I have list 3 quotes from 3 women senseis that are Aikido stars- well known senseis. I am pointing to with these interviews of recognized senseis is a peek at personal issues; motivation, and inspiration. I thought reading over these quotes would stimulate more discussion.
Penny Bernath Sensei
is first, I included a quote from a very good interview. Much of the interview and the quote has to do with this discussion.
It is a good interview, it is worth reading the full interview.
Question: How did you first start practicing Aikido?
Sensei: I started Aikido in 1973. I was 20 years old. I wanted to be able to protect myself so I was interested in taking a martial art. I visited a couple of karate dojos, but they were practicing exactly what I wanted to avoid, direct physical confrontation. I wanted to be able to protect myself without a confrontation. Then I saw an Aikido demonstration in a park. It was energetic and intriguing. It looked like a powerful dance. I signed up, telling myself -- I'm going to take this just one month at a time. Aikido was much more complicated than I expected. But, I'm still going, just taking one month at a time.
--- Penny Bernath Sensei Read interview in full
Next insight to women is Britton Sensei
"I'm still interested in going to aikido every night because of the challenge, the physical challenge of it. I especially like to work out aerobically very hard. So at the end of class I like to be pouring sweat and totally exhausted and then I feel that that's a good day."
--- Barbara Britton Sensei
Here is a great quote from DiAnne Sensei which using personal issues could play a role in achieving this.
"When you take ukemi for somebody, you have to attack them for real. And when you attack somebody, you give your life. It's like you forget about holding back anything, it's just about you and your giving."
--- Lorraine DiAnne Sensei
I just do not think any of your above referenced reasons are reasons exclusively because they are women. I believe all three of these women would say that they do not think that their experience as women in aikido is that different from a man's.
Ummm...considering I train with Penny Bernath Sensei...She was the high ranking dan female to whom I was referring. She liked the beauty in aikido, but I'm sure there are men on this board and in aikido who appreciate the beauty in aikido and was drawn to it because of it. And Cady, Penny has had to use her aikido in a real world situation. Two attackers at once and all she needed to do was tenkan. And the area she was in was not a safe area either.
Regarding Barbara's comment, our most demanding as most attended class is Penny's class on Saturday morning. It is also very "aerobic" but it is jam packed with technique. The emphasis is variations and movement and doing a technique spontaneously. Her "aerobic" classes draw many of the men in our dojo, too. But then again Peter Bernath Sensei's classes at the dojo can be pretty dynamic and aerobically intense, too. And the men attend his classes, too.
Regarding Lorraine DiAnne, her background is at Hombu Dojo and training with Chiba Sensei. Chiba Sensei is known for his hard training and he puts both men and women through it. I have a feeling a lot of Chiba Sensei's students, men and women, can say the same thing she did.
Like I said before the best way to keep women in the dojo is to treat us with respect and not patronize us. It also means not dumbing down aikido to get more women to join. Think about if you have four women join in a year and one sticks around to shodan that's a 25% retention rate, pretty darned good when you consider that in the overall long term the retention rate is about 10%. I've seen many men come and leave after their first day of class. It's just that you have more men joining than women so it's more noticable when the one woman who joined the dojo leaves.
I think there are different personal reasons for men, too -- wanting to defend one's family, a small guy not wanting to get beat up again, a big guy sick of being fat and wanting to lose weight, a big guy wanting to learn to defend himself knowing there's always a bigger guy out there, etc.
The only exclusive pesonal issues for women might be not wanting to get raped again or be victimized by their spouse/boyfriend again. If a woman wants aerobics with a martial feel, she is smart enough to find an aerobic kickboxing class. If she wants a real martial art she will chose a real martial art.
Perhaps there are personal reasons or issues that might, in general, be different. But the one thing we share in common is aikido. We all enter the dojo to learn aikido. When we all enter, teach aikido and just make sure you teach it well, because if you don't, no matter what you do people will leave. Why not just focus on teaching good aikido and raising up everyone's aikido? Women would be included in that mix and they would stick around because of it.