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Old 05-19-2005, 12:08 PM   #20
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Anonymous User
Re: Physical contact vs. "no-touch" policy

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.
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