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Old 05-12-2008, 11:04 AM   #19
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Hello Jennifer,

I think we should live and let live, in the sense that classes offered should match the needs of the dojo, but there might be an issue in the dojo. I do not know: only you know the possible issues.

Way, way back, when I was a student at New England Aikikai in the 1970s, long before Kanai Sensei had his stroke, some of the women formed a women-only dojo. This was quite divisive, because the men somehow felt hard done by. The women were quite happy for the young males to take spectacular ukemi, in demonstrations designed to show how effective aikido was for women, but then excluded the men from taking the same ukemi in the womens-only dojo. The dojo did not last very long.

Of course, one could argue that the issues were not the same then. The goal-posts were not the same for men and women. I am not sure about this. It might have been true in Boston as a whole, but was certainly not supposed to be true in the NE Aikikai. In view of what O Sensei stated in his discourses, I think it should not have been necessary for separate sex training. But then we learned that the Aikikai Hombu had been running women's-only classes for years, but which were all taught by young, sexy male instructors (though the youth and the sex element was probably not stressed too much).

Here in Hiroshima, it would be unthinkable to run women's-only classes. For a start, half the dojo population is female anyway and one of the three instructors is female (a 4th dan, whose 5th dan husband is also a dojo instructor). The mat space is big enough to divide the dojo into separate training spaces. We have a hard core who attend every class and the numbers are half-and-half male and female. But we never divide the class according to sex differences. Sometimes the yudansha are at one end and the beginners are at the other end (special ukemi training) with the rest in the middle.

Actually, I am hoping that my very first yudansha will be female. She is divorced, runs a restaurant, and has a teenage son with severe problems (perhaps autism). So he comes and sits at the side while his mother practices. Actually, she is one of the best advertisers for our dojo and about half the students we have, practice because they know her or have been recommended by her.

So I would never split my own dojo according to sex differences. If I did, I think it would destroy the dojo. But I can also remember my Boston experience and think that perhaps the reason why there was a demand for a women's only class ( = run only by women with men totally excluded) was bad dojo management.

I think you have to trust your own instincts here.

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Hiroshima, Japan
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