Thread: Equitable?
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Old 03-05-2005, 04:13 AM   #116
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Equitable?

Kent Enfield wrote:
Maybe she really like ikebana over aikido? I know an instructor of an ikebana ryu, and it's not something you "end up" as. It takes a lot of work. And how many of the male uchideshi didn't end up as aikido teachers?
Please... I am not "dissing" any other arts here. Just making a point. If you know anything about how the Japanese cultural expectations work you know that there are areas in which women are expected to participate and areas where they're not. Very much the way it was not long ago here when women were encouraged o be teachers but were actively discouraged from attending medical school.

As for how many of the deshi don't become Aikido teachers... these days it would be hard to say because there are so many of them but in those days, the number of close deshi was very small and most of them became prominent teachers and / or founders of their own styles. This wasn't just any student, she was part of the inner circle of serious students who acted as "companions" when O-Sensei travelled, etc. She was also the one who did the line drawings for O-Sensei's book on Aiki Budo.

It's not like I am making this up... I've read just about everything in English on Aikido and if you look at the published information about the history of the art it's just a boys club. Yet if you dig a bit deeper you find that there were a number of teachers whose wives trained as well and these women were instrumental in running things around the dojo and supporting the younger uchi deshi etc. You will find occasional references to how important these women were in supporting their dojos in the myriad interviews of prominent Senseis done by Stan Pranin over the years. Every once in a while you get one of the teachers talking about how the wives of their teachers took such good care of them when they were just young uchi deshi.
But there is never any mention of them as Aikidoka even though many of them trained seriously.

Anyway, there are plenty of dojos in the west where things are much the same. Men and women may be training together but if you look at who is at the top of the heap rank-wise it's a small group of senior men. You'll find a number of women there, who have the same number of years on the mat, who often are running virtually every aspect of dojo operations including teaching classes, but who are a dan rank back from the top men.

As I stated before, I think things are far better in this regard in the states than many other places. There are a good number of very senior women who are attaining top rank and teaching, not just in their own dojos, but on the seminar circuit where they can influence a very wide group of people. It is these role models who are vitally important for the next generation of female instructors coming along. It is also through their influence that many males will not view Aikido as just the "boys club". In my own case I have trained from the very start of my Aikido career with some incredible women. Raso Hultgren Sensei (Missoula Aikikai) was one of my first instructors along with Megan Reisel and Sarah Bluestone (three of the five yudansha who moved to Washington, DC to help Saotome Sensei open his dojo there were women). Patty Saotome Sensei and I have been going toe to toe on the mat for going on thirty years. I spent over five years training at Mary Heiny's dojo in Seattle. I've been classmates with Linda Holiday Sensei, Joanne Veneziano Sensei, Kimberly Richardson Sensei every one of whom has her own school. So I think my own training has been uniquely affected by powerful Aikido women. It is from them and my own students and friends that I have taken my awareness of some of the issues facing women who train seriously in Aikido. Despite some comments to the contrary, I didn't concoct the issues I've written about women in Aikido out of thin air.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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