Join Date: Sep 2010
Re: Differences between female & male practitioners
Some years ago, my daughter wrote an article for AikiJournal about female aikido:
The 4th International Tomiki Aikido Tournament: The Ladies (2001)
by Gitte Wolput
article she wrote for Aikido Journal
“Girl Power,” the phrase that was popularized in the late 1990’s is an idea that combined power with female pride. The way the feminine “mystique” became the female physique. That’s exactly what we saw at the 2001 International Aikido Festival, held on October 27- 28, 2001, at the Maishima Arena in Osaka. Next to the male competitors, approximately 100 women from Japan, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, the USA, Australia, and other nations participated in this important Tomiki Aikido event. In both kata and randori competitions the ladies seemed to be alive and kicking. What made this women’s competition special? Can we speak of progress (on both quality and quantity) in women’s competition compared to the previous tournaments? What were the main differences between the male and female competitors? And what are the strengths of Miki Kawamura, the winner of the women’s individual randori competition, and runner-up Fumika Yamazaki?
In his welcome speech, Nariyama Shihan spoke of this tournament as a landmark tournament. First because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kenji Tomiki Shihan, the founder of competitive aikido. Secondly, because this was the first international tournament of the new millennium. With each successive international competition, there were increases in the numbers of participants, participating countries and the levels of performance. This progress was also visible in the women’s section of the tournament. At the 1st International Aikido tournament, in 1989, there were no female participants in the randori competitions, only in kata. If we compare this with the number of women in the randori section this year, we can certainly speak of an increase.
In his speech, Nariyama Shihan spurred us all to keep in mind Tomiki Shihan’s precept of “Waza no shinri wa hitotsu,” which basically means “The truth is in the technique”. According to people who were there at the previous festivals, technique itself seems to have improved. Taking in account that in the randori competition there is no division based on weight, it was remarkable that weight and physical strength didn’t seem to be of determining influence in the women’s division. Technique, speed and fitness seemed to be the most important factors in winning. These strengths were visible with Miki Kawamura, the winner of the woman’s individual randori competition. Her tsukiari especially was so quick that it was almost unavoidable. She passed all the heavy-weights, including the strong runnerup Fumika Yamazaki. Women also put their stamp upon the kata competition. Together with Steven Evans, Abi Bown from the UK performed an excellent goshin no kata that yielded them first price.
This was not the case if we compare the male competitors with the female ones. What were the main differences? Referee Eddy Wolput, who judged both types of matches, has an interesting view on this matter. He speaks of typical “male characteristics,” like short powerful explosions, and typical “female characteristics,” such as perseverance, in aikido. Everyone has both characteristics, but the amount one has of each differs. The ideal is a balanced condition between both. To illustrate, he recalls his first class with Oba Sensei in 1979. What attracted his attention was the fact that Oba Sensei instructed him to always take turns with male and female partners. Mixing seemed vital to learn and practice all the characteristics of aikido. It was noteworthy that the ladies showed a good balance between male and female characteristics in the women’s randori competitions, while, in the men’s competition, male characteristics dominated. This can be explained by the fact that many female competitors trained a lot with male aikidoka, but the reverse wasn’t always possible. Statistically, this could be a logical consequence of the fact that in many dojo female aikidoka are still a minority. Also, the public noticed differences between men and women, but it seems difficult to name these differences.
How can we explain those differences? A biological contribution to these male-female differences can be found in the differences in anatomy, hormones, and brain organization and functioning. Next to this biologically created gender differences, are the socially created ones. Gender roles have an important influence on all of us. Environmental events and conditions shape our behavior and thinking. In his book *Judo Inside Out*, Geof Gleeson reserved a chapter in his book, “The Psychology of Competition,”** on the influence of coaches (environmental factor) on judoka. It is likely that both biological and social factors have implications on the way aikido is performed and for the differences between male and female competitors. Which one has the biggest influence on this matter is a matter of debate. But let’s keep in mind the words of Ben Weider in *Pumping Iron II* (1985): “Women are women, men are men, there’s a difference and thank God for the difference.”