Re: Religious Restrictions on Training
I am new to this forum but not to Aikido and not to Orhtodox Judaism.
Yoshioka Sensei told me about 30 years ago that "First comes religion and your duty to G-d. Second comes your family and your duty to your family. After that you come to practice Aikido." Yoshioka Sensei rescheduled the Shodan Test because I would not take the test on Saturday for pure religous reasons. Reading the responses to this issue I see that not everyone is fluent on all the issues. It is very, very, questionable if a Torah Jew can choose to practice Aikido over spending the same time learning Talmud. I admit wholeheartedly that of all the Martial Arts, Aikido as we have received from O'Sensei is as close as a martial art can come to be in concert with Jewish Law. Once there is a hint of competition, winners or losers, it is not the Aikido I understand or have been conscious of for the last 45 years.
Many will not understand this prohibition about touching between genders. It applies also to one's spouse in public, modesty applies in that aspect of the Jewish Law, also. I grew up practicing with many girls and women. They were the minority. It could be a non-issue just as if a woman had a male doctor or vis-a-versa. This can be looked on as a totally professional vocation and then it would be a lesser issue. It may still bother the fellow. It shouldn't bother the fervent Aikidoist as such a person is serious and wishes to better his/her partner regardless of their religious beliefs. Aikido has always accomodated the religous beliefs of people.
O'Sensei projected much love into Aikido. Of the last 3000 years Aikido is perhaps the only "language" that has crossed cultural and political boundaries to join people regardless of their predispositions. Interesting that while Aikido is bringing people together from around the World, the Jewish People, though they are dispersed among the four corners of the World, have a commonality unique from all other peoples and that common thread keeps the Jewish People unified more than any Martial Art. A jew gets hurt in Mambai and the Jew in Hawaii cries. It is if the Jewish People were as one body. When one part fails the rest of the body feels the pain. Aikido has a uniqueness that "once you are a part of Aikido it never lets go." While one body (Jew) is whole and striving to stay together the other body (Aikido) is building the parts and making them all one family.
There are some foreign forms of Aikido that preaches competition, winning, and loosing. There are also strains of Jews who are not mindful of the goals of Judaism. Both are not making the World a better place nor are they bringing more peace to the World.
Glanstein Sensei was quite unique in teaching Aikido and Judaism. There are many people I know of who became better people because of Glanstein Sensei's touch. Glanstein Sensei caused Aikido to travel to the United States. He left the womb of New York City to practice Aikido in Hawaii amongst the great Aikidoists in Hawaii.
Lastly, lawsuits. If anyone would want to bring suit against Aikido because of some discriminatory practice it would make for some scholastic debate. However, the nature of Aikido is to be totally accepting of one's religious beliefs and sexuality.
That aside, "Let's practice!"