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Old 01-15-2014, 01:22 PM   #1
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Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Posted 2014-01-15 12:20:10 by Jun Akiyama
News URL: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01...g-male-student

Here's a news article entitled "Teen felt ‘degraded' after teacher backed aikido student's request to avoid touching females on religious grounds" which highlights a situation in Halifax, Canada where an aikido teacher "followed provincial human rights law and accommodated a male student's religious request not to touch his female classmates."

From the article: "Lisa Teryl, a lawyer for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, was unable to comment on the aikido case specifically, but acknowledged the stickiness of weighing the "competing rights" of gender equity versus religious beliefs.

"In the fabric of Canadian society, [gender segregation] isn't something that, in a secular sense, we support … we generally see it as a bad thing," she said. At the same time, she said, the law requires reasonable accommodation of religious views, which are generally given much higher consideration than mere matters of personal preference. "If it doesn't cost us to the point of undue hardship, then we need to try to … support them, and not have them feel persecuted for their deeply-held belief," she said."

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Old 01-15-2014, 01:24 PM   #2
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

And, here's a follow-up article (same website, different author) on the situation:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/...od-intentions/

I know this might be a sensitive topic, so please conduct your discussion in a respectful manner, and please explicitly maintain a connection to the topic of aikido in the discussion.

Thank you,

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Old 01-15-2014, 02:16 PM   #3
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

**DISCLAIMER: This is strictly my opinion, and doesn't represent the views of my teachers, fellow students, or anyone else for that matter.

I practice Aikido in Canada, and I disagree with two things in this situation:

1) The method by which the male student was accommodated. Segregating the entire class robs everyone of the opportunity to practice with all sizes, shapes, and genders. This variety, in my view, is a key component of aikido practice. There was a much simpler way to accommodate the male student: Ask one or two of the other male students if they would be willing to practice with this fellow exclusively during the class. It would be an inconvenience for the students, but the "pain" could be spread around by asking different students each class.

2) Allowing the distribution of religious tracts. To be blunt, I don't think that has any place in the dojo, regardless of what the flyer says. In particular, the tracts being distributed in this situation supposedly advocate some pretty terrible views, certainly not in keeping with ideas like "love" and "harmony".

I sincerely hope for a positive outcome to this situation, and that it doesn't lead to a knee-jerk reaction in the opposite direction (ie. a reduction in tolerance for differing religious beliefs).

Last edited by MattMiddleton : 01-15-2014 at 02:17 PM. Reason: Added disclaimer.
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Old 01-15-2014, 02:33 PM   #4
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

A significant chunk of this earlier thread covered much of this topic:
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10006


Most of my earlier comments on this topic surrounded setting an expectation and then meeting that expectation. As a real example, it sounds like this instructor conceded to the student what I would consider to be an extreme request. That is, the request to specifically avoid contact [with a female student] in a contact sport. In doing so, I believe the instructor set an expectation in the dojo that other students (specifically the offended student) found to be unacceptable. The fact is the instructor now has the problem of continuing to meet that expectation as long as the student in question continues to train, while the offended student need only leave and find a new dojo. I am guessing that instructor is hoping the new student is a millionaire and wants to train for the rest of his life...

One of the things I did not previously mention is that at some point when there is a conflict (say, Yankees fans and Red Sox fans who have to train at the same dojo), there is such a thing as affirmation by non-action. That is, by letting the Red Sox fans train (an affirmation of activity) in all of their antagonistic glory (pin-striped gis, red belts, etc.) the instructor may not be specifically be an advocate of Boston, but she is effectively not supporting the Yankees fans training at the dojo who are offended by the activity. In this example, the common solution would be to say the dojo does not permit paraphernalia (of any kind) on the mat out of respect for all individuals who train, even the sad, sad Chicago Cubs fans.

The thing that bothered me most in the article was the aikido instructor sought to project the responsibility of the decision onto other agencies and minimize the harm caused to the dojo. As a student, what would resonate with me from that message is, "This new student is more important than you, but I don't want you to think that I don't support you so I got some other people to say what I am doing isn't wrong. If you are offended, I hope that you are not offended enough to leave."

