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Old 06-20-2001, 03:43 PM   #1
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Question Issues for Women in Aikido

Upon viewing the post regarding instructors dating students I am prompted to ask a more general question regarding issues that women face in the male dominated (and some say male organized) study of Aikido.

I am particularly interested in issues that would be specifically related to gender bias. Instructors dating students fits the category as would male students refusing to study under or work with female students, and other explicit or implict biases.

Ultimately I wonder how much of an influence these biases operate to keep the number of women at various dojos as a minority.

Many thanks for ANY input!
 
Old 06-20-2001, 04:53 PM   #2
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the only issue i have is being treated any differently because i am female, about the same folks would have if they were treated differently in the dojo because they were African American or Jewish. that includes people thinking as a female i am too weak or simple to say no if i am asked out and don't want to date. If folks don't want to train with me because i am female, or i am small, or i have three times the energy they do, all is OK, i find someone else...if the entire dojo is like that, i'd move on. People in a dojo are at different levels of skill in interpersonal interaction and growth, and you can't make them all grow up overnight.
luckily, few have ever treated me differently due to my gender, i guess this Aikido bunch is OK for the most part. The ones that do treat me 'like a girl' usually stop after my atemi connects with their body or they hit the mat with a thud although now that i think of it, one of the guys did ask me once (with me attending class every day) why no women ever come to class anymore...
i think the numbers of females is low because a) martial arts aren't what most women think of when they are looking for something to do b)you can't wear jewelry, makeup, or long nails---believe it or not, i've heard women quit for these reasons, c)you get really sweaty---again, hard to believe, but i've heard it said d) heard said by both men and women--it hurts to roll.
in addition, there are some who will end up out due to pregnancy, and finally, as usually the smaller folks on the mat, if they don't get good at ukemi pretty fast they can get seriously injured by the larger ones---a hazard for smaller males, but there are just fewer of them. on the positive side, i appreciated the extra ukemi improvemnt incentive.
 
Old 06-20-2001, 06:16 PM   #3
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deterrents for women in MA

some women are afraid that men will find them too macho and therefore unattractive if they are into martial arts. I have actually heard women talk about this - like, if you could possibly beat a guy up, men will be afraid of you, and you'll never get a date. I have also heard about the no-makeup/no nails thing being a deterrent. Some women don't even like to go to the gym if there are alot of guys there, nevermind having to throw them on the ground and vice-versa. The first half (fear of being macho, no makeup) has to do with traditional ideas of femininity, and the second half (fear of men at the gym) I think stems from not wanting to be checked out/picked up on, etc when maybe they just want to think about their workout.
 
Old 06-21-2001, 05:29 AM   #4
ian
 
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I think the women who don't like to train in aikido or go down the gym because they will be seen as macho are too self-concious. It is equivalent to men not doing dancing 'cos they will be seen as puffs.

Personally I prefer dedication from the students and aspects of self-conciousness and sex should be irrlevant to training. Often when women start training I think they find the close body contact uncomfortable at first (just as many think ukemi's are stupid). However, once they stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the training sex differences dissapear.

Luckily the women in our dojo are of a range of sizes and agressiveness. (in fact I often find women more agressive as they are not as used to having to control their force to stop hurting people). It's stupid not training with women - it may be less likely you will be attacked by a women, but it doesn't exclude it (and aikido is one of the few martial arts where it would be socially acceptable for a man to deal with a woman; because you don't have to bash them to pieces). Also, aikido is about learning the concepts of body movement, and training with different body shapes/sizes is imperative.

Ian

P.S. I think what puts a lot of women of aikido occurs at the start of their training. Namely (i) that if there are few other females it will be seen as a male dominated martial art and will feel left out (ii) they are worried about getting hurt, esp. with powerful men.

In a well balanced dojo where people respect each other this shouldn't happen.
 
