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Old 05-14-2008, 10:08 PM   #93
Dojo: Elkton Ki-Aikido
Location: Virginia
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 108
Re: Starting an all-women's class

Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Questions of income aside (although I know that can be important), I generally feel that it is a bad idea to change your training to accommodate sales and marketing concerns. You never please everybody, and you end up compromising your own training.
You know, I could be wrong, but I never got the impression anywhere along the line that this was a money making concern. I got the strong feeling that these women really love aikido, and they are trying to find a way to reduce the barriers that exist within their particular environment which keep new female practitioners from discovering this wonderful art.

Having thought about this a little while, I can see this from two different perspectives. You can look at it from the segregation standpoint, equating it with racial segregation which understandably has very negative connotations. Or you can look at it from the same standpoint that gives us children's classes. Again, some would find that objectionable because it equates women with children, and we certainly are not.

But when you get past the socially created mental barriers those two ideas bring with them and truly get to the core of what they are trying to do, maybe it changes a little bit. Why do we have kids classes? Because their joints can't handle full bore practice, and because they think and learn differently than adults. Nevertheless, we hold them anyway because we feel that starting kids in martial arts is a good thing, and because we want to build a foundation with these individuals who are the future of aikido.

When Judith posted her initial piece, I really started to see this picture differently than I had originally. If this happened to be a girls class just for the sake of being a girls class, I'm not sure I would feel as supportive. But that doesn't seem to be the case here. They have a legitimate reason for wanting to have a separate beginners class supported by the comments of women who have left the class. They want to reach an unreached demographic to give them a better picture of what aikido is about than what some of these women apparently see in the regular class. Once they get a taste of it (and become aiki-addicts like the rest of us) dealing with the boys may not seem such a big deal after all, especially if they are gradually introduced through joint classes or selected visiting male instructors and uke.

And going out on a limb with a big target on my back, yes, I could support either an all male or a single race class IF and only if it served a similar purpose, and if the object was to eventually integrate the students into the regular dojo. My very first dojo as a kid was in a very poor city neighborhood church, taught on a volunteer basis, and set up as an outreach mission to bring something positive to the kids in that neighborhood. I got to see and experience first hand the changes that martial arts practice can bring to a kid's life. Sometimes it's worth deviating from the norm to bring something as positive as aikido into someone's life, and I think these ladies may very well be justified in what they're trying to do.
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