The good news is that the offended student has probably been given a glimpse of what eventually would become more transparent as a flaw in the leadership of the dojo. She has the opportunity to find a new place that will include her in training and better reflect her interests in the leadership decisions of the dojo.

And to be fair, I am firm believer that all dojos are not for everyone. We should align our training with communities that share our interests, beliefs and goals. Students' decisions to leave a dojo are more commonly influenced by other factors such as quality, location, schedule, organization and so on. Our dojo is patently prejudiced towards the needs of the dads that we train with... classes start after dinner and bed time and our wives could care less what we do once the kids are in bed... But we have turned away students because our schedule is not attractive to anyone with a life. Or, who live in the sticks (Seiser, I'm looking at you)

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Old 01-15-2014, 04:02 PM   #5
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

If this man's religion doesn't allow him to be in physical contact with women, then *why* train in a touchy-feely martial art like Aikido? I faced a similar situation at my dojo several years ago. A Muslim male trained at the dojo, but did not train with the women. He didn't make eye contact with us either. I didn't know what was going on, until the situation was explained to me. But unlike this other Aikido sensei in the article, my sensei did *not* segregate the class for the benefit of this one man.

I understand that martial art schools have a responsibility to *not* discriminate against potential students because of religion. However, I have a big problem when the entire structure of the school is changed to accommodate *one* person's beliefs. What about the rest of the students? Should their rights to train with *anyone* they choose be violated to accommodate one person?

I would also draw the line at passing around religious literature at a MARTIAL ART SCHOOL. The sensei in the article should *not* have condoned the man proselytizing his current students. That would have been the perfect reason to show him the door.

"The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them." - Miyamoto Musashi
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:05 PM   #6
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Why did they have to segregate the class entirely? The only thing I can think of is that he didn't simply not want to train with women, but he perhaps complained about accidental contact with women if they trained too close.

That in my view is a case where accommodating him infringed on the rest of the class.

Having a person refuse to bow or ask for something specific I could kind of see...but personally I wouldn't take such a student. Sorry, you gotta follow the etiquette.
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:37 PM   #7
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Aikido in the News

"Teen felt ‘degraded' after teacher backed aikido student's request to avoid touching females on religious grounds."

If it were my school - I would have not let him join. I have come across more than a few Muslim students over the years and there has never been a problem. In fact, I remember some Christian guy had a problem once - thought it was against god or something so he quit.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01...gious-request/

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Old 01-15-2014, 04:38 PM   #8
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

I know my wife was asked if she would teach a group of muslim women, as they were uncomfortable in a class run by men. I have my doubts if this is a valid approach to self defence, but for Aikido and exercise, fine. I have also had students whose religion does not let them bow to anyone but God - I am okay with this. I am not Shinto. They show respect anyway, and I bow anyway.

As a nurse, I have had male nursing students tell me they are not comfortable seeing any woman but their wife. There is no area in nursing that allows for an all male patient population, and no way this man could write the national exams to be a nurse with ignorance on half the population of the world. I told him to figure it out or quit. The whole time, I knew there are areas with all female staff including physicians and I cannot be used to chaparone a male doctor with a female patient.

If I had a female Aikido student who had been beatened or raped or was just uncomfortable being around men in general, I would not have any man work with her at first, nor would I demand it. I might have to ask for a special class of women only and set up a separate day and time, and I might have to admit I could not accomodate this request. If this was a woman saying she didn't want to have contact with a man, most people would expect this would be accomodated.