Old 06-21-2001, 05:34 AM   #5
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P.P.S. less women do sport in general compared to men, so this imbalance is not just in martial arts. Personally I'm not too bothered about the women that aren't willing to forgoe their own egos to train in a martial art, or are just their to develop a death strike to incapacitate others such that they try to redress what is foreseen as a feeling of powerlessness; luckily the women that stick at it usually become very focused and very good at aikido , and those are the ones I want to be training with.

Ian
 
Old 06-21-2001, 06:01 AM   #6
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Are you serious ? do you actually know women who don't do Aikido becauce they don't want to be less attractive ? I'm stunned - but hey! so much for my understanding of 'the weaker sex'. Personally I have had a crush on a sempai who has left the dojo now.
Personally I try not to be any different while training with women than with men. I try to judge every partner and ajust my attacks and my technique according to the level of 'nastines' they want. Most of the women in the dojo i go to haven't practiced for a long time yet, so in my experience they are on the average a little less powerfull when applying a technique and have a harder time handling things when practice gets a little rough. Mind you that most of them are students in the low kyugrades and though it might have something to do with the fact that they are women it seems to level out when they get past the first couple of gradings. For example we have a female 3. kyu who is easily up to speed with every man in the dojo. I guess the whole situations is probably due to the whimpy men quitting a lot faster, while the women are better at staying put and owercome their fears .
We have a farely good male/female ration in our dojo. My guess would be perhaps 10 or 12 girls out of just about 60 students. In the 'regular' pool of members I actually think that there are about 5 girls out of 25 persons, so thats even better.
It is not my impression that we have any kind of 'sexisme' expressed in our dojo, though me being a male i might not be the best person to judge about this.
Hmmmm this post turned out a bit inconherent. If anybody want me to elaborate something please don't hesitate to mail me or post some questions here.
Best wishes to everybody

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
 
Old 06-21-2001, 04:58 PM   #7
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???
Are any Women going to reply to this???

 
Old 06-21-2001, 06:48 PM   #8
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In over a decade in aikido, I have so far encountered one instance of male sexism. This involved a sensei in the East San Franciso Bay Area who'd become attuned to "gender issues," setting up a women's class (run by himself), "poetry" readings in circle, and the like. After he returned from an out-of-town seminar he'd been teaching I asked about how it went. His response? "Oh, it was great. There were so many women there, and we could really talk about feelings." Duh! Needless to say, the only students who got input on their technique were all male - by then, technique had pretty much ceased to matter in that dojo anyway.
Generally, to the extent that I have encountered any sexism, it has usually been from other women. I am usually careful and considerate and fine-tune my technique to whoever I am working with - beginners, kids, you name it. I also have no problem with weakening or strengthening my attack if asked to by nage. The only times that there has been any friction was with certain women who prefer the overcooked-pasta style of attack and can't deal with an ordinary firm grip - mind you, nothing macho or vicious. Faced with a male uke, these women probably would have no problem whatsoever, and at most would ask for a slight adjustment. With a woman uke, though, the same situation elicits a completely disproportionate, aggressive kind of response that seems to be mostly born of nage's own insecurity. This has happened to me several times in my aikido career, and not just with beginners, but also with upper kyu ranks. It seems to me that this is a problem restricted not only to aikido. Remember all these 80s debates about whether power was good or evil, and whether (inherently good) women should go in for (inherently evil and male) power? Any woman who didn't define herself as, primarily, a victim was considered to have sold out to "male norms."
 
Old 06-22-2001, 01:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Are you serious ? do you actually know women who don't do Aikido becauce they don't want to be less attractive ?
I know someone who quit karate after two years because she thought she was getting too buff and starting to look and walk like a guy. I know alot of women who neglect their upper body workout at the gym - at least, no weights for the arms, for the same reason (don't want to have big biceps, it's unfeminine and therefore unattractive). The karate-quitter asked me if I was going to get a black belt, I said, well if I stick with it long enough, maybe so. She said "who would marry you then?". Mind you, this gal is from mainland China, which might explain the old-school mindset. Also, she might have been joking. But I'm not sure. Perfect analogy, men who won't dance for fear of being girly, that's the same mentality.
 
