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Old 03-15-2012, 10:23 AM   #1
ani
Location: Brooklyn / NY
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Straight Face Differences between female & male practitioners

Hi all,

I'm a female practicing aikido for about 2 years now. When I first started training, all the senpei in my dojo were very nice and gentle to me. But I wasn't aware of that, until that one guy joined us from other dojo. He was very rough, I almost cried when he threw and pinned me with no mercy when I first partnered up with him back when I was a 7th kyu. I disliked his aikido, because I thought aikido was supposed to be soft. But my boyfriend (who doesn't practice aikido) encourage me to practice with him more because he knew that the reason I take aikido lessons is to learn how to self defense. That guy was the kind of guy I will need to protect myself in the street. My boyfriend was right. So, I deliberately practiced with him more often. I thought if I could survive his attack, I would have a better chance surviving attacks in the street. But, he soon moved, and left us.

After that, many of other people in my dojo noticed that I've become stronger, maybe using more muscles (One student even told me I've got more ki, which I believed was muscles only). They liked it, and I liked it too. Because before that, I totally thought there should be absolutely no muscles in aikido techniques as it was advertised (my interpretation of their ads :P).

So, a few months ago, the difference between female and male practitioners' skill level started to bug me. I don't know if it is appropriate for me to judge them, but I feel the difference between a nidan female's throw and a shodan male's throw. I don't know if it is because men just get the physical advantage over women in combat or what, their techniques are just better (in my view) than women. So, I kind of think that the ads saying that "everyone can practice aikido" is just to attract more students.

Because my goal is to learn self defense, I like to practice more with rough male students, doesn't matter if they're white or black belt. However, since I'm tiny in size, most students in my dojo are very gentle to me, they don't want to hurt me. But this is hindering my progress. I think it is a waste of time dancing with people on the mat. But, it might be hard for nice people (both men and women) to be rough to me.

Recently, I started training with new beginners. There are several girls and one guy. I was very gentle with the girls, but almost in full strength to the guy. My sensei warmed me to be mindful that he was just a white belt when he saw that. I'm not trying to make excuse for myself, but I feel like my full strength was just right for him, because of our size difference. My question is that, am I wasting my time and the time of those girls by dancing with them? Am I helping the guy when I treat him like my level? I'm just a low level blue belt. I felt that if your partner give you their full strength, you learn more from them than if they lower their levels to yours.

What do you guys think?

P.S. as for the safety of beginner ukes, I thought instructors need to do more in this area. Also, I think people treat me gentle because my attacks are weak, I want more instruction on how to be a better uke, but feel like sensei's are putting more focus on nage's role... Usually instructions for nage are very specific, like step to the right, turn to the left, but for uke, it's only "keep your energy forward, honest attack, something like that, which is very difficult to understand, at least for me)

Last edited by ani : 03-15-2012 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:40 AM   #2
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Hi

Skill wise I dont see a major difference. Skill is skill whether its male or females. What I see with beginners is a compensation for lack of skill by use of muscles.

Generally....and only generally as I know at least one female on this forum who is stronger than me...guys are stronger so find it easier to compensate for lack of skill.

If you are now finding beginner girls weak.....help them ....don't avoid them...just as others have helped you.

Regards

D
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:51 AM   #3
ani
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
If you are now finding beginner girls weak.....help them ....don't avoid them...just as others have helped you.
Please tell me how?? I'm confused because of what I feel about skills and muscles. I don't like to see grand and beautiful skills which cannot withstand a muscle.

Last edited by ani : 03-15-2012 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:56 AM   #4
Janet Rosen
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

You are asking good questions.
"ki" or proper use of structure and energy in aikido is NOT the same as developing the strength to muscle through techniques. There are many dojos that give lip service to softness and relaxation while in fact encouraging students to muscle through technique.
For instance, to move the new young white belt guy, applying more muscle force to make him move wouldn't be my goal because this would be training the wrong things into my body. My goal would be to find the proper structure and angles that let me take his balance. I might not always be successful in getting him to move, but it is where the training needs to be.
In terms of how you approach each student, see if you can get beyond your own gender ideas and individualize to each person's level: there are women who being athletes or working in the craft trades or simply by disposition are tough and bouncy regardless of size and there are men who are unathletic or slow or prone to easy injury because of being very stiff. One size doesn't fit all :-)

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:11 AM   #5
Malicat
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Please tell me how?? I'm confused because of what I feel about skills and muscles.
Kokyu Nage is the best example I can think of this. With a beginner, you want to help them with positioning, but you also want to make sure they are doing the technique correctly. I frequently see people trying the throw as a "clothesline" instead of doing it correctly. So when you get thrown improperly, don't fall, show them the difference between straight across and muscle vs the correct up and roll down position of the arm which is a skill. That being said, you also don't want to discourage new students, so make sure that you show them what they are doing incorrectly and help them to fix it.