For religious grounds for a brand new student - I would be concerned that I might be asked to accede to other demands, and I would be clear about how far I was willing to go. As a former Canadian student in the only dojo in an entire province, I understand trying to work with a potential new student despite some odd requests up front. In a smaller town, this student might also be friends with a landlord, or someone else I might need to keep happy. At least one Nova Scotia dojo sets up in a church.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada does not apply to a dojo environment. If this isn't workable, time to let it go.
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Old 01-15-2014, 05:16 PM   #9
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Many good points being made here. Personally, I respect people who act according to their beliefs or the dictates of their conscience...but I don't think that excuses them from consequences. You're a white person who doesn't want to sit at the same lunch counter with a person of color? Find yourself another place to eat (and be prepared to keep moving on). You're a pharmacist who doesn't want to dispense a legal and prescribed medication? Find another line of work where you don't have to do that. In the United States, conscientious objectors have been excused from taking up arms in military service, but they weren't excused from service period, and many have served at great risk and with great distinction. I think the same reasoning applies here. You don't want to train with women? You get to be the last one picked, not the first. Others are willing to train with everyone in the dojo: after they have all paired up, if there's a man left who's willing to work with you, all righty. If not...you get to sit out.

It also occurs to me, much as I share Jon's dislike at the sensei's failure to take responsibility, is that this may have been the death of a thousand cuts: that the guy came in with no stated issues, and as time went on, "Oh I can't do this, it's against my religion" "Oh I can't do that, it's against my religion". That's the way some people foist their issues on others.
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Old 01-15-2014, 05:38 PM   #10
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Perhaps the most delicious irony is that here we have a student who is willing to disrupt an entire community for his own asserted values, no matter what level of discomfort, inconvenience or sense of threat threat that he might cause. That is real commitment! He does so in the name of his asserted religious values--values identical to those of 10's of millions of people, fwiw.

He passes out a religious tract that "also authorizes husbands to administer a "light strike" to their wives in cases of "serious moral misconduct." Well, thank God he is in an aikido class, because, the non-violent martial art that it is, this is the perfect place to learn those "light strikes."

Therefore, when this man who can't touch non-related women by his religion, but can hit related women (these are HIS assertions of what his religion is) goes home and when his wife or sister exhibits 'serious moral misconduct' (like talking to a Christian man or in the latter, going out with him, or in many such homes, wearing a dress that's too short, or refusing to wear the 'proper' head covering), he can use the shihonage he learned in class (whooops, that 'light' chastisement ended up in a torn ligament or a head injury) or one of those atemi that aikido is reportedly 99% of to put her back in line.

In other words, this flaccid instructor is morally culpable for any injuries or violence this man commits, given that the instructor has made him more able to commit it.

I am reminded of H.G. Wells - the Morlocks and Eloi. And lest, in my disgust, anyone throws out the usual accusations of what I might mean--I am talking about the relational dynamic between a forceful ideology that is sure of itself - committed - opposes to a liberal ideology that values only not giving offense (which it defines as anyone asserting offense based on their own values).

And yes, this directly concerns aikido. If one is teaching a martial art, one must take responsibility for what one teaches and who one teaches. And one must embody integrity in the process. This instructor has failed on all counts. (as has the social system which supports such policies as described in the article).

Ellis Amdur

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Old 01-15-2014, 05:47 PM   #11
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

I would in no way make any female student bear the burden of his prejudice.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:31 AM   #12
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Wow.

If you want to accommodate a student for any reason, as the instructor, you can do as you wish.

For the dojo however this isn't about religious beliefs. This is about not allowing outside influences, whatever they are, to negatively affect the dojo's learning environment.

Also, if this male student is allowed to distribute his literature, unimpeded by the dojo/instructor then by default the dojo/instructor agrees and promotes the same material, thoughts, and beliefs.

As an instructor I have not encountered this specific issue but have encountered several students whos agenda was disruptive to the general harmony of the environment. In all of these situations it was explained that their behavior was unacceptable. With the one or two that would try to argue their point I simply stated that my dojo wasn't the place they were looking for.

Society today is driven by consumerism. I'm paying you so you have to do what I say attitude. What they do not realize is that their money affords them the comfort of a building that protects them from the elements and mats that ease the fall. The knowledge that is shared with them is purely at the instructor's discretion. If as the instructor I allow a student to dictate the classroom environment in the ways mentioned in the article I have failed to provide a suitable learning environment for all of my students.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 01-16-2014, 07:20 AM   #13
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Perhaps I am that freak who really believes in freedom of thought and expression. Perhaps I believe in the gentle empathy and compassion of blending-with rather than resisting.

Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria. Forcing them to violated their belief system seems rather un-Aikido-ish. Perhaps with time and mindful compassion, they will change that view. Either way, its their belief and its about them. I have people I tend not to train with. Don't you?

If an instructor chooses in their own school to honor (or not honor) a student's request is their choice and shows their perspective. Its about the instructor.

If another person chooses to take offense/degraded because some one has a different belief, or some one chooses to honor/respect that belief/request - then that's about them, not the other person's belief system.

We all tend to want freedom of belief and expression/choice for what we believe/agree-with. Doesn't that also extend to the beliefs and expression of others, even if we do not agree with them?

If a student feels uncomfortable for any reason being touched by (or touching) another student, I would tend to respect what that student is telling me about themselves even if I do not personally agree with that perspective and position. It may about their fear and ignorance (or traumatic history). I do not expect people to come in with the empathy and compassion (in all three directions in this scenario) that I hope they will leave with.

This may be an unpopular and politically-incorrect stance, but hey, I am that freak who believes in freedom of belief and expression even if its different from my own.

Any thoughts anyone?

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
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Old 01-16-2014, 07:49 AM   #14
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria.
That's a freedom of association argument, and it's valid up to a point. This case goes far beyond that point. IANAL, so here's my amateur take on what freedom of association means in the United States (and granted, we're already far afield because this case didn't happen in the US). It means that you can not be prohibited from associating yourself with those whose company you choose, nor can you be forced to associate with those whose company you do not wish. It does not mean that you may deny others access to a public accommodation on the grounds that you do not wish to associate with them. A dojo that is open to the public to join is a public accommodation. You may not avail yourself of a public accommodation and then deny others the right to do the same.
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Old 01-16-2014, 08:05 AM   #15
Susan Dalton
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Great discussion! Lynn, I want to add to what you just said. I have had female students, who because of past abuse or experiences, were uncomfortable being touched by men. I didn't make a big deal of it--just let them choose their own partners. I always make the announcement, "All partners are good partners. You have something to learn from everybody. Try to work with as many different people as you can." Eventually these students grew more comfortable and expanded their pool of partners. People putting their hands on you can be disconcerting at first. When I began, I had problems with that issue myself. I chose female partners when possible. However, segregating a class because of my discomfort would have been unfair to all involved, including myself. Eventually I realized I was in a safe, respectful place, and I learned to work with everyone, just as my students learn to do.
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Old 01-16-2014, 08:40 AM   #16
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Couple of additional points...

1. To Ellis' point, I think this is largely a problem with committing to a flaccid position. In attempt to not offend anyone, the position actually emboldens bully behavior and frustrates those who capitulate to the authority. This is not action of leadership, nor what I would desire in leaders within my dojo. I have many martial arts friends who openly express disdain for the martial functionality of aikido; they believe the art in BS but they appreciate my commitment and decisions and respect what we do because we have a direction.
2. On interview, instructors are charged with several serious tasks in evaluating new students. For me, the top 3 are: 1. protect the interests of the students, 2. protect the interests of the dojo, 3. assume the responsibility of instruction. I like Ellis' points at the interview level of decision which asks, "if this individual advocates assault, I am empowering him to better execute assault?"
3. To Lynn's point, I think many of us have worked with victims of abuse or assault. Sometimes these students have special needs in their training and we work to re-integrate them into class. For me, this approach often has two strings: 1. the students recognizes the special need and compromises to find an acceptable solution (such as private instruction or limited training opportunities), 2. the is an end when the student integrates into class.

