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Old 03-14-2010, 09:01 PM   #176
Anita Dacanay
Dojo: Cleveland Aikikai, Cleveland, Ohio
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Linda, sorry to sound like a broken record. (Guess I'm really dating myself with that phrase, eh?)

I think the "Intro to Aikido" workshop idea sounds great; I still don't think that rules out the possibility that a woman's class might have value as well.

I feel like we have already listed some of the many reasons why women are (generally) under-represented in Aikido, but I can share my story to be specific...

Some of the things that made me personally reticent about getting on the mat for the first time: I have never been particularly athletic in the sense of playing team sports or anything of that nature. I have had weight issues my whole life and don't always feel comfortable with my body. I have a history of abuse which made me uncomfortable with the idea of all of that physical contact with a bunch of men whom I did not know. I was also not all too confident that the guys would want me there, and didn't know if I wanted to deal with that vibe. I did have a fear of getting hurt - but after I started practicing I also realized that perhaps the bigger fear was the fear of hurting someone else. (Nice girls don't punch, right? That's why my atemi sucks.) I was afraid that I would not be able to devote the time necessary because of my family responsibilities. And finally, I was just kind of afraid of looking like an idiot, especially at my age. A bunch of reasons, some gender-specific, some not.

For me, it really was not about the finger nails, or the fact that I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in my gi. (Which I kinda do.)

So... I managed to face all of those fears and realized that I could get up and go ahead and feel uncomfortable and scared, look like an idiot, feel guilty about leaving my kids for a couple of hours...and survive all of that to discover that I love every minute that I spend on the mat. I like sweating; I like how each partner makes the technique completely different; I like feeling my body move in ways it never has before; I love the excitement of lining up and wondering what we're going to do next. I love the little victories when I FINALLY "get" something that has eluded me for weeks or months. I love learning something totally new. I love that Aikido makes me feel like I want to be present, inhabiting my body. I like the way Aikido shows me that I always have many options available to me in the midst of challenges/confrontations.

So I guess I'd just like to share all of that with other women who might have a list of fears that looks something like mine. Not because I don't care about the people whose list of fears/obstacles is different from mine, but because I feel like maybe I am in a position to reach those particular women.

Maybe my first proselytizing mission will be to try to encourage some of the other dojo Moms to get out onto the mat with their kids. If they're going to sit and watch for an hour anyway, why not just join in? I know these women are already interested in Aikido because they've chosen to bring their kids.

THEN I will amass a great army of Aiki-Women-Warriors to fight evil and injustice throughout the world... and we can have our own anime series... and trading cards.
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Old 03-15-2010, 12:19 AM   #177
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Thank you, Anita, for the clarification. Hey, I remember broken records!

So, yeah, there are a few gender things in there. But mostly those are considerations that apply to everyone (not being particularly athletic, not being comfortable with one's body, fear of looking stupid...)

Here's the kind of idea I was thinking of, which might attract more women without be a "Women's Class," and which comes from one of the specific issues you mentioned: Offer a Kids & Parents class (which might be a challenge because they need to be learning in very different ways), or (if there's room - like two areas in the dojo) offer a Kids class and a Beginners class running concurrently. Those could address the difficulties of finding child care, the guilt of abandoning ones' kids for a couple of hours, etc. Actually, that's a lot like the kinds of things some companies have done to attract more women (on-site child care, flexible working hours...)

I totally admire and support your intent - to introduce people to Aikido who might really enjoy and benefit from it. I'm just trying to explore ways that don't reinforce the very notions we're trying to get away from - that there's something inherently so deficient about women that we require a special "remedial" course before we can join the regular classes with the "normal" (male) students.

I suppose a women's class could be promoted in a powerful enough way that it wouldn't have to come across as "watered down." An 8-week Aikido Boot Camp / Jump Start / Women's Intensive, or something? All the students could be given t-shirts like I saw recently in someone's Facebook profile. It showed two yudansha (both female? hard to tell from the image), with Nage doing iriminage, I think, and Uke flying through the air. It said "Thows Like a Girl."

Probably what we need is more data, and less conjecture. Start a class. Let us know how it goes.

Linda Eskin - Facebook | My AikiBlog

"Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." - Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 03-15-2010, 05:59 AM   #178
Anita Dacanay
Dojo: Cleveland Aikikai, Cleveland, Ohio
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Yay! I'm not alone in remembering broken records.

Yeah - I think that a woman's class could indeed be promoted in such a way as to not make it sound like a watered down version of Aikido. I mean, I don't think it would need to be watered down at all. I just think that the all-girls environment might make some women more comfortable at first. (Love the t-shirt image! lol)

By the way, a lot of those fears I listed turned out to be paper tigers for me once I actually got on the mat. Any weirdness with the guys just kind of worked itself out when I kept showing up. At least for me it did; if any of them feel weird that is now officially their problem. LOL - Now my biggest frustration is feeling like I'm being babied by certain people when I don't need or want that at this point. I told one of my sempai the other day, "You can really throw me. I'm tougher than I look."

I do like the Kids and Parents class idea - although we kind of do that informally anyway at our dojo; parents are always welcome to join the kids.

I agree that we need more data, less conjecture. I am really not ready to teach yet. I can't... walk on the rice paper without wrinkling it. But my gears will keep spinning - and I appreciate the input from all of you who were willing to walk back into this old thread with me.
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Old 03-15-2010, 07:54 AM   #179
lbb
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

I think there's a fundamental point being overlooked. Any class -- whether a "women's class", or a "beginner's class", or a "parent-child class", or a "people over 50 class", or whatever -- cannot possibly be all things for all the people who fall under the broad category of its title. If we're sensible and sane, we acknowledge this, clearly articulate what we are trying to do with a class, don't make assumptions about what others may infer from the class's title, and don't try to burden any class with too many expectations. Is a women's class all about getting new women to try aikido? I don't know why that should be the default assumption, but whatever, if it is your purpose for a particular women's class, make that clear -- and then the people in the peanut gallery need to play fair and not try to shoot it down with a lot of objections about what it's not.

