George S. Ledyard
I respectfully disagree, completely. What constitutes "giving ones all"? I am a large man. For the majority of my career I have outweighed my female partners by 100 to 150 pounds. I have trained with many of the very best female teachers in the United States... but until someone gets to the level of a Mary Heiny, a Pat Hendricks, or a Kayla Feder, they simply cannot handle the kind of power I can put out. Training full power way with a woman of typical size (or a man of smaller stature for that matter) would be abusive. It would unnecessarily stress them physically and would almost certainly imprint fear and tension in the training that would run counter to what we are attempting to imprint via the training.
My Assistant Chief Instructor for a number of years was Lee Crawford Sensei, who now runs Aikido Northshore. When I was throwing her one night I dropped her very hard. She was tough and had excellent ukemi and when I asked if she was ok, she said yes. She took the same hard fall a second time and it turned out that I had hurt her neck. I had quite simply exceeded her ability to handle the kind of power I was generating. I had this misplaced idea that I should treat her like any senior student. That was wrong. Senior or not, I should have been smart enough to adjust to the fact that she had a much smaller structure to absorb impact. I learned the hard way.
Anyway, we all have to temper how we train. We adjust for age, for size, for injuries, handicaps, and even different personal preferences about how to train. It isn't about the sex of your partner... when I find a 300 pound female who has trained for 30 years, I'll hit her as hard as I can too.
Aiki is about finding the proper balance with the particular partner you have at the time. Your goal as a partner should be to create a positive training experience with any partner, male, female, large, small, brave, fearful, whatever. The goal is to leave your partner better off than they were before they trained with you. If you are training the same way with everyone, you are forcing your own ideas about training on your partners. That almost certainly does damage, physically and/or emotionally.
This crap about size doesn't matter... it's just that, crap. In martial arts it always matters. That's why there are weight classes in every sport fighting system. That's why the men and women don't compete against each other in full contact fighting. A large man can manhandle his small female partner in a way that simply cannot be done in the reverse.
This idea that adjusting ones training to fit with a given partner's capabilities is somehow making ones training less is the source of a tremendous amount of elitist thinking. Seniors who don't train with juniors, men who won't train with women, young people who won't train with older folks...
Aikido is about fostering a highly developed sensitivity, both psychically and physically. You can work on this with any partner. In fact, Tres Hofmeister Sensei pointed out that sensing very small changes in an energetic system needs to be done at low energy states. Dial up the voltage too high and you can't discern subtle changes in the system. So, whereas getting your yah yahs out by training at high intensity with partners who can handle it is an important aspect of training, it is not necessarily the part of training which is most valuable.
I know of several folks who, when young, thought hard, physical training was everything. Later in life, they saw that they had ignored many aspects of the training which were at least, if not more important. I think that people need to be aware of the different styles of training and goals for training which people have. The idea that there is a one size fits all approach isn't true. There's no way you can train with everyone the same and be training in the proper spirit nor will that way of training optimize what you get out of the training over time.
I have to learn to imply in a way so that others can correctly infer. I agree with everything you said, you were more eloquent in your presentation! Please recall I used the term "skillset". The term implies that there is an evaluation of skill, size, weight and many other factors. What is missing from those factors (personally) are "Is this a guy or a girl?"
The particular skill-set (there is that term again) that a person has will dictate a reaction to a situation. If someone (who was 235 pounds) tried to mug you at knife point (imagine you laughing heartily at them) the outcome would be them on the ground and you standing over them, pinning them and calling the cops on your cell.
Now imagine a woman getting robbed by the same guy..who weighs 135 pounds less than the mugger..and has the same skill set that you do. Again there is a hearty (albeit more melodious
) laughter and the mugger ends up on the ground again.
The technique that occurs between the laughter-waza (note the subtle differences?) and the mugger being on the ground will be different. Why? Because of that "sensitivity" that you mentioned. That same "sensitivity" is what I was (unsuccessfully) implying and is part of that same skill-set.
Due to this sensitivity, "giving your all" to a white belt and giving your all to Sensei are completely different things.
Thanks for the great reply!
Be safe and Be well,