Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Join Date: Jun 2000
Wow, a lot has been posted since I was last here,and I'm really glad to see a much more thoughtful discussion going on. It was really a flame fest there at first.
A while back you asked me a question regarding the apparent disparity of instructors at the AikiExpo. To answer the question you have to look at Mr. Pranin intent selecting his instructors. Mr. Pranin responded and stated that he invited those instructors that he could and some due to time contsraints and political ones could not be available. Thus, I don't believe that there is any malice on his part. But we still have to look at where this disparity comes from, and as many already pointed out it has more to do with the actual number of women in aikido than anything else. Since, there is no actual discrimination on Mr. Pranin's part, no, he should not be required to meet certain quotas (like some institutions must as a result of a pattern and practice of discrimination).
To others, that keep insisting gender isn't an issue. It think the more thoughtful discusion for AND against such a proposition shows that it IS an issue. Now, the question really is, "how much of an issue is gender for women." For me, it is only one factor among many that affects my training. For others, it will be a hugh issue especially if they have been victimes of assault/ battery (sexual or otherwise). Just getting on the mat with other men can be really hard. Many victims of sexual assault don't even like to be touched. So given this, training with men will be very difficult. For others it will play a role, but won't be dominant. For me, it has been really helpful to have a higher ranked woman on the mat. For me, that's Penny Bernath, who's a 5th dan and well respected within our organization. We also have other dan ranked women in the dojo, and when I first started training in the dojo, just seeing them there, training and training at higher levels was enought to me to see and to realize that I can do the hard stuff.
Also, for me and from what I noticed for the other women in the dojo, it's really important to have men in the dojo who really don't treat you like a potential date, just a "flower" or "weeping willow", or that you'll never "get it". It's great to train with these guys because they really take the effort to help you learn to do the technique to them and they get thrilled to see you throw them down, and down hard. They're not patronizing and don't really treat you different other than that you might have sucky ukemi, but not because you're a woman.
But sometimes crappy things even happen in the best dojos. While practicing kokyudosa some idiot decided to grab my breasts as if they were a play thing. He promptly had my fist in his face as a result. Right after class, the first person told was the senior ranking WOMAN on the mat, who then told me to tell our sensei -- who took care of the problem, btw.
When I said women need "support", what I meant was that then need someone to talk to if something happens, and it doesn't have to be something so obviously wrong as the above incident. It means not dismissing her question (a great example of dismissing someone's concern is illustrated by many of the initial responders in this thread), but addressing it. It also means you keep the guy locker room talk in the locker room. It also means, just being there and training with her, instead of training with the next guy on the mat. Helping her learn to throw you...just being a decent training partner.
Finally, when I asked "where's George" I wasn't calling on a man to come defend me, but sometimes their words, with the same words can dispel hostitily...and IT DID. Remember what I said before Emily..."only Nixon, can go to China."
As to those calling on me to do something...oh, I have been. I just don't have to tell YOU about it. I'm all about action, too. There's a lot I'm doing to help other women. A woman who steps into a dojo, is already taking a hugh step because they are stepping out of cultural norms and stepping into a new world. It is culturally acceptable to "do Tae Bo" but not necessarily so to do a rough and tumble martial art. It can be darn scary just to start aikido, whichever gender, but to step into a dojo, with all men CAN BE rather daunting for some women. So, yeah, it's really nice to see that there are high level women instructors out there, and some women are not as fortunate as I am to have one in their own dojo.