Old 06-22-2001, 10:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by mj
???
Are any Women going to reply to this???
uhmmm...I AM a woman...
seriously, i don't think there is much sexism out there, especially considering that there are so many males compared to females, which usually breeds sexism in a group. perhaps because those who are really learning anything in Aikido are not going to see things just in terms of how much bigger/stronger men are, or how aggressive they can be. Or maybe my viewpoint is biased, since i've spent the last 17 years in a world where women make up 1-2% of the population...
 
Old 07-02-2001, 08:38 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by mj
???
Are any Women going to reply to this???
Hi everybody!
Been away for a while. I'm a bit doubtfull about how to respond to this (I'm no woman anyway ). But seriously: did I say anything offending or completely insane in my post ? Sometimes my lacking knowledge of english limiteds what I can express in these post so please let me know if I offend anybody. It certainly was not intended.

By the way: I guess one reason I was so supprised is the fact that I have practiced for a while now without getting buff at all

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
 
Old 07-02-2001, 11:46 AM   #12
Michell Knight
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Cool A woman's response...

There are 12 members in my dojo (approx) and I am the only female--my oldest daughter trained for awhile, then went off to college. My second daughter will begin training this summer. If I had any qualms about a "loss of femininity" or prejudice I would not have spopnsored my daughters. I have found jujustu comparible to ballet (which I studied for 12 years) in maintaining physical agility, tone, co-ordination and mental focus. As one of the senior students, I have not yet encountered any lack of respect from new students as I work with them during their orientation period or in assisting in their belt test training. I have had a few "doubters" wondering if they can out-muscle me, but, after a few pins and an ikkyo or two, they come around. Because of my size (5'9" and 125lbs) the message that technique, not muscle is an important basis for the art is quite apparent. Occassional laughter breaks out the first time a larger visitor's face breaks out in surprise as I have them uke for me and kata gruma puts them on their back. Again, kihon is proven to work! Another plus, when new techniques are demonstrated and practised, my size is perfect for just about any one to have me uke until they gain the confidence in their own kihon. Needless to say---I uke ALOT which I find very instructive on my own behalf: once you have felt a technique enough, you gain better understanding as nage. One final note, I also have gained the unbiased respect from my Sensei, who considers me his uchi deshi--often resulting in invitations to otherwised closed events/training.
Now, that I have rambled on...I will be glad to answer any questions or comments here or by e-mail. And, for any female wondering if she should train--I say yes! Do you lose the "female side" of yourself or bulk up? Ha! I am the envy of many of my female friends who are fighting health and weight problems--yet, very few want to take the risk to enjoy MA for all the reasons I have disputed!! And, the emotional and mental gains are beyond what I even expected! If any female feels prejudice at the dojo---train for yourself, practice basics and if the prejudice continues---find a REAL dojo!

Michell Knight, P.A.-C
 
Old 07-23-2001, 04:35 PM   #13
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Re: Issues for Women in Aikido

Quote:
Originally posted by Unregistered
[snip]I am particularly interested in issues that would be specifically related to gender bias.[end snip]
I've been hurt by 2 women when training, one resulted in a permanent injury (strong sankyo damaged extensor muscles in my little finger).

Did I get hurt because I was surprised by the disproportionate response from my first attack? Did I attack in a condescending manner? Should I have attacked strongly? I don't know.

I DO know that I consciously stay away from women in seminars because they tend to have a lot of baggage on the mat.
 
Old 07-23-2001, 04:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by JJF
Hi everybody!
Been away for a while. I'm a bit doubtfull about how to respond to this (I'm no woman anyway ). But seriously: did I say anything offending or completely insane in my post ? Sometimes my lacking knowledge of english limiteds what I can express in these post so please let me know if I offend anybody. It certainly was not intended.

By the way: I guess one reason I was so supprised is the fact that I have practiced for a while now without getting buff at all
Your English is great, much better than most of our Danish...and your points were great. You just had the misfortune of replying after another male, and me, whom I guess seems like a male Must be all that bulking up...
(from carrying all that baggage?)`
 
Old 07-23-2001, 04:50 PM   #15
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Yeah, some women have baggage....
so do some guys, instructors, visitors, observers.... don't worry about it.
(Worry about your well-being of course!)

