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AikiWeb System 09-07-2004 05:51 PM

Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
Posted 2004-09-07 17:49:46 by Jun Akiyama

I just found out about the video "Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido." It is described on their website as, "A video portrait of women aikido instructors. This sixty-five minute video/DVD features 10 of the top pioneering women in aikido from The United States Aikido Federation. Including interviews and demonstrations, the video/DVD shows the commitment of these instructors who have influenced the art of aikido through teaching widely either at seminars or as chief instructors at their own dojos." It features Penny Barnath, Barbara Britton, Coryl Crane, Lorraine DiAnne, Gloria Nomura, Yoko Okamoto, Jane Ozeki, Kristina Varjan, Susan Wolk, and Gina Zarrilli, all women who hold at least a 5th dan in aikido. The video (VHS or DVD) is available at

shihonage 09-07-2004 06:10 PM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido

Jeanne Shepard 09-07-2004 11:18 PM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido

Aleksey Sundeyev wrote:

That's an interesting comment!

Jeanne :p

Matt Molloy 09-08-2004 02:34 AM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
I don't know the others but anything with Okamoto Sensei will be worth watching. I had the great fortune to attend a seminar in April with her in April and she was fantastic to watch. Very powerful, fluid and inspiring.



markwalsh 09-08-2004 06:58 AM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
The UKA held a course this year led by female instructors. It was top notch. Interestingly Pat Narey, the senior female instructor present, said that she wasn't too keen on female only courses (this course was mixed with many UKA male instructors turning up to take ukemi).

Some of the high ranking female instructors in the UK that I'm aware of are are:

Pat Narey, Cath Davies, Barbara Sotowicz, Lousie Hunt -UKA
Dee Chen, Pauline Squire - BA
Maria Helsby, Linda Gannon - BAF/ or associated.
Ah loi Lee - BAA

Some might say that to classify them as "female instructors" isslightly insulting (and this applies to other divisions). As the Aikido they practice is a reflection of their varying teachers and personalities, rather than their gender. While body type is clearly influenced by sex, in think this is over stated. At the end of the day we're all Aikido students, and I don't notice if the person throwing me around has an inny or and outey :)

:circle: :triangle:

Q.1 Would we put together a video on national/ ethnic grounds? Top European instructors? Top Afro Caribbean instructors? Is this is a good idea or not? Should we celebrate our differences to help overcome prejudices that DO EXIST; or do we say, Aikido is about bringing people together and all that stuff is irrelevant? I honestly don't know.

Q.2 Is there a female 8th dan in the world? I can think of one Afro Caribbean (Amos Parker) and European (Andre Nocquet, now decreased) example.


kironin 09-08-2004 07:44 AM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido

While body type is clearly influenced by sex, in think this is over stated. At the end of the day we're all Aikido students,
it may not be P.C. but as a biologist, I have to say it.

gender affects mind as well as body.
there are differences physically and mentally and that can affect the approach to teaching, and that's a good thing.

markwalsh 09-08-2004 10:05 AM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
Care to elaborate?

giriasis 09-17-2004 12:42 PM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
I really think you guys need to watch this video/ DVD. I have and it's excellent. I do not think you would be having this discussion if you did.

This video does a wonderful job in telling the experiences of these 10 women. You will welcome their candor, as well as their diversity of views of a people who practice aikido ... who just happens to be women. This isn't a feminist diatribe against men. This DVD reflects ten different women's experiences. I enjoyed Lorraine DiAnne's testimony as much as Penny Bernath's. And Jane Ozeki's as well as the other women that I can' remember. My biggest overall impression was that most of the women didn't really see their experience in aikido as special "women's" experience rather than just their particular experience.

I found that the purpose of this DVD was to show that, yes, women can have strong aikido, women aren't all that different from men, we like to train hard as much as the men, and here we are, some of the top instructor's in the USAF. As a woman, it's nice to see their strength, skill and even grace on the mat, although they are all role models that anybody, not just women, can look up to.

shihonage 09-17-2004 02:18 PM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
Yes its a very nice DVD.
The intro kicks ass, and several of the women have sharp, snappy, flowing realtime technique.
A couple of them apparently forgot what a realtime technique is like, maybe due to their age, I don't know - but the same can be said of men.

This DVD overall has Aikido movement which is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than anything I've seen in say, Aiki Expo.
I don't know why. Maybe because several of these women actually have their technique work purely on _technique_ and not power.

Some of the stories these women tell are interesting, too.
Some just drone on.
Thankfully there's Aikido footage to get you through them.

Another little grudge - despite clearly strong technique of the female nages, none of the female ukes in the video knew how to deliver a mune tsuki or shomen uchi with any degree of intent.
Also, in all of the randori demonstrations there was always a uke or two who was just standing and waiting for nage to be "ready" for them.

But then again this, unfortunately, can be said for many men as well.

Final note:
I don't know about feminist views or whatnot, but this DVD is worth owning if you're the kind of person who likes collecting videos of good Aikido, period.
There are some awe-inspiring movements in there which remind you what Aikido is really like.

Beholder 09-17-2004 03:17 PM

Re: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women in Aikido
Just to support Mark's post -- I too had reservations about the UKA declaring a "women instructors" course, because as the quality of the aikido of the instructors speaks for itself, it seemed unnecessary to make any other classification (positive discrimination, if you like). However, as Mark pointed out, many of the senior UKA male instructors were there training and taking ukemi (Mr Smith himself observed all the classes), and it was a very successful event. Although it may well be relevant to the individual instructors in their own experience, their gender really made no difference to those of us attending the course. I hope this is what people would expect anyway.

In my experience the personal qualities of an instructor always supercede any generalisations that might be based on gender. Having said that, it's possible that female instructors are less prone to the tendencies of machismo that I find so unappealing in some male instructors I have come across. That in turn may go some way to explaining why two of the dojo where I train are headed by women instructors.


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