Anita, I disagree with your last statement. "We" don't need "more data". Those who are willing to do something need to be clear in their own minds about what it is they want to do, and then they need to do it -- ideally also persuading others to support them, but refusing to be dragged into a pointless debate by the inevitable knee-jerk cries of "But that's sexist!" Understand why you want to do what you want to do, and then do it. Convincing other people (particularly those who have a vested interest in preventing change) to get behind you and push is not the way to go.
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Old 03-15-2010, 10:23 AM   #180
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

To be fair to Anita, I was the one who initially said we need more data, less conjecture (in my post above). What I meant was that the way I feel about having a women's class is probably not universal, and that someone should try it, and get back to us on how that works out.

I was discussing how I personally feel about the issue. I sure as heck don't have any vested interest in preventing change. I just don't like the idea. Seeing that a dojo has women's classes might put me off from training there. But I'm perfectly willing to believe I could be in the minority on that account, and it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone were to actually start one, and see how it goes.

Linda Eskin - Facebook | My AikiBlog

"Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." - Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:00 AM   #181
bulevardi
Dojo: Tobu Chiku Aikikai
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

I understand the demographic kinds of classes: a kids class, a senior class, ... So you could make another level of training for each class: softer, slower, harder, advanced,....

But I don't actually see the purpose for a woman's class.
Like following guitar lessons "for women".

If it's just to get more women in class... Write on the website: "women friendly class" or same as "gay friendly class, senior friendly class"...

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Old 03-15-2010, 11:48 AM   #182
Anita Dacanay
Dojo: Cleveland Aikikai, Cleveland, Ohio
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

In the vein of Linda's comment about "more data, less conjecture": I personally was kind of looking for that in this thread. I was hoping to hear more of: well, we taught a women's class for X amount of weeks, we called it "X"; X number of women came, X number of them stayed on or went on to other classes, we generally got good/bad/mixed feedback, we probably will/won't do it again...so on and so forth.

I really don't feel that I have much to add to the conversation at this point that wouldn't be just repeating myself a la the old broken record. It is simply an idea that interests me.
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Old 03-15-2010, 11:51 AM   #183
lbb
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Quote:
Dirk Desmet wrote: View Post
But I don't actually see the purpose for a woman's class.
That's okay. You don't have to attend one.

To paraphrase what I said above: it doesn't matter if you don't see the purpose. I don't see the purpose in all kinds of things, but then, those things don't require my understanding in order to justify their existence. Universal understanding and consensus is not the basis for any endeavor, and why people think a women's aikido class should be some kind of exception to that, I'll never know.
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Old 03-15-2010, 01:38 PM   #184
ninjaqutie
 
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
What we can perhaps do better (than we typically do) is to...how to say this...give beginning students a vision of how they can do it without any shortcuts? We can work on getting them to understand that yes, it's a challenge...no, there are no shortcuts...but the people you see around you, the ones who have done it, are no more talented than you are. They just kept coming back.
Mary.... lovely statement there. Just what I needed to hear.

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:10 PM   #185
Anita Dacanay
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Okay, so I didn't have anything to add - until I went to class tonight and these two adorable teenaged girls show up! There were no other women there besides me, which has been the routine for some months now on Monday nights.

I was so glad that I was just... there. It was a nice opportunity for me to be present, be encouraging, be warm and... be myself in a constructive way within the dojo. Perhaps lately I'm just wondering what I have to contribute besides paying my monthly dues. I guess I was happy to throw a little "Mom" energy their way while helping them with basics.

Just a related anecdote - thought I'd share.
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Old 03-16-2010, 12:03 PM   #186
jonreading
 
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

I still believe the ultimate decision to exclude participants from class (or create exclusive classes for participants based upon age, sex or religion) should remain with the dojo and assessed by that dojo's needs. I don't think there is no right answer for that discussion beyond standing up for principle and making exception to those principles only when necessary. The battle of the sexes will always leave us with ackward moments of touching, positions, and dialogue in physical training. Women who cannot interact with men, even from a training level, require assistance that is not found in a dojo. I believe the heart of the matter is that we [accurately] perceive female attendance to be low in aikido and martial arts in general and wish to change that fact.

I remember a consumer focus group survey in which I participated. The survey included buying decisions for a variety of items, including house cleaning goods (soaps, detergents, solvents, etc.) and foods - Almost everyone of my survey responses differed from my female counterparts. I also found out during the survey that these types of products are very strongly marketed towards females (in addition to healthcare and childcare) and not males.

Long story short, aikido and martial arts have an image problem with female priorities and I think that affects attendance. We promote a male-dominated marketing effort with few prioirties that overlap for both males and females. Aikido may need a survey group of women to collaborate a marketing shift to address the different gender-related, decision-making priorities of female martial artists. I'd certaily be interested in those priorities...

As stupid as it sounds, I make many purchasing decisions for my family's house goods. As I remarked to a friend one time in response to joking about Snuggle fabric softener, "I'll never by anything that is promoted by a friggin' soft, cuddly, talking stuffed animal that smells like a friggin' mountain spring." I didn't say friggin' though. We choose to make our decisions based upon those factors that appeal to our priorities. Now if they only made a baseball field scent for fabric softeners...

Last edited by jonreading : 03-16-2010 at 12:18 PM.
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Old 03-16-2010, 08:42 PM   #187
lbb
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Re: Starting an all-women's class

Jon, good points, but I do think it's missing some of the point to view a women's class as "exclusion". That's a side effect, not the goal.
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