My sensei does a great job dealing with these folks so please don't worry about poor attitudes. My sensei is very supportive and the overall tone in our dojo is positive.

However, I encourage the "strong arm bandits" these days, especially those senior to me -- those I respect have have good training relationship with. There is much benefit from learning from these folks and for the most part they are not being jerks, but want you to learn. No that's not a poor attitude but good aikido.

Mike Sigman
10-06-2005, 11:31 AM
(re something called "intention-oriented movement", which I suppose refers to "intention-directed movement") I just generally don't trust that someone knows the "best way" or "only way" if I can't get to work out with someone really great who _exclusively_ learned that "best way". I don't know of anyone who has claimed to know the "best way" or "only way", but I know of several people who have continually trivialized the idea, don't know how to do it, and have tried to stop the discussions.

Regards,

Mike "As Long as Everyone is taking oblique shots" Sigman

Mike Sigman
10-06-2005, 11:47 AM
We all come to Aikido with different stuff. Some with too much muscle, some with too little structure, some with poor fitness, some with no coordination, some with no flexibility and some with too much. We also come with goals and steps we want to take, anger and frustration, competition and most of all ego.
We all have some combination of these issues all the time that we must let go of. I've had a couple of one-on-one discussions and practice sessions recently with several different Aikido practitioners and I think the subject of women, strength, kokyu, etc., is being heavily mistaken as some sort of vague "use your center" thing like the Pilates people advertise (wrongly, in respect to kokyu/ki, by a long shot).

There is a way of movement and doing things that is just as substantive as zempo-kaiten undo... it can be taught directly, practiced directly; it makes people stronger. Like zempo-kaiten undo, you have to learn to relax to do it correctly, but more importantly, like zempo-kaiten, just relaxing and "not using muscle" won't teach you to do it.

As a couple of people noted to me recently, ones who have some skills in these areas, it is *flabbergasting* (you can also read "hilarious" into it at times) to watch these sorts of conversations time-and-again discarded or converted into vague-feelings-babble. I watched Rob John's very revealing discussions yanked out of a "General" thread and banished to the bottom-of-the-list "Other" category as just a typical example of what happens when someone puts pearls in front of you-know-whats. "Flabbergasting" seems to be the same word that occurs to a number of the people reading this forum in re these topics. ;) And it's not everyone in Aikido, it's appears to be a certain bloc.

But it's fun to watch. I have an appointment to work with a female Sandan (I need to try/practice a few things and she's agreed to help/exchange-info) in the near future. If it pans out, I'll see what I can do to help boost her physical power well above whatever she has now and I'll report on the progress.

Mike

Ron Tisdale
10-06-2005, 11:47 AM
Ron, I would love to meet that guy. That site says he is a godan. I know plenty of godans who I wouldn't say have the depths of aikido at their finger tips. I could name a shihan or two that tried fairly unreasonable techniques on me (but not on this site!). I guess I would have to get thrown by him a few times to be convinced that he is so grossly under ranked in terms of aikido ability (or should I say standing BJJ ability). It is possible, but I'm sure you would agree that ranking tends to go the other way more often.

Rob

I've trained with some of his students, I don't think rank enters into it. He's good, his students are good, he's been doing aikido an awfull long time. I really don't know what his rank is now. Personally, I think he'd exceed your expectations. He was Steven Miranda's first teacher, and I believe ranked him to nidan or sandan.

Best,
Ron

Paula Lydon
10-07-2005, 01:05 AM
~~I've always been exceptionally strong physically (and mentally from upbringing), and tend to go at most things like a pit bull, as a fellow jujitska once put it. I'm firery and pro-active by nature. It took me nearly eight months of sitting meditation to actually SIT STILL. I've spend the past decade focused on beginning to understand how to generate power internally instead of externally. Tai Chi helped greatly with this. I still practice yoga and do light weight training because I think this is good for muscle and skeletal integrity, and so that I might continue to pursue this budo path--as well as lots of hiking. Really getting the deeper principles of aiki into my body has been almost a twenty year endeavor and there's still so much room for growth. It was not easy; it did not come naturally. I felt like I was fighting my basic instincts most of the time. That's a bit of my story concerning this:)

dyffcult
10-07-2005, 02:17 AM
I assume that most practiionters understand that aikido is not about strength, but technique.

From that general assumption, women will always advance in the beginning of their training faster then their male counterparts, when all other things are equal. In the beginning....

Why? Because women seldom rely upon strength. They arenít trained by life to do so. Men are. Women naturally rely upon their hips and leverage. Men donít. Women assume that their counterparts will be stronger. Men don't.

In beginning aikido, women are more inclined to rely upon technique and their hips then strength. Men are more inclined to rely upon their strength, period. Women will therefore advance quicker in the beginning then men in aikido, given the same level of training.