My original criticism about the role the instructor played in this decision was to recognize the complications created by what I perceive to be a flaw in the leadership of the instructor. We all have 'em and we all make mistakes, so my contribution was intended to share where I perceived the flaw to be. In elaborating on this general observation, I would advocate that as instructors we should be a secure dojo where our students are confident in themselves and confident the instructor is working in their interest. I want to be able to have a conversation with a student that goes something like, "Hey, I know this new guy is frustrating because he holds a view of women that is offensive to you. But we should give him an opportunity to prove he came to the dojo to change. I need your help... You don't need his approval for your self-confidence and I need you to be above this while we wait to see if this guy is serious about changing." But I do not think you can have that conversation with a student unless she trusts you and trusts your integrity to follow through with your promises. At some point, the student either needs to get with the program or leave.

To my other point about dojo cultures, I can appreciate the alienation this student must feel training in a dojo where everyone shares a different perspective that he does. Back to terrible sports rivalry, can you imagine the alienation a Packer fan feels when they go into a bar full of Bears fans? You either need to learn to personalize yourself to the Bears fans or find a new bar. Maybe you were adopted by Packers fans and you don't know better, maybe you were going through a phase of rebellion and the Packers represented the extreme-opposite perspective of your sensible Bears-loving parents, maybe the Bears let you down when Ditka left and you vowed never to let the Bears hurt you again. Back to the article, I think it shows something that when presented with the opportunity to change, the student instead distributed flyers about how the dojo could change...

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Old 01-16-2014, 09:44 AM   #17
Brian Gillaspie
 
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

I'm ok with an instructor making accomodations on occasion for people so if the student can't touch females then let him work with the male students. However, like most others I believe the complete segregation of male and female is wrong and unnecessary (based on what I have read).

It's the instructor's dojo so wheter we agree or now he is basically free do conduct classes as he wishes and if he wants to let someone hand out religous literature then that is his choice. If students disagree with how things are going at the dojo I think that all they can really do is one the following:
1. Just accept it and keep training.
2. Discuss the situation with the instructor and see if a compromise/solution can be found for both sides.
3. Find a new dojo.
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:10 AM   #18
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
That's a freedom of association argument, and it's valid up to a point. This case goes far beyond that point..
Where did I say "freedom of association"?

Individual freedom of thoughts and expression was presented in three points-of-views vantage-points in this specific scenario: (1) the male student requesting religious consideration, (2) the instructor consider the dojo context, personalities, and politics, and (3) the female student who took it personally and took offense on possible sexist issues.

Perhaps all are correct given their own personal perspective. No matter what decision the instructor makes, he loses some one. He made a personal judgment call to respect a religious request. That is between them. The offense taken is between the instructor and that student.

Perhaps if freedom of thought and expression means I have to limit my association (touch) with certain people, right or wrong (just meaning you agree or don't) according to others (or me), isn't that within their right as long as it does not cause harm to others?

Who caused the offense taken, the student's request to have his religious beliefs respected, the instructor who respected the request, or the student who took some one's religious request as a personal statement about them?

"Up to a point"? Absolutely!!! If he came in and requested to touch/workout with only young girls or women - well we would be having a whole different discussion if I were the Sensei.

Appreciation the discussion.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:16 AM   #19
SeiserL
 
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Quote:
Brian Gillaspie wrote: View Post
I'm ok with an instructor making accomodations on occasion for people so if the student can't touch females then let him work with the male students. However, like most others I believe the complete segregation of male and female is wrong and unnecessary (based on what I have read).
Yes agreed.

It did not sound to me like her was changing the dojo politics by segregating all the students and classes. Yet, perhaps since its his school, it his choice and it may be useful. (We often let the children train with the adults, where other schools/dojos do not.)

Perhaps this discussion points out the exclusion adversarial duality of our problem-formation and problem-solution processes and patterns?

This is a thought stimulating scenario. I am glad no one (that I currently know of) is making value judgments about every decision I make. LOL

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:19 AM   #20
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
3. To Lynn's point, I think many of us have worked with victims of abuse or assault. Sometimes these students have special needs in their training and we work to re-integrate them into class. For me, this approach often has two strings: 1. the students recognizes the special need and compromises to find an acceptable solution (such as private instruction or limited training opportunities), 2. the is an end when the student integrates into class.
Yes agreed.