 
Old 07-24-2001, 03:02 PM   #16
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IT's a very strange place where I train. All people, regardless of gender, are treat as....... humans. eeeeek!

Seriously though, that kind of crap would not be tolerated in the dojo I train in.

There is a difference for me in training between men and women, but the difference has more to do with physical structure rather than gender. I weigh in around 210 lbs and I have large forearms and my wrists are also larger than average and are hard to hold onto. When I work with a smaller person (usually women) I tend to focus more on blending as losing connection is a greater possibility. No problems in the dojo though........ all professionals. Thank Goodness.
 
Old 07-24-2001, 04:42 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Unregistered
I weigh in around 210 lbs and I have large forearms and my wrists are also larger than average and are hard to hold onto.
so... are you a woman or a man

Last edited by mj : 07-24-2001 at 04:44 PM.

 
Old 07-25-2001, 06:13 AM   #18
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I thought I'd write some of my views as a female here. I've been trianing karate for a couple of years and I've just started aikido a little while ago. I recently found this forum as well, and I'm glad I did although most of the time I understand just about as much here as when I'm training. Here it comes to the language as well, my English isn't that great.

Well, anyway. I've also attended some other activities where most participants have been male. The least biased environment has by far been at the dojo.
In karate training I often get remainded that my techniques are "girlish" (I train shotokan which is supposed to be and look strong), especially when doing kata. Some instructors remind me often some never. Never has anyone refused to train with me, although I have a feeling there are people that don't appreciate women participating any kind of martial arts.
For that short period of time I've trained aikido, I haven't noticed any gender bias among the people there. I've learned a great deal and I appreciate all the patience those guys have had with me; at times I and my perfect coordination skills just don't get it at all. looks easy when the instructor does it but I can't do a single thing right.

When I first started karate, I didn't know anyone there except a girl I went to school with years ago and she had already been training for years. So I knew no one and all the others were men plus I had no clue of what I was doing most of the time. That was my problem, and I'm very glad I didn't quit then. I thought of that many times, though.

Then again, I'm not your average girl to say why women are a minority. Getting started is the first problem, I'd say. That's about one's own personality and attitude and not many women want to do anything alone (that's most of my friends). And then the nails and such -- I've heard that too, but I haven't thought I would be any less attractive because training MA.


Outi
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...only as much as you dream you can be.

Last edited by Outi : 12-29-2001 at 03:38 PM.
 
Old 11-17-2001, 01:02 PM   #19
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When I started Aikido, all the students were so afraid of hurting me that when they threw me, they would slow their throw down to ludicrous speeds, when for the male beginners they would use much more force. Now, though, most know that I can take a very hard throw (which are the only fun kind *grin*).
People often also think that I am very fragile, constantly asking if I am hurt when I've been thrown. Beyond this (which isn't really much) I have found that I am not treated any different when in the dojo, despite the fact that I am often the only woman in the class.
 
Old 11-17-2001, 06:01 PM   #20
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That reminded me of one night that I was training with the sensei of our dojo in another instructor's class. Sensei is a fairly large and very powerful 6th dan, who is always super careful with me as a partner, I feel like he's afraid of breaking me. The technique was yonkyo, and as he moved his hands on my arm I mentioned to him, out of habit with other students, that I don't feel pain at the pressure points, 'so you can't hurt me'. As I said that, looking at his powerful hands wrapped around my chicken wing like arm, I quickly added 'uh, Sensei, that's meant to be reassuring, not challenging...'
 
Old 11-19-2001, 03:41 PM   #21
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CA, you don't feel pain at pressure points? Ever? That's strange. Maybe some of those RyuKyu ppl can explain, they seem to know a lot about pressure points.

Anyway, I know I'm not a woman. But this thread is particularly relevant to me. I've been chided in the dojo for not taking extra care with women before. Although to my best knowledge I tried my best. Its just that for some girls, a bit is more than a enough to send them over the edge. This is not a generalisation though, as some guys are that way as well. But I guess, in the chilvarous (correct spelling??) world, men don't make women cry.

