Thread: Equitable?
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Old 03-07-2005, 02:25 AM   #147
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
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Re: Equitable?

Mary Eastland wrote:
I just checked out the list of instuctors for the Aiki Expo. There were 35 and only 2 of them were women. 2!!!!!!!.

Just had to get that off my chest.
Interesting thread, both for the original observation (see above) and for the subsequent thread drift.

It is clearly a sensitive topic, calling for sensitivity of expression as well as thinking. I think there are two main issues in the thread, that can be summarized in two questions. They are not the same questions and I think that they have to be answered differently.

Why are there so few women instructors at Aiki Expo 2005?
Why are there so few women instructors in Aikido generally?

Notice that I have suggested by the two questions that this is what Mary Eastland had in mind by making her original observation. Of course, one might argue that her intention was obvious, but from the way the thread developed, it might have been better to have stated the obvious at the beginning.

Only Stanley Pranin can give a definite answer to the first question. However, I suspect that there are relatively few women shihans/instructors that fit the parameters that Stan has decided for Aiki Expo.

Stanley Pranin and I have been friends for many years and I know very well the political problems he has encountered in inviting aikido instructors to Aiki Expo.

One important point, at least from my understanding of the political issues involved, is that Aiki Expo is not restricted to aikido. To put this in another way, anyone who believes that aikido training at the present time is best enriched by some very serious cross-training will find Aiki Expo an opportunity not to be missed. There is nothing else like it\anywhere in the world. However, those who do not believe this will find Aiki Expo of limited appeal.

As such, in my opinion Stan is making a statement in organizing the Aiki Expo\and I applaud him for this, but this will clearly affect those potential participants, especially shihans with a public persona, who believe that aikido is a 'complete' martial art and that the inheritance they have received from the Founder does not really need to be supplemented by anything else.

Thus, in my opinion, if you compare the statement that Stan is making, which is like a call for a return to the earlier martial values that spurred the Founder himself, when he created the art, the question of gender balance among the instructors, in particular the aikido instructors, is one question among many others\at the moment.

As things settle down and Aiki Expo becomes an essential part of the aiki(do) calendar, not just in the US, but also throughout the world\including Japan, the event might well become a kind of beacon for gender issues in aikido, as well as issues relating to the effectiveness of aikido as a postwar Japanese martial art. In this respect the US will lead, in the sense that there will be many more high-ranking instructors of both sexes in the US whom Stan can invite than elsewhere.

In other words, Aiki Expo is being held in the US, where gender issues have received much more attention\and action, than in other countries, Japan, for example. Japan is still in the Stone Age regarding gender equality\and aikido is no exception here. This leads to the second question.

Why so few women instructors in Aikido generally?
Because this is the way aikido has worked so far, since it is dominated by Japanese cultural values.

I think this issue of gender equality is perceived differently outside the US and Europe and it will not do simply to impose alien cultural values. Like Chris Li, I am aware that as a culture Japan is sexist and racist in ways that offends long-term residents like myself. But these are cultural values that will not change on purely rational grounds. I am hopeful that they will change, but the change will not come purely as a result of rational argument on a US/western model.

I have received requests for support from aikido groups in the Middle East, including Iran and Iraq. The requests have come from the leaders of aikido groups who are invariably male. I have no idea how many women practise aikido in Iran, even whether they are allowed to, but the Iranian aikidoists I have had contact with want to make a federation and gain international recognition. This means that they can obtain government recognition and financial support. Iran is one nation among a huge swathe of the world where aikido has hardly penetrated: the Middle East, China, India, and much of Africa.

I cannot speak for other organizations, but the way that the Aikikai has guided the expansion of aikido after World War II has been to create organizations based on national culture, rather like airlines tend to be national flag carriers. Thus many local aikido organizations are very proud of the fact that they are practicing aikido, but in a way that reflects the values of the national culture. For the Japanese, this supposedly harmonious blending of values is another piece of evidence that their brand of einternationalizationf supposedly 'works', in the same way that their overseas aid supposedly eworks'. However, I do not believe this is true.

Nevertheless, in this situation, even to raise the gender issue requires much understanding of the values of the target culture. It is best to enter through their door and bring them out through yours. Otherwise minds will be closed from the outset.

Best regards to all,

P A Goldsbury
Hiroshima, Japan
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