Re: Religious Restrictions on Training
Good points made all around.
In a way, we've come up against this kind of stuff - somewhat. We practice ground-fighting at our school. With that practice, I've had a few women say they'd rather not ground-fight with men, or with men that are new to the dojo. Ground-fighting, it seems, brings up a kind of erotic awkwardness for some folks - makes one wonder how, for example, BJJ schools deal with this. As an instructor, I do not seek to force anyone to do something that they'd rather not do, but ultimately a great deal of training is centered on doing what you'd rather not do. Therefore, while I do not force anyone, I certainly lead them, encourage them, and support them, etc., to take on things they'd rather not do. This means then, those women that are not now wanting to ground-fight with men or with men they do not yet know well are heading toward a place, a time, and a them, where they can. So, yes, can't force folks, shouldn't force folks.
However, as I said earlier, I think when you have a religious conviction that is giving meaning to an act that a priori is thought to produce an erotic awkwardness, you are dealing with something else. First and foremost, you are dealing with something a dojo really shouldn't seek to change - regardless of its own spiritual foundations and/or political leanings (and make no mistake, gender delineations are every bit a political act as they may be a religious act). For me, however, though one should not seek to change this conviction, choosing to respect it, a dojo should every bit as much respect their own convictions - especially its own spiritual ones or those it considers to be vital to its own practical development and/or existence. This is also how I am reading Mary and Ignatius.
On a practical side, I think any dojo that has a vision of itself, one that it will want to respect enough to hold true to in the face of contrary visions brought in by new members, that dojo should make it very clear - being very direct and up front - on what it is and what it is not, on what it will do and what it will not do, etc. Often times, these things come up because a dojo may only have a vague notion of itself - one that allows too many folks to have too many interpretations. Often, if a dojo is very clear about what it is, folks can know what to expect and what not to expect, and thereby enter or leave wisely.