Just remember that going easy on someone, regardless if you are doing it because of size or gender, is inevitably going to just teach them bad habits and give them a false sense of confidence. One of the high school club kids I work out with is barely 5 ft tall, and very blonde and petite. I really enjoy working out with her because she does the techniques beautifully, and you can really feel her throws. And she got that way because of students ignoring the fact that she is a small female. Granted, I also like working next to her because I love seeing her throw guys twice her size.

--Ashley
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:12 AM   #6
Dazzler
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Please tell me how?? I'm confused because of what I feel about skills and muscles. I don't like to see grand and beautiful skills which cannot withstand a muscle.
You have beginner girls with grand and beautiful skills? You are lucky.

I already told you how.

Train with them.

If they are weaker than you...focus on correct movement.

When you train with people stronger than you...focus on correct movement.

In time the muscling really won't matter such a big deal.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:17 AM   #7
ewolput
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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.”
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:27 PM   #8
ani
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote: View Post
You have beginner girls with grand and beautiful skills? You are lucky.
Sorry for being rude and ignorant, but I was talking about black belts females there. (I am thinking about my future down the road.)

Thanks for your advice. I know just to continue practice is the key here. Just wanted to talk about some thoughts.

Last edited by ani : 03-15-2012 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:40 PM   #9
ani
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Thank you for sharing the article, Eddy.
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:48 PM   #10
Marc Abrams
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Amy:

I would suggest that the manner in which you are perceiving things does not necessarily lead one to any greater understandings and directions. I think that we need to be mindful and respectful of the varying needs and desires of those with whom we train with. When we have a good understanding of what our training partners are looking for in their own Aikido training, it gives us a good idea as to how to approach training with them. As an uke, I am serving in the role as the teacher. I view my role as keeping the nage on the edge of success & failure so as to experience what is necessary to be successful in executing a technique. When I am serving in the role as the nage, I expect my uke to attack sincerely and safely and push my ability to execute techniques based upon the areas that I am actively working on.

This training paradigm does not have to create the perception that we need to train differently based upon gender, size, strength, experience, etc.. For you, working with the "thug" served a specific purpose for you that others might not seek. Some women might not want to learn how to play with "thugs." Some men might want to experience what it might be like to not have to rely on the predominant use muscular force to execute techniques. The list becomes endless. The process of connecting with our partners though understanding is part of an overall Aikido goal (my opinion). Look beyond the obvious differences in our training partners and look at what each of them is seeking to accomplish and direct your training with them in a manner that seeks to accomplish their goals and yours.

Marc Abrams
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Old 03-15-2012, 03:33 PM   #11
ani
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
I think that we need to be mindful and respectful of the varying needs and desires of those with whom we train with.
Marc Abrams
Thank you very much for your advice. I agree with your opinion. But how do we know what others' goals are? Do we ask them off the mat or do we guess and make judgement based on their styles? I don't really talk to members in my dojo....(My fault.)
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Old 03-15-2012, 03:36 PM   #12
Marc Abrams
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Thank you very much for your advice. I agree with your opinion. But how do we know what others' goals are? Do we ask them off the mat or do we guess and make judgement based on their styles? I don't really talk to members in my dojo....(My fault.)
Amy:

I encourage a dialogue between all students in my dojo (and with myself as well). Verbal feedback during waza practice can be a valuable tool for identifying patterns in ourselves that we are not aware of. More importantly, a dojo should be a functional community, as opposed to a gym where you go in, work out and leave.

Good Luck!

Marc Abrams
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Old 03-15-2012, 03:39 PM   #13
phitruong
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Do we ask them off the mat or do we guess and make judgement based on their styles? I don't really talk to members in my dojo....(My fault.)
isn't aikido about connection? and isn't communication a way to connect? why not just ask, "how do you want it?" me, i like my eggs over easy, with a side of bacon and a couple links of sausage and buttered toasts; and coffee with cream and sugar, lots of cream and sugar, actually, just a few drops of coffee in lots of cream and sugar would be fine.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
http://charlotteaikikai.org
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Old 03-15-2012, 04:38 PM   #14
ani
Location: Brooklyn / NY
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
isn't aikido about connection? and isn't communication a way to connect? why not just ask, "how do you want it?" me, i like my eggs over easy, with a side of bacon and a couple links of sausage and buttered toasts; and coffee with cream and sugar, lots of cream and sugar, actually, just a few drops of coffee in lots of cream and sugar would be fine.
Yes, you're right. But am I thinking too much as a blue belt? I mean, I'm not a good uke yet, not a good nage either. Can't really control myself must of the time. Maybe I should be quiet and practice. But I will try to talk to the new girls and the new guy what they want. I hope I'll won't waste their time practicing with me...
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Old 03-15-2012, 04:50 PM   #15
Hanna B
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

You have written a very thought provoking post, Amy.