Men need time to understand that strength is not the answer. There is always someone stronger than they. Women always assume that their oppoent is stronger then they.

Unfortunately, women seldom train at the same level or intensity as men. Therefore, comparing men to women in aikido is often like comparing apples to oranges.

Whether women are willing to focus on their training at the same level as the men, ...well, ... that is a whole other thread.....

Brenda

ian
10-07-2005, 11:06 AM
This is a generalisation, but I see that women tend to be more scared about doing ukemi (and thus progress more slowly with this), but also tend to be less competitve and thus prefer to learn how to do it properly than to beat their uke to the ground. Their centre of gravity is almost always lower than a man, so they should find it easier moving from the hips, but that doesn't mean they'll move their hips properly (vis. men generally are good at press-ups whereas women are good at sit-ups). However suggesting that an individual should be better able to do something more easily because they are a woman does not necessarily follow logically and is a consequence of their error in classification rather than your error in not being the average woman.

Qatana
10-07-2005, 05:31 PM
Brenda that is Exactly the generalisation that many of us have exception with. All I know from my own experience is that of the four women who have started training since me, one took two years to get invited to test for fifth kyu, one quit, and one just bought her first gi and I had the painful experience of watching her ukemi yesterday, and the two Men who started since me, one has tested for fifth kyu in nine months of training, and the other had ranking in aiki-jutsu.
So in my experience it takes women far longer to get aikido.

I said in a post that i never posted that I will try to muscle through any person, anything, at any time, and that is not gonna budge Anybody over 125 pounds.I have no choice but to do technique correctly, but even as an extremely fit trained dancer, technique doesn't come any easier to me than any man.

Lorien Lowe
10-08-2005, 06:08 PM
I assume that most practiionters understand that aikido is not about strength, but technique.

imnsho it's not about technique, either; it's about learning how to move in general more than in specific, and recognizing one's openings and those of one's opponent.

Because women seldom rely upon strength. They aren't trained by life to do so. Men are. Women naturally rely upon their hips and leverage. Men don't. Women assume that their counterparts will be stronger. Men don't.....Women always assume that their oppoent is stronger then they.
Unfortunately, women seldom train at the same level or intensity as men. Therefore, comparing men to women in aikido is often like comparing apples to oranges.

Speak for yourself, Brenda. Using words like "always" and absolute statements like ' women do and men don't' gets beyond the realm of generalization and into the realm of stereotyping.

Last month for the first time one of my sempai didn't tell me 'you're trying to out-muscle me!' when I trained with him. I'm a 5'5" woman; he's a 6'5" man who probably weighs in the 300's with most of that being muscle and bone. His arms are literally as big as my legs.
It's taken a mere 5.5 years to get there.

As far as intensity...well, there are some guys at my dojo who train more fiercely than I do, but there are more who don't.

imnsho.

-L

rob_liberti
10-08-2005, 07:00 PM
I didn't mean to strip up a bees nest.

Anne, I read the rest of what you posted. I saw the emotional difficulty of having the folks who are muscling techniques getting treated as better as a separate issue from the physical advantage of being unable to cheat as much as physically stronger folks. (Encouraging that kind of strength is a dojo problem in my opinion.) Also, I hope we have a difference in meaning for the term strong arm bandit as opposed to someone who is just good at resisting with their full body. I totally agree that at long as it is level appropriate, the stronger the resistance the better. I think a strong arm bandit resists from the wrong place and doesn't have very good aikido.

Mike, you mentioned Robert John. I was thinking of his teacher and many others who have their own way that they believe in. If you recall, my first question to him was how good are the students in that system. That's the best way to get buy in from me. I agree that you never said you had the right way or the only way so in the future there is no need to worry yourself or defend yourself against percieved oblique shots from me in that area. Good luck helping your sandan friend.

Rob

giriasis
10-08-2005, 09:50 PM
Anne, I read the rest of what you posted. I saw the emotional difficulty of having the folks who are muscling techniques getting treated as better as a separate issue from the physical advantage of being unable to cheat as much as physically stronger folks. (Encouraging that kind of strength is a dojo problem in my opinion.) Also, I hope we have a difference in meaning for the term strong arm bandit as opposed to someone who is just good at resisting with their full body. I totally agree that at long as it is level appropriate, the stronger the resistance the better. I think a strong arm bandit resists from the wrong place and doesn't have very good aikido.