How is rigidly forcing others to violate their religious beliefs practicing Aikido?

Curious.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:26 AM   #21
SeiserL
 
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

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Susan Dalton wrote: View Post
Eventually I realized I was in a safe, respectful place, and I learned to work with everyone, just as my students learn to do.
Yes agreed.

Connect and blend with the resistance until they see the error in their perceptions.

I have encountered people who were certainly training with a different intensity and intent than I wanted. I didn't ask permission or discuss it, I just did not choose to train with them. When they asked my why, I was honest about owning by own reasons.

With time and training, we eventually usually bridged that gap.

If they have already learned the lessons, they would not be entering the dojo and asking for instruction.

Guess I didn't know I would be judged harshly for acting on what I believed was in our mutual best interest.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:40 AM   #22
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
It did not sound to me like her was changing the dojo politics by segregating all the students and classes. Yet, perhaps since its his school, it his choice and it may be useful. (We often let the children train with the adults, where other schools/dojos do not.)
Reading both articles, my take-away was that yes he WAS segregating the students and classes by gender. As instructor he made a decision to fundamentally change the entire dojo culture and depriving all students of ability to train cross-gender in order to accommodate one new student.

I am thrilled to be training in a dojo that is very inclusive. That inclusivity in practice does not mean changing everything about how a class is conducted. It means those of us with experience and willingness tend to partner with newer folks who come in with issues (be they physical or emotional) rather than turning them loose with, say, another newer student who might not be a good match and lead to somebody getting hurt or escalating.

And Lynn I am not advocating having him not train....my own approach would be to suggest that any male students who wished to train with him would do so. And if not enough did, well that's how it goes.

Last edited by Janet Rosen : 01-16-2014 at 11:42 AM.

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Old 01-16-2014, 12:01 PM   #23
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Where did I say "freedom of association"?
"Perhaps an individual has a right to train with whomever they feel comfortable with based on whatever criteria." Emphasis mine. That is exactly a freedom of association argument, whether you use those words or not.

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Individual freedom of thoughts and expression was presented in three points-of-views vantage-points in this specific scenario: (1) the male student requesting religious consideration, (2) the instructor consider the dojo context, personalities, and politics, and (3) the female student who took it personally and took offense on possible sexist issues.
Lynn sensei, are you talking about some abstract concept of "freedom", or are you talking about legal rights? Please, let's not veer off into the weeds and start arguing about "freedom of thoughts": there is no credible argument that anyone's "freedom of thoughts" can possibly be infringed upon. Nor was the discussion about freedom of expression. It was about a person wanting a consideration that would deprive others of their full access to a public accommodation. You made a freedom of association argument in favor of somehow granting this consideration -- you didn't call it "freedom of association", but that is what it was. Now, back to my previous post: there is nothing compelling this individual to grapple with women. He can choose not to do so at any time he wishes. He just can't (in the United States) use freedom of association to compel a public accommodation to limit the access of others with whom he does not which to associate, any more than you, as a white person, can walk up to a lunch counter and demand that all people of color leave because you're not comfortable with their presence.

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps all are correct given their own personal perspective. No matter what decision the instructor makes, he loses some one. He made a personal judgment call to respect a religious request. That is between them. The offense taken is between the instructor and that student.
I disagree. I disagree with the assertion that no matter what, the instructor "loses some one". You have one student. Another individual wishes to become your student, but only under conditions that restrict the student you now have. You can only lose the student you have, not the one you don't have.

I disagree that it's "between them". The instructor's actions affect others in the dojo, most especially the female members. For the record, I am personally of the opinion that the attitude of those Muslims who believe in no contact between unrelated women and men is better described as "it's complicated" than as straight-up misogynistic...but when people come to a dojo requesting that the instructor grant a consideration that in any way restricts the training of others, I feel that there's a real bright line and it's not to be crossed.

