Thread: Equitable?
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Old 03-03-2005, 10:16 AM   #74
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123
Re: Equitable?

Brion Toss wrote:
Hi again,
I agree with Ledyard Sensei that gender issues are huge in martial arts, and take exception to the idea that to acknowledge this is necessarily to pander to extraneous or distracting details.
OK, but you also strongly took the side of complaining about gender parity, earlier on: "The original poster had good reason to be upset at the gender disparity for this event; if only two out of thirty-five instructors had been male, no amount of rationalizations re political divides, style differences, rank envy, etc. would have served to quiet the clamor over a gross distortion of gender parity."
Issues of age, speed, strength, reach, peripheral vision, tactics, strategy, conditioned response (good and bad), psychology, cultural perceptions, and geometry are also huge in martial arts, and any remotely useful, coherent martial art will take all of those factors, and more, into account, making provisions and allowances for them in the greater context of the art.
Actually, when most realistic-thinking people begin an endeavour, they consider whether they can acceptably perform in a given setting, not whether the endeavour and serious practitioners can be molded to suit their way of thinking and doing things. This should be particularly true of martial arts. If I am too old to practice a martial art with the average young-buck crowd of martial artists, for instance, that is something I need to consider and deal with... not them. Speaking of which, a good friend of mine who has been in Aikido since Noah was a gokyu, noted that Aikido is on a downward trend since its peak. Classes are smaller and the average age is noticeably older nowadays; not to mention the number of out-of-shape practitioners has increased. Do you think some of the "issue-driven" points we're talking about may have had a hand in the ongoing change?
On the technical side, a woman of the same height and weight as a man will usually have a lower CG, less upper body strength, and have other differences due to body structure; she will do the technique differently, sometimes a lot differently. If you are interested in "transmission" of the art, you will need to address how it can be expressed by women practitioners. In the same way, of course, you will need to make acknowledgement of, and adjustments for, people who are very tall, very short, short-fingered, etc. Is that pandering? Is that "imposing an ideology" on others?
Why aren't those considerations mainly the worries of the people who are affected? Isn't my own height, build, level of aggression, pain tolerance, etc., something that I need to deal with through my practice, not what others have to constantly consider before that make any move or statement? A dojo needs to practice Aikido (or any other art) in a correct manner and in a fair manner. Period. IMO.
On the spiritual side, several posters have talked about how they were just interested in teaching what Osensei taught. And they seem to imply that all he taught was technique. As I understand it, however, he thought he was teaching "a way to reconcile the world", with the technical stuff being an adjunct to the central, spiritual message. If you try to separate the two, you tend to get arguments like some of the ones above, with lovely little snipes like "McDojo" aimed at anyone who stands up for something besides technical proficiency. Actually, I have the impression that Osensei maintained his technique was so powerful because, not in spite of, his attention to spiritual, ethical, and moral matters.
Leaving O-Sensei's personal religion aside, his implication of "spiritual" and "harmony" appears to be more in the way the world actually functions, not a call for world peace and New Age spirituality. The same infatuation for the beauty of "Ki", "not resisting", etc., the way all things work together once you understand the basic mechanics, etc., is found in a number of other martial arts in Asia. I.e., you are presenting your impression of what O-Sensei was saying, but it may miss the implications of what he was actually saying. (Here I caveat a bit that what O-Sensei said as he became very old may not be totally germane to what he said earlier. Sort of like when he gave a 10th dan in Aikido to a female dancer, etc.). My point is that no one said Aikido is only about technique... but no one is going to accept a glib and superficial New Age interpretation of what O-Sensei said, either.

Yours in Harmony,

Mike Sigman
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