Women getting treated with "silk gloves" and mainly/only learning the softer part of the art is very, very common. And it is a problem for women who really want to learn the full art.

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Recently, I started training with new beginners. There are several girls and one guy. I was very gentle with the girls, but almost in full strength to the guy. My sensei warmed me to be mindful that he was just a white belt when he saw that. I'm not trying to make excuse for myself, but I feel like my full strength was just right for him, because of our size difference. My question is that, am I wasting my time and the time of those girls by dancing with them? Am I helping the guy when I treat him like my level? I'm just a low level blue belt. I felt that if your partner give you their full strength, you learn more from them than if they lower their levels to yours.
You are probably doing what your sempai have done. But it would have been better for your learning if your dojo mates hadn't been so overprotecting, right?

So if you want to help those girls, you should treat them the same as the guys. Beginners of both sexes should be treated as beginners. Just how that is done depends of the pedagogic set used by your teacher and your dojo.

You are really insightful to see this. Most people don't. You have the potential to change your dojo to become a better place for women to practise in, than what it currently is. Congratulations, and good luck!
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Old 03-15-2012, 05:34 PM   #16
ani
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
Women getting treated with "silk gloves" and mainly/only learning the softer part of the art is very, very common. And it is a problem for women who really want to learn the full art.
Thank you very much Hanna!!!! This is my main concern in my post. Thank you so much for understanding me~~~

I'm not sure if I will bring changes to my dojo for the girls, but there are several senpei doing a great job in that. They are giving us lots of help, and treat us very seriously.
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Old 03-15-2012, 05:48 PM   #17
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

I agree with what others have said, but I just want to add... Please train at my dojo! I'm sick of treating people with silk gloves regardless of their gender.
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Old 03-15-2012, 07:41 PM   #18
odudog
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

You have to talk to your partner during practice that you want it harder or softer. Your partner doesn't know what you want until you tell them. This is especially true for people not of your dojo. At a testing a while ago, we had several dojos come over. I was doing iriminage with a female black belt from another dojo. I did it very gently. Yet she still complained about how I grabbed her neck. She told me not to do that again, which I didn't. But now I wasn't practicing. However, when it was her turn to practice, I noticed that she was now being rough with me! Pay back! I thought to myself "you gotta be kidding", but I just laughed internally. If I had practiced with a female black belt from my dojo, then there would have been no problem for she knows what is coming her way and I know just how much to tone it down yet still practice and not dance. So most guys will tone it down with until you tell them to go harder. That brute took the opposite approach by going full bore until you tell him to tone it down.
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Old 03-15-2012, 08:04 PM   #19
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

I don't look at differences in gender but of experience.

Some people are more athletic than others.

Each uke brings a new experience. I enjoy each uke for who they are and what they bring. If I am feeling disappointment or frustration, I need to look within.

I work at being the best uke I can be. I attack at an appropriate speed and with appropriate force for the ukemi that I can take and that my nage can deal with.

In my dojo I encourage people to use their words. If something is too fast or hurts, the person should say so. Grunting or whining is not okay. Say what you mean and say it soon.

Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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Old 03-15-2012, 09:48 PM   #20
Janet Rosen
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Amy Fong wrote: View Post
Yes, you're right. But am I thinking too much as a blue belt? I mean, I'm not a good uke yet, not a good nage either. Can't really control myself must of the time. Maybe I should be quiet and practice. But I will try to talk to the new girls and the new guy what they want. I hope I'll won't waste their time practicing with me...
As newbies they may not really be able to really articulate goals. But it is certainly within the norm for uke to ask if the last attack was too fast, too slow, too hard, too soft or just right

Once your partner has some experience, a very good question to ask is: would you like feedback on how it feels, or do you just want to keep going and work on figuring it out as you go?

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 03-15-2012, 09:55 PM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
I was doing iriminage with a female black belt from another dojo. I did it very gently. Yet she still complained about how I grabbed her neck. She told me not to do that again, which I didn't. But now I wasn't practicing. However, when it was her turn to practice, I noticed that she was now being rough with me! Pay back! I thought to myself "you gotta be kidding", but I just laughed internally.
I recently had an opposite experience while visiting a dojo for a seminar. I partnered with a young man less experienced than me for iriminage. I learned the variation many yrs ago of cradling uke's head toward my opposite shoulder (vs. grabbing the neck) and it has become my default version as for my body type and movement pattern is seems to "fit" best.
He became visibly tense and upset and let me know this was not the way to do it and he didn't want to have his head manipulated as he didn't want to be injured.
I was momentarily taken aback, murmured that it was a standard way but I certainly could and would do it another way. I switched to the neck grab.
I had a negative reaction inside BUT I knew that was MY issue, not his, so I made sure when the instructor clapped and we bowed out to specifically thank him for communicating so clearly.