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps if freedom of thought and expression means I have to limit my association (touch) with certain people, right or wrong (just meaning you agree or don't) according to others (or me), isn't that within their right as long as it does not cause harm to others?
"Freedom of thought" is a red herring. Freedom of expression is a separate issue and does not relate to this case. And, with respect, you seem unclear on what freedom of association is. As I said before, freedom of association means that you can not be prohibited from associating yourself with those whose company you choose, nor can you be forced to associate with those whose company you do not wish. This individual is being in no way forced to touch anyone he does not want to touch. His option is to stay outside the dojo. He has no more right to come into the dojo and demand that others not touch him (where "touch" means normal and acceptable aikido practice, not mugging in the hallway), based on ANY criteria, than you have to walk up to that lunch counter and demand that the people of color clear out.

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Who caused the offense taken, the student's request to have his religious beliefs respected, the instructor who respected the request, or the student who took some one's religious request as a personal statement about them?
Why are you playing the blame game? Why do you care? If you find out the answer to your questions, what good will it do you? One could argue, especially the neutral-to-positive phrasing you use in reference to the would-be student and the sensei above and the negative phrasing you keep using in reference to the female student, that it would make you most happy if the female student were to simply be a "good girl" and let others push her into a corner. Their emotional comfort is more important than her access to training, and that's ok because she's female?

Here's another point you should consider: the sincerity of your belief does not legitimize the trespasses you commit in its service. You, a white person, may sincerely believe that people of color are your inferiors and that their presence at the same table pollutes you. You may believe it with every fiber in your being. But the fervor of your belief does not grant you the smallest, most tenuous right to infringe upon their legitimate and legal rights. Fervent believers frequently need that fool notion knocked out of their heads, and an even marginally just society is generally willing to oblige them.

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
"Up to a point"? Absolutely!!! If he came in and requested to touch/workout with only young girls or women - well we would be having a whole different discussion if I were the Sensei.
Well, that's good to know that you draw the line at fondling the women of the dojo. Are there any lesser lines that you're not willing to cross? What if he came in and requested that no women be on the mat while he was training? What if he wanted to be able to sashay into any class he wanted, at any time, and any women who came to train in that class would simply have to leave? Or perhaps it would be better if all female students simply had to resign their dojo membership, and no more female members would be allowed to join -- would that be sufficient?
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Old 01-16-2014, 12:12 PM   #24
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

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Reading both articles, my take-away was that yes he WAS segregating the students and classes by gender..
Thanks for the response.

I will have to re-read, I did not get that as my initial impression.

I too am grateful for inclusive classes. I have learned a great deal from the women and children in Aikido, than from most adult males.

It does bring up another issue. In many businesses I see a sign that says they reserve the right to refuse services, or have a dress code, etc. If its your business, even open to the public, don't you have any rights to decide who to teach and how to structure your teaching? Coming up through the arts I have been to many dojos that did not mix classes and have been refused training because I was white. And you know, IMHO, they have that right too. There are many organizations that would not have me for a member (the Groucho Marx syndrome) without me feeling degraded.

I just don't personally believe that my individual rights should have to be accommodated by everyone else. I have never found that world - and hopefully never will. I can accept other's differences without having to agree, understand, condone, accommodate or be tolerant of them. Nor do I expect other to accommodate mine.

While I certainly would not have made this specific request or segregate and school I belonged to or taught it, I simply do not believe that I am the most important person here or necessarily the one in charge. And this I know many others agree that I am not that all important.

Great stimulating discussion. Thanks to all.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 01-16-2014, 12:18 PM   #25
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Re: Teacher OKs "Avoid[ing] touching females on religious grounds"

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Well, that's good to know that you draw the line at fondling the women of the dojo. Are there any lesser lines that you're not willing to cross? What if he came in and requested that no women be on the mat while he was training? What if he wanted to be able to sashay into any class he wanted, at any time, and any women who came to train in that class would simply have to leave? Or perhaps it would be better if all female students simply had to resign their dojo membership, and no more female members would be allowed to join -- would that be sufficient?
WOW, I am deeply sorry for whatever you thought I said or position you thought I represent.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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