Dojo: AikiDog Dojo
Location: Pittsfield, New Hampshire
Join Date: Feb 2003
OK. I have read the entire thread, which has taken about an hour. Whew. I have lots of feelings about it.
1) Sensei Linden has paid his dues to get his rank and open his dojo. He should be able to select who he trains, by any criteria -- including race, religion, gender, etc. -- that he wishes. As there are many other dojos that are at least as good in the area, he is not single-handedly creating a discrimination/oppression situation. I believe he should state his criteria openly on his website and in any advertising. If he receives some anger about it, we certainly know he can handle it. I just imagine applying, going to interview, being turned down, and wondering if it was some deep character flaw in me that the teacher could see...never underestimate how much power students can give teachers!
2) As his posts in the aggregate have revealed, Sensei Linden is uncomfortable training women. He is afraid for them, he attributes negative characteristics to them, etc. Given this, he should not train women. I for one would not wish to train with someone who responded to me negatively as a member of a class of people; I can imagine how uncomfortable I'd be training with a woman or man who strongly disliked working with me because of my height or color or accent...something I cannot change easily or change their mind about.
3) The question of whether or not this is parallel to racial discrimination is quite apt. There are several older people I know who miss the "good old days" when they could go from their neighborhoods to restaurants to clubs and never have to deal with a black person in an equal role. It just makes them uncomfortable, and they haven't been able to get past it. They usually manage to find such places still, usually by spending more money than most blacks can yet afford to, or by setting up small clubs where blacks instantly know they're unwelcome and leave. (BTW, if ASU forced Sensei Linden to accept women, I suspect that is how his group would handle it.)
4) Saotome Sensei is a wise and compassionate man. He chooses not to enforce ASU policy on Sensei Linden, probably knowing it would not be beneficial for DL, his current group of students, or women who might train there. That said, I believe that ASU should change its stated policy to the "recommends non-discrimination on the basis of sex..." suggested by an earlier poster.
5) I feel hurt by some of the comments made by Sensei Linden in his posts. "Always whining." Unable to hack it. Creating dissension, bringing personal stuff onto the mat, etc., etc. And no, this is not a whine. In aikido, if you have skill, you see in uke's face and motion if you have caused injury. In this forum, DL cannot see injury he may cause; therefore, I must tell him. As with bruises and other injuries I take on the mat, these heal. But please know that any derogatory comments made about a class hurt all members of that class, perhaps most especially those who least fit the comment.
6) It is fortunate for both women and men in the Orlando area that there are several other excellent dojos in the area. It seems that many more posters of both sexes have expressed their preference for mixed-gender settings. Some like single-sex settings. If I were Queen of the World, I would have all areas have at least four or five dojos, with one that is (at least some of the time) men-only, and another that is (at least some of the time) women-only. I have been in men-only and women-only bars, and they do have different atmospheres; there is something to learn there. If Sensei Linden were operating in a more rural area with no other choices around, I would feel much more concerned. I am glad he has chosen such a diverse and dojo-rich location.
7) Read Sensei Linden's posts. He has told us that the reason he excludes women is due to his own limitations. He gets frightened for them. He gets annoyed with characteristics he classifies as peculiarly female. He doesn't like the disciplinary difficulties that have arisen in his classes in the past. He has further stated that he is willing to accept those limitations; that in his view, his time is too short to change now. And, he has built a dojo that accepts and attracts men who more or less share his viewpoint.
You know, I too have weaknesses that I see and am unwilling to work on right now. Some I think are "just too hard" to change, but I intend to really focus on them when I'm in better shape with the batch of flaws I'm working on now. Some I have a mixed relationship with, so I'm not completely sure I want to change. I hope none of these are too obnoxious! Therefore, I at least will leave this thread be. Thank you, Sensei daniel Linden, for starting a thread that obviously engaged a great number of us and a lot of passion. If I am ever in Orlando, I shall be sure to contact Sensei Hooker or another fine teacher and ask for permission to visit. And honestly that is not meant as a jab. It is meant to say, I respect your desire for man-only space, and I rejoice that there are skilled and wise teachers out there who would welcome me.
"The day I was born I made my first mistake, and by that path have I sought wisdom ever since." The Mahabharata