George S. Ledyard wrote:
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.
Well, let's be fair and take a look at the problem. In most dojo's anywhere in the world, a "small group of senior men" are on top of the heap AND they're the best and most experienced teachers in the dojo who are most qualified to be in upper positions. I.e., if you're looking for something wrong with a "small group of senior men" being in charge, you need to acknowledge that there's usually something justified and logical about the occurrence, as well. [BTW, I'm not so naive that I don't also recognize the strong "herd bull" mentality I've seen in some male-dominated dojo's...it poisons the atmosphere and I avoid those dojo's and the women who galdly play along it] Another point to note is that pound for pound, there's probably more women in positions of power in Aikido dojo's than in dojo's of any other martial art in the West. Again, that has a good side and a bad side.
In a way, I feel like you're pointing at a problem that's been allowed to develop.... i.e., "assorted dojo politics".... and you're saying, "we have a problem that we need to deal with by using politics". I know many, many people that have left Aikido because of dojo politics. My suggestion, once again, is that every effort be made to get away from politics and favor good, honest martial arts over any perceived societal worries. Politics and political correctness don't belong in a dojo and they are the bane of today's Aikido.
A good, effective martial art and a good teacher usually develops a good school that draws good students. A poor martial art, mediocre teacher, etc., loses the good students over time and leaves the mediocre ones.... it works like a filter. After a while, a school or martial art with preponderantly mediocre (or New Age) people gets way off track and becomes involved in side issues that are more important to the dojo than honest and demonstrable martial arts. The surest sign of this happening is when too many of the people in a school or style are convinced they are doing "The Real Thing" (tm) while everyone outside the school or style is snickering. Look at that video clip of totally bogus Taiji that I posted.... that sort of stuff only develops in a style where everyone is kidding each other about "spirituality", "One with the Universe", etc., and the majority of "insiders" are going along with it, not daring to comment on the absurdity. Doing politically acceptable BS is an excuse for not really doing a martial art.
Insofar as women in dojo's who are "running virtually every aspect of dojo operations", let me say that Aikido is indeed famous for the number of dojo's that are run by "dojo momma's". In some cases, these people are saints and they deserve all the gratitude in the world. But in too many other cases, "dojo momma's" are setting a very political tone and can help poison the atmosphere in a dojo. Once I learned how dojo momma's actually ran dojo's, I began to spot them and deliberately avoid them when I visited dojo's away from home.... I just wanted to practice martial arts and not be forced to undergo a political indoctrination as part of the process.
Notice that a couple of times the discussion in this thread was attempted to be limited by applying the terms "hostile", "flame fest", etc..... those are deliberate control techniques and the very fact that they're used in an attempt to limit a public discussion shows you that the writers think it's acceptable to do so within their Aikido dojo community, so why not do it in a public discussion. Would I visit the dojo's of some of the writers of these controlling remarks? No. I do martial arts, not social visitation.
All that being said, I stand on the position that humans, the world, society, etc., are complex issues that we can't fix in the dojo while we're really learning the art.... so let's leave all the baggage at the door. And maybe get rid of some of the baggage that has been allowed to be brought in. Just my opinion, FWIW.
Mike (donning his Nomex Keiko Gi) Sigman