It's hardly a bee's nest, Rob. Yes, in my first dojo those who could muscle techniques would get treated "better" than those who couldn't, but in my present school they're not treated better the students themselves act with the allustion of being "better" because can just push over their partners. Fortunately, in my present school is large enough to balance out this kind of inequity since we have many guys who can out muscle the "resisters" and show them that their technique works. Those who are willing to listen to me get the instruction of me demonstrating what they are doing to me, and then I show how I can't throw them. I then tell them if they train with someone stronger that is what will happen. For the most part, these kind of guys do listen to me. But in the end everyone is expected to do the techniques correctly and the bad attitudes are dropped or they weed themselves out of the dojo when they discover bulling is not approved behavior. And,after moving to my current school, seeing these kinds of behavior balance out was reassuring to me.

To me someone who is a strong arm bandit can be a newbie who stiffens up because they are afraid to fall or newbie with previous martial arts experience who will resist at all costs even if it means they'll get hurt because they don't want to fall regardless. For the most part, I can handle these guys these days and control them, but when I was less skilled these guys were hard to train with. Then, there are the few who resist just to prove to you can't throw them.

The "stong arm bandits" that I like are those guys who are stronger than me who I allow to resist me so I can learn to respond to such an attack since not all potential attacks, if I ever get attacked, are "good aikido" attacks. I'll solicit this kind of attack from them. I But I've only like doing that kind of training with those I've developed a good training relationship with as it's easy for egos to get out of hand.

But the frustration isn't just in seeing the big guys "get away with doing it" (regardless of whether they are treated better than) but with an inherent frustration that comes when you meet resistence from your partner and sometimes its exacerbate by someone who doesn't understand the technique and can't correct yours. Hence you don't learn and you don't get better. It's my experience that you have to be taught how to do this. Learning to do this just dosen't magically happen because I'm not as strong or because I might have lower center of gravity. Until a person obtains a basic understanding of the principals figuring this out for oneself can be very frustrating.

And to Brenda,

I agree with others that your statements are really broad generalization. I'm assuming your basing this on your own experience can you give us some more specifics as to you particular situation? I think I might know what your getting at.

rob_liberti
10-08-2005, 11:43 PM
I'm glad to hear that your current dojo is does not have the problem of muscling being praised over technique.

I understand that not being able to cheat by out-muscling does not mean that you will magically figure out the best way to handle it. I can certainly see that if people have that expectation of you that it would be frustrating. I just assume that anyone making such a comment is more likely commenting on how they - and/or people they know - spent decades of dedicated practice down the path of over-muscling things and wish they could have that time back.

I agree completely that there is no problem with beginners being tight and strong - and that it is good to learn how to work with them (and anyone at any level doing that). My current opinion is that you have to learn how to unify, move with them such that they lose their balance, and then when their mind goes to their balance apply a joint lock so they cannot set up resistance. I used to try to apply a joint lock to take people's balance and I found that to be far less reliable than what I'm currently doing (although I'm still not batting 1000). What principles do you find the most helpful in such situations?

Rob

Qatana
10-09-2005, 10:19 AM
I just got a Ball Python as a pet. I think that learning how to make her let go whe I want her to is going to have a great effect on my aikido....

Jenn
10-09-2005, 10:57 AM
First of all, nothing wrong with generalizations, provided that the generalization is based on truth and not ignorance. A generalization doesn't mean something is *always* true, just that it is *generally* true. Nothing wrong with that.

I think generally, men and women may each have different challenges with Aikido, mostly in the mind though, not in the body. I know one thing my Sensei (a woman) has pointed out to me is that I struggle with broadening my movements because I have inhibitions about invading my partner's space, which a lot of women do. On the other hand, I do notice I am less "stiff" than most of the male beginners who do indeed often try to muscle through techniques (not because they are physically stronger (even though they are), but because of the mentality of "I'm a MAN! I'm doing MARTIAL ARTS! HYAH!" Not that all men are thinking that.. that is just an exaggeration of the mental wiring/socialization that I think takes hold when learning.

giriasis
10-09-2005, 10:59 AM
I agree completely that there is no problem with beginners being tight and strong - and that it is good to learn how to work with them (and anyone at any level doing that). My current opinion is that you have to learn how to unify, move with them such that they lose their balance, and then when their mind goes to their balance apply a joint lock so they cannot set up resistance. I used to try to apply a joint lock to take people's balance and I found that to be far less reliable than what I'm currently doing (although I'm still not batting 1000). What principles do you find the most helpful in such situations?

The principles that I find the most helpful is learning to move from my center and keeping my partner off balance while at the same time learning to control them in a confident enough way where they can feel safe taking ukemi from me. This isn't easy to do. I used to go way to soft on my partners which would elicit from those who think they know better correction of my technique. Or I would be one of those people saying "you should fall here" and they are not feeling anything and look at me like "I don't feel it."