Janet Rosen
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:17 PM   #22
jackie adams
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Soon I will be facing this issue from the side of a sensei. Do we or should we treat gender differently? Some people do want to be treated differently, others don't. Some of those verbalize it, some don't. Then you have people who will treat the opposite sex different regardless of the requests of others. It might be tempting to discuss the extremes treatment, I avoid that line of discussion because those people are removed from the dojo. Added to the mix is individual expectations of how either gender wishes to be approached, or how they wish to be treated. In Aikido we attack people from all walks of life, from different backgrounds, that are from all over the world and put them into one place and they experience an unique contact and intimacy. It can't be expected that none of them will be familiar with the dojo environment or each others genders customs. A picture of gender reality of incoming students that will stock the dojo ranks. There are the experienced students some of which will only acclimate to a point of the dojo culture. They are dictated by their background gender customs and cultural expectation. In the end, some experienced students suppose to uphold dojo gender customs don't, their up bringing dictates over riding the dojo's view of an utopian gender world of equality; harmony, blending. You will always have a sex dissatisfied because you can never fully have a utopia of the sexes, blending the sexes as one.

Not painting a dystopian picture, but you will always have differences because of the sexes are different and that means needs and expectations are wholly different based on biology. A force that can't be defeated. My solution is to separate the sexes in their own classes, only to bring them together occasional for the benefit of each other's practice. Will it work, I think so. Because the sexes naturally do separate on their own. History tells us it is far too difficult to bring the sexes together, other then for that occasional intimacy, where there is harmony and blending. In my new school, I will be going with nature, and not against it. That is my idea.
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:30 PM   #23
hughrbeyer
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Random late-night, post-practice thoughts:

Mike, hate to say it, but if that black belt said you were grabbing her neck too hard in irimi nage you were almost certainly screwing up the technique, and it has nothing to do with wimpy vs. "realistic" practice. You were just wrong (and it's a common error). Tell her thank you the next time you see her.

Like Mary said, use words. Perfectly fine to say, "Can you give me that attack a little faster? I want to try it at speed." Or, "Go ahead and throw me for real. You don't have to hold back."

Jackie, let us know how that works out for you. I'd say that in the US, after what, 30 years of Title 9, the difference in gender expectations are way less than you think. The distinction is less gender than what people want out of their practice. I'm still thinking of the lovely young lady who I will swear picked me up to shoulder height in a tenchi nage before burying me in the mat. Would you deprive me of an experience like that?
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:53 PM   #24
jackie adams
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Random late-night, post-practice thoughts:

Mike, hate to say it, but if that black belt said you were grabbing her neck too hard in irimi nage you were almost certainly screwing up the technique, and it has nothing to do with wimpy vs. "realistic" practice. You were just wrong (and it's a common error). Tell her thank you the next time you see her.

Like Mary said, use words. Perfectly fine to say, "Can you give me that attack a little faster? I want to try it at speed." Or, "Go ahead and throw me for real. You don't have to hold back."

Jackie, let us know how that works out for you. I'd say that in the US, after what, 30 years of Title 9, the difference in gender expectations are way less than you think. The distinction is less gender than what people want out of their practice. I'm still thinking of the lovely young lady who I will swear picked me up to shoulder height in a tenchi nage before burying me in the mat. Would you deprive me of an experience like that?
I sure will. I am betting there will be less issues, people will be more comfortable when the sexes have their own class. When the sexes do come together it is more advantageous experience for women. It feels good, in the terms you laid out, to throw a 220 lbs 6'3 guy. How much benefit does the guy get from that experience? It isn't going to as much as the female. That has me thinking in part for the idea the occasional meeting of the sexes for practice. I am looking at possibly once a month class for those who want to do it. Women feel less intimated and a whole lots of other things when men are around. There are lots of women only actives for women. Men have their groups too. I don't see both sexes running in open arms to each other. Because of my observation I don't want go against that pushing together men and women. Am figuring why force a situation upon people that they are uncomfortable with that situation. They aren't going to stay, they won't tell their friends about it if the dojo is an uncomfortable place to be for them. I want to provide them an environment they are comfortable in. That is my idea, it seems naive am sure. It's going to be a learning curve of hard knocks. I have to keep a finger of the pulse of society. I hope it works.
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Old 03-16-2012, 12:46 AM   #25
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
Location: Oceanside, California
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,134
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Re: Differences between female & male practitioners

I try to take care of my training partners, regardless of gender. If they are fairly new, I will try to practice at their level and make sure I'm not throwing too hard or too softly unless they tell me differently. I trained last night with a senior who told me before we engaged that he didn't want to take any breakfalls because his hip was hurting him and he wanted to take care. I scaled back my technique to make sure he'd be there tomorrow evening for class. Gender is largely irrelevant in my view, but respect and care for my partners is paramount.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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