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Old 01-17-2014, 11:05 PM   #45
Dojo: Open Sky Aikikai
Location: Durham, NC
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 433
Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

The situation sounds like it has gotten out of control. The media really should have better things to do. I am doubtful that I would accommodate this man in question. That said:

I have had Islamic students come to our dojo and to my wife's classes. They were respectful, but they do not bow to anyone but God. They dipped their head slightly and brought their hands together in a near prayer position. They were respectful. A visiting instructor came to us from Morocco and his Aikido was excellent, and my wife did train with him as well. Entire dojos exist in the Muslim world, and I can only assume they have modified etiquette.

For me, this does speak to the future of the Art, and O Sensei's vision for Aikido. "The Art of Peace is not a religion. It perfects and completes all religions. The world has 8 millions gods and I cooperate with them all." So, white people now wear funny skirts and make some Shinto references. Is that the sum total of our tolerance? Can we really train with anyone and make this an Art that does cross boundaries and borders? A large segment of the world has religious practices that our standard method of practice does not accommodate. For all my culture (wasp) has learned about Japanese culture in learning Aikido, I have had my teachers accommodate me. Why fight with a Muslim woman who wants to wear a burka in the dojo?

Is there a respectful way to accommodate anyone's religion in the dojo? I have had to dress down some fundamentalist Christians for their own issues in the dojo, but I do try. Where do the lines get drawn? The lines certainly got redrawn many times over the last century in Aikido.

As I wrote before, if a female student did not want to train with a man, I would be expected to allow this. I would be against a certain level of rank being attained - 5th kyu training with only women would be okay with me, but not any yudansha rank and certainly not a teaching rank. I would question a black belt given to a small woman from a female only dojo. If a Muslim man only trained with other men, would I see his rank as too watered down? Admittedly, not martially.

The Muslim men I have trained with treated their beliefs as something of a challenge (dare I use the term handicap?) to overcome in practice. Frankly, that is appropriate for anything that can't be left at the door of a dojo.

For the young woman who was offended at being told to get over her outrage, I would recommend she read Angry White Pyjamas. If she moved to Japan to the Yoshinkan head dojo, she might not find an environment she would find respectful and supportive. it sounded brutal and challenging.
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