I watch where their body goes in response to my movement which is an honest response. Sometimes they go places I don't expect and I then evaluate my technique and movement to see what I'm doing wrong.

dyffcult
10-13-2005, 01:35 AM
Jennifer made a good point. Generalizations made upon fact are acceptable.

She then stated:
I think generally, men and women may each have different challenges with Aikido, mostly in the mind though, not in the body.

I don't agree. While there are differences in the mind, there are differences in the body.

Women are taught to use their hips from infancy. Men are not. A number of aikido techniques require hip power....something men are not naturally conditioned to use. It takes a bit of time for men to use their hips over their physical strength. Women simply accept, "oh, I can use my hips here."

Men focused on the art quickly recognize the power of the hips and any inate female advantage is lost.

However, to state that there is no difference between men and women during the initial stages of training in aikido is to fail to recognize the differences between the bodies of men and the bodies of women. Or the fact that women and men utilize their bodies in different ways....or that they are taught to utilize their bodies in different ways. Society expects certain things. Without thought, we generally adhere to the expectations of society.

So, at the very beginnings of aikido training, the woman does have the advantage. She is trained by nature to use skill....and her hips....not strength.

Brenda

cck
10-13-2005, 11:54 AM
I just had a variation on the theme: yesterday, we did a technique (no idea of a name) that ended with nage down on one knee and uke in a forward roll. Fine. Now I am told that it's a good technique for me because I have "a lower center of gravity". Granted, I am short, and tend to be shorter than most of the guys I practice with. A lot of the time instructors and sempais tell me to be "bigger" - and obviously, since I can't spontaneously grow 4 inches taller, I get that it means something else, and I even have a notion of what that is (part of which has to do with not thinking of myself in terms of size). But once you're on the floor on one knee and all curled up, it really doesn't matter how big you are - and most ended up throwing from a standing position, anyway. In other words, techniques don't favor any particular build.
However, statements like the one about centers of gravity and women and their hips express assumptions that - as is a common thing for assumptions - really don't hold true and that keeps people from seeing what is really happening. Yes, I agree that I do not have to work as hard getting under peoples' arms, and that I have to adapt some techniques to get people to come to my level, but I do not feel some out-of-the-ordinary attraction to the ground. Tall people have their own advantages/challenges. The starting point for exceptions just always seems to be women/smaller.
Why on earth would you think that the use of hips is some mystical thing that women just know how to do, rather than a basic movement that everyone is able to do? Think of a John Wayne swagger, for instance - the man could move his hips, and I don't think many would dispute his iconic status as a "manly man's man" - arrrgh! If you tell guys - and gals - that women have some natural/societally bred ability to use their hips (and that's a statement I really take issue with, Brenda), you are also implying that guys don't, and hence that it is "unnatural" or hard for them - and then of course it will be. And conversely, women who like me find it difficult to and has to think about involving their hips might feel somehow deficient if they buy into it.
I am not talking about some great male conspiracy to keep women in their place, please do not misread this post as such. I am just saying that the whole thing about assumptions based on gender/size seems to be incredibly, surprisingly, unquestioningly pervasive, and I believe it can put blinders on practitioners. Hanmi handachi techniques are a great illustration, and something my instructors thankfully default to when faced with my difficulty ("But, I'm short/he's so tall...") in executing some technique with one of the big guys. Again, techniques do not favor any particular build...

Qatana
10-13-2005, 12:03 PM
I don't remember being "taught to use my hips from infancy" or childhood. In fact I "learned to use " them when I started dancing to drums at age 14.And I still walk like a man, I have to remember to "walk like a girl" when dressed like one... Most girls, in Fact, who go to Dance classes from childhood, have a center of gravity roughly in the middle if their chests and it points Up at all times.

Lorien Lowe
10-13-2005, 03:18 PM
Women are taught to use their hips from infancy. Men are not.[QUOTE]
I wasn't. No one I know was. The closest I have seen to someone being a 'natural' at aikido is a young man at my dojo, currently 3rd kyu, who's about 5'2" and more flexible than gumby.
Everyone else I've ever seen, myself and other women included, have to muddle through things like we'd never learned how to walk.
[QUOTE]
Without thought, we generally adhere to the expectations of society.

Darn, I wish this were true. I wouldn't have spent the last twenty-five years wondering why I was such a geek. My parents tried really hard to let me become the person that was most natural for me, and it turned out that their attitudes were a lot more important than society's.

There are two main problems with generalizations: one, as previoiusly stated, that they are often based on prejudice rather than fact; two, that even if the generalization is mostly true, the exceptions [the 'rule,' if the generalization is in fact incorrect] tend to get shoved out of the discussion as though they don't exist.

-L

Lorien Lowe
10-13-2005, 03:20 PM
sorry about the error in quote framing up there.

L