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Old 05-14-2008, 09:47 AM   #73
misogi's Avatar
Dojo: Aikikai of Philadelphia
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 13
Re: Starting an all-women's class


I just read through the thread and feel compelled to throw in my tuppence-ha'penny I guess it would be a good idea to give you some background...
I am the proposed teacher of this class. It was originally mentioned to me some time ago as something that may be a possibility when I became 1st kyu. Most people in our dojo start teaching at 1st kyu. I am the first female to reach 1st kyu in the dojo so far. The dojo has been active for over 15 years. Currently we have 2 sandan, 5 or 6 nidan and a few other shodan and nidan who have moved and train elsewhere - all males.
When it was first suggested that I teach an all women's class (probably about a year ago) I was a little offended. I wondered if the thought was that I wouldn't be able to teach guys. I thought it would be unrealistic, after all, we need to know how to work with guys, big guys, guys of all shapes and sizes, isn't that the point? Ego
When I started at this dojo, I was one of two females, and regularly the only female on the mat. I liked it that way. I felt quite special - I was the lady on the mat!
Now, four years later, there are quite a few more ladies on the mat, and regularly too. However, there are still only a handful of us.
I believe we have a very healthy dojo. The guys are very respectful, helpful and generous, we all are. There is no special treatment, just because you are female - for the most part, don't *let us* throw them or let us get away with anything because we are "weaker", we all throw each other good and hard. And of course the men are not all burly 6 foot something weight lifters. Some of them are of a similar build to us. But a 125lb guy will usually be stronger than a 125lb woman.
There is a love of "big ukemi" in our dojo, and when people come to watch class, there is a tendency for Sensei to bring up the high flyers and give a breath taking and (for some) fear inducing demonstration. Many people don't come back.
There have also been women who have left because they were intimidated by the actions of some of the men, or because some of the men got a little rough with them (I know this is something that needs to be addressed, it has been, and continues to be) I too got hurt and harassed a few times when I first joined. It's a martial art, I dealt with it, some don't. I understand that many of the people who don't stick with it, truly don't want to. But I have witnessed enough women over the years who probably would have stuck if the environment had allowed them to.
I still don't know how I sit with a "women's only" class. But, what I do believe is that it will give some people, who would otherwise have not come on the mat, the opportunity to do so. And some of the people who may feel intimidated in the beginning, an environment to feel a little more comfortable until they "feed in". I guess also, as a beginner teacher, it will give me an opportunity to begin exploring the (yin) feminine side of Aikido.
Every dojo has its personality, its quirks, its positives and negatives. We have a very (yang) masculine dojo, not only in male numbers, but the Aikido practiced is very *masculine* - strong, powerful, dynamic. I accept that this is my description and opinion - however, having trained at a few ASU dojos, where there is more fluidity, less atemi, and aikido is generally much more gentle - I would describe our Aikido as (yang) masculine.
We have noticed that the retention of women is considerably less than that of men, and would like to do something about that. The class would start with all women. We would let them know it is a limited course with a view to feeding in to the other classes. We would encourage them to come to the other classes as soon as they like. We would introduce male ukes and probably male teachers. But the initial classes would be for women only with the focus on basics from a female perspective.
Incidentally, the initial reaction to this class by other dojo members, male and female, was very positive. The men were keen to have more women on the mat, the women were keen to have a class where they were seen as valued members of the dojo.
Ultimately, we all want to practice Aikido together.

I find it very interesting that all the negative comments have all come from men who find an all women's class as some kind of discrimination. We do not want to discriminate, but appear to have been doing so, and for this reason are trying to encourage more women on the mat.

We can't advertise for "abused women" - a) many abused women do not want to admit the fact b) we don't have the skills to deal with the emotional needs of the abused woman - by advertising it as such may imply that we are equipped to deal with their experience. Of course women who have experience any kind of abuse would be welcome. Just as men who have experienced any kind of abuse are welcome to all of our other 13 classes a week.

So, this is why we want to offer a short-term women's aikido class.

A word on self-defense. In my experience, women's self-defense courses are better left to the guys covered in padding. We want to teach a martial art.


If you know the art of breathing you have the strength, wisdom and courage of ten tigers.- Chinese adage
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