I also get told off a lot for gripping strongly (by women nages/ukes) in my previous dojo in UK. This women are by far bigger and stronger then most asian women here in my dojo. But then, I get confused. Aren't we suppose to, as ukes, make the attack as close to reality as possible? How can women train properly/know if their techniques are good, unless they can keep up with strong ukes?

This confusion used to bother me a lot because I wanted to practise sincerely with boys and girls. Now, just to keep ppl off my back, I really slow down with the girls which is really unfair, but saves my skin from scolding.

Quote:
his powerful hands wrapped around my chicken wing like arm
was exactly like how I felt at times. Not that I have powerful hands like your sensei, but some of the girls have arms a third the size of mine.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
 
Old 11-19-2001, 05:50 PM   #22
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Hi Amahd,

No, I never feel pressure point pain…my friends call me weird, one instructor pronounced me insensitive. I thought it was because it is hard for large fingers to find the point in small limbs/necks/faces, but a 16 year old male in my class made it clear HE could feel the pain, so I don't know why…I'm fairly tolerant of pain in general, so it may be it just doesn't hurt enough…it is funny to watch instructors try

I don't mind when guys are rough with me, for what it is worth…but then, I'm pain insensitive and bounce pretty good, so I only speak for me…


I guess the thing to do, if you are big in relation to your uke, is just ask if you are being too rough or too gentle, and their answer will let you know how they like to practice.

The main problem with my arm being so small, is it is sometime hard for bigger ukes to find room for both hands in morote tori , and once when I was uke attacking with a bokken for that same large sensei, he realized his hand pretty much covered both my hands and the one-fist distance between them...no room for him to grab the 'hilt' of the bokken
 
Old 11-19-2001, 07:29 PM   #23
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[quote]Originally posted by Abasan
I also get told off a lot for gripping strongly (by women nages/ukes) in my previous dojo in UK. This women are by far bigger and stronger then most asian women here in my dojo. But then, I get confused. Aren't we suppose to, as ukes, make the attack as close to reality as possible? How can women train properly/know if their techniques are good, unless they can keep up with strong ukes?

Hello. Well, my two cents on this: we are supposed to be partners learning techniques, not having a match of muscle strength. We have a mutual responsibility to be connected, uke with a dynamic, committed attack that is NOT the same as hanging on like a stiff bulldog. Iif my uke simply clamps down with lots of muscle on my wrist, and I cannot do the technique that sensei has demonstrated, then I have 2 choices: 1) ask uke to back off on the strength and give me an attack I can work with or 2) use atemi and switch to another technique depending on how uke reacts to my atemi.
 
Old 11-20-2001, 12:14 AM   #24
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Thanks for the ideas CA and Janet. Point taken on the bulldog thingey, pretty much something that I've avoided doing. But no more name calling pls, my sensitive heart can't bear it no more! :P

Good idea on the atemi and changing of techniques to suit the moment though.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
 
Old 11-20-2001, 09:57 AM   #25
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ca, I don't feel pressure points much either, and I have pretty big arms, so I think it's just pain tolerance that makes the difference. I'm the big freak in my dojo because no one can pin me because my wrists are extremely flexible. My sensei has given up even trying, and some of my classmates have designated a rule for me: if my fingertips touch my arm, it's considered a "technical tap" of the mat.

With regard to the ukes grabbing hard, I like a good, strong attack. I think that it's even harder to throw someone who barely grips you than someone who's cutting off circulation. But I would recommend simply gauging your attacks to suit different people (there are few people in my dojo, so it's easy to remember who to be gentle with and who you can really lay in to; perhaps it is harder in a larger group).

I also like to practice with the people who don't throw themselves (falling because they know they are "supposed to"). I find that many guys will do this to make it easier on me, the weak little girl.

Sarah

Last edited by Arianah : 11-20-2001 at 04:03 PM.
 

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