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Old 06-25-2007, 05:05 PM   #70
jennifer paige smith
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Dojo: Confluence Aiki-Dojo / Santa Cruz Sword Club
Location: Santa Cruz
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,049
Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Hi Jennifer,
On the one hand, I am with you and Dennis on this. But on the other, it does effect me. I am a professional instructor. This is how I make my living. Now once I get a chance to work with someone, my stuff will either speak to them or not. But until I get "access" people will hang on to whatever is floating around to place me in their conceptual universe.

It's very bizarre what makes a difference. People have treated me completely differently since the first Aiki Expo, for instance. It took me out of being an obscure student of a well known teacher to having some standing in my own right. Ranks and Titles are how people who don't know make decisions about things. Folks at some dojo will invite shihan to teach over someone who doesn't have one unless they are given some more tangible reasons not to.

So it's that matter of access... once you are in and people see what you can do in person, those ranks and titles mean very little. But for folks who make their living teaching, it does make a difference in how widely you get to teach. If it didn't make any difference at all, people and organizations wouldn't use the titles, but they do. So we do have some reason to care because it can effect getting equal access. This is the risk associated with following teachers who do not follow the political mainstream and are themselves less known. Once they are gone and you are on your own, no one cares where you came from. It's nice to have some tangible form of recognition which cuts across the lines.

You and Dennis and I don't really have to worry. We've been blessed to train with some of the finest teachers there are. For us, that is really enough. But I am 55, I just saw one of my fellow ASU seniors pass away, so I am sensitive to the issue of what will my students be able to say? When they tell people 25 years from now that they trained with George Ledyard, will that mean anything or will it not?

It's not that a Shihan certificate really means much but if there are no female Shihan, that does end up meaning something. It can be the fact that someone has one who has no more qualifications than you do but you do not have one that can be meaningful.

Our teachers will always be our teachers. But we need to carry on after they are gone and these issues can effect that ability.
I completely agree with everything you just said. The difference is how I imagine myself going about getting access for all the correct reasons. The reasons you yourself outlined above. But my life is short, just as yours, and the number of years I have left to fight the fight for equality are numbered. And even more numbered is the amount of energy I have to put in any one direction to effect. I fought as a young girl to achieve the right to play first string catcher on a baseball little league team before title 9, even though I was hands down the most skilled, practiced, dedicated and talented person on the team (if I may say so myself ). I fought, the commission said 'maybe later'. i fought more and they said 'yes'. I essentially had to shame them into it; as a 10 yr. old. Now other girls enjoy the rights I fought for, yet I gave up baseball at 13 because the politics were so much more entrenched in Pony League; I knew which battle to leave. I'm proud and pleased to have helped other young women enjoy the freedom they have to play sports today.But aikido is a longer hill up than the issues with baseball. And that is just with American sexism isssues. Now add on to that cultural bias and you can see how much work that becomes. Yet, I'm sure you've noticed by now, I'm no quitter. But being this far behind the eight ball in this game would take me a lifetime to change, if at all. I'd rather not.
What do I do then, if not fight the system? Well, I'm glad you asked , I establish independent value by valuing all of the many things that Japan doesn't as well as what it does value. I value my elders and I show it openly. I value my students, and I show it openly. I value public education, and I show it openly. I value people with integrity who sometimes get sidelined because of it, and I show it openly. I value good hard hands on work, and I show it openly. I value the right to be yourself, and I show it openly. I value the least of my brothers, and I show it openly.I know you do to. I've read it in your posts.
It may not be in the Aikido community that I gain the recognition and the exposure that I definitely deserve, but it is because of Aikido that I can show it, and I let everyone know. I have found my teaching home in alternative education sites. But a man like you, Sir, has a lot more chance of making a dent in this operation
from the inside than a girl like me. I completely support you in doing that and I would actively support you if I could ever make a difference.

I'm a professional instructor also. I'm well respected for my training, my teaching, and my heart, mostly by the shihan with whom I have practiced But I can not hope for the access that many people feel they need to make their machines run. I also wonder if people will recognize the value of my gifts when I am gone, even though I know them to be tried and true and authentic to O'Sensei's teaching. Even though I know them to be different, if not more important, than what a lot of people are saying in aikido classes and teaching. But adversity creates creativity in creative people, and that I am. And so I proudly go about my work, training my path, and looking for the thread that leads me to a place where I can share this remarkable gift that Jesus ( and O'Sensei, and my parents and my teachers ) left for me. I've had to find the value of my work in a different place than many of my training partners have had. The traditional ones just aren't available to me; and that's alright now that I have found another way. I had to knock on unusual doors to gain any access at all.

I hope I can help others find their ways through this maze, too. And I hope you keep fighing the good fight, as they say. I know we could all use the help.

I alway enjoy your conversation and the authenticity of your voice. Thanks.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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