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Old 10-06-2019, 03:53 PM   #1
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USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

Posted 2019-10-06 15:53:02 by Jun Akiyama
News URL: http://usafaikidonews.com/a-statemen...ors-10-3-2019/

The United States Aikido Federation's board of directors has posted a response entitled "A Statement from the USAF Board of Directors 10-3-2019" to a petition put forth on September 14, 2019 entitled "Support Women in the United States Aikido Federation".

The original petition from the Independent Coalition of USAF Women stated, "Specifically, we seek: A. Recognition that gender equity is a valid issue that needs exploration in the USAF through a Gender Equity Task Force. B. Representation in USAF structures as well as USAF activities/seminars at least proportional to member population. C. Removal of barriers to the advancement of women, at all levels of practice. D. A change in the Technical Committee structure to include women on the Technical Committee. E. Transparency, including publication of statistics about gender in the USAF."

The response from the USAF Board of Directors provides their views on each of the above points in the petition.

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Old 10-06-2019, 06:43 PM   #2
Chris Li
 
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

Here's a photo of the letter posted at the New York Aikikai, from Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, in response to the recent petition from senior USAF women for gender equity.

https://www.facebook.com/aikidosange...type=3&theater

Petition: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1F...3FYvQ/viewform

USAF Response: http://usafaikidonews.com/a-statemen...ors-10-3-2019/

Discussion on the Reddit Aikido group: https://www.reddit.com/r/aikido/comm..._the_petition/

Another discussion, on the Facebook Aikido group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aiki...6878305028276/

Best,

Chris

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Old 10-07-2019, 02:42 PM   #3
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

For those of us that don't follow US gender politics in general and how they are playing out in Yamada's organization in particular - an executive summary perhaps?

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Old 10-07-2019, 02:46 PM   #4
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

Below is the timeline of events concerning the gender equity petition in the USAF. Please note that a number of USAF members have stated that these issues have been brought up and discussed previously, in both public and private venues, within the USAF for a number of years.

For reference -

Yoshimitsu Yamada's public letter concerning his response to the petitioners at the New York Aikikai: https://www.facebook.com/aikidosange...type=3&theater

The petition for gender equity in the USAF: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1F...3FYvQ/viewform

The official USAF response: http://usafaikidonews.com/a-statemen...ors-10-3-2019/

Discussion on the Reddit Aikido group: https://www.reddit.com/r/aikido/comm..._the_petition/

The timeline:

“We are posting this timeline for clarity, as a reference point for discussion, and to hopefully answer faqs.

September 14, 2019: The Petition to Support Women in the United States Aikido Federation is released publicly. In the interest of transparency, it is immediately sent to key figures in the leadership of the USAF.

September 18, 2019: Coalition drafts and emails a letter to Yamada Sensei requesting the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the petition with himself and members of the board.

September 22, 2019: [Redacted] sends a letter to USAF dojocho informing them of the petition.

September 23, 2019: [Redacted] sends letter to USAF dojocho suggesting that 1) The Originators of the petition (will refer to from this point on as the “Coalition”) are claiming to represent the leadership of the USAF. See letter from Sept. 22 and 2) The Originators of the petition have not reached out to USAF leadership. See letter from Sept.18.

September 24, 2019: [Redacted] meets with Yamada Sensei per his request. Members of the Coalition ask [Redacted] to record the meeting for clarity and accuracy and because members of the Coalition have agreed to work together to make decisions about their process/progress. We understand no reasonable expectation by Yamada Sensei of privacy for this meeting. The meeting is held in New York Aikikai, two other people are present in the meeting itself, and other’s voices can clearly be heard in the background, indicating that anyone passing by could also easily hear the discussion occurring in the meeting itself.

September 24, 2019: [Redacted] is expelled from NYA during this meeting for her participation in the Coalition.

September 24, 2019: A representative of the USAF is sent to talk with [Redacted]. This representative asserts that the proper way to address these concerns are to write to the USAF Board of Directors, not to Yamada Sensei, and that the petition itself was considered very hurtful.

September 27, 2019: [redacted is] fired from teaching at NYA for sharing the petition.

September 27, 2019: Yamada Sensei sends an email to [Redacted] informing her that he knows that she recorded their meeting and that he is very angry.

September 28, 2019: The Coalition drafts a letter to be emailed directly to the Board of Directors, as per the instructions given by USAF leadership. Via text and phone conversation, we are referred to the USAF code of conduct for procedural guidelines, which are: “Members may report any alleged harmful conduct or violation of this Code of Conduct to the USAF Board by notifying the Director of Operations or any individual Board member in writing.” There is no contact information given on this page. On the Board of Directors page, there are no emails or other direct contact info given. Only websites, with no indication of to whom outreach via those websites would be directed.

September 28, 2019: Emailed a letter to Board of Directors via email (privately obtained) for [Redacted], Secretary of the Board of Directors.

September 29, 2019: [Redacted] meets with Yamada Sensei per his request. [Redacted] accompanies. [Redacted], [Redacted], and [Redacted] are also present. Meeting is openly recorded by [Redacted], and a copy of the recording is offered to and subsequently shared with [Redacted]. During this meeting the Coalition agrees to [Redacted’s] request to alter its name (from “USAF Women’s Coalition” to “Independent Coalition of USAF Women”) to avoid potential confusion about the source of the petition. It is agreed that [Redacted’s] will schedule a meeting for Coalition members to meet with board members. There has been subsequent back and forth communication regarding scheduling, but as of yet no meeting is scheduled.

September 30, 2019: Yamada Sensei posts letter in NYA regarding the petition and consequences for members.

October 3, 2019: [redacted is] expelled from NYA.

October 3, 2019: USAF posts a public statement responding point-by-point, to the requests made by the petition. There is no mention of a forthcoming meeting with the coalition, nor of the two members of the USAF who have been expelled from NYA.

October 5, 2019: [redacted] attempts to practice at another dojo but was informed by the dojo cho that they have been given instructions not to allow her to do so.“

Edited To Add 2: Letter to Yamada Sensei: Dear Yamada Sensei, Greetings. Hoping that your late summer trip to Japan is going well. Enclosed is a letter that we wanted to get to you as quickly as possible.

Yamada Sensei, from the earliest days of the New York Aikikai, many of your students have been women Aikidoka. You have trained us well and rigorously for more than 50 years, and many of these women have gone on to train other women and men in the Aikido that we all love. It is this love for Aikido, and our love for you that holds us to be members of your organization, the United States Aikido Federation.

Over the years, through your great efforts, the USAF has grown. As this growth expanded, and your male and female students began to teach, and open more dojos, the women in the USAF began to notice that they were not being represented in the growing structure of the organization. Women began to hear disrespectful comments which diminished their training and teaching efforts. Women began to notice that there were far fewer women than men teaching in USAF seminars. Women began to feel that they were not being given the same opportunities for advancement as instructors. And women did not see themselves represented in sufficient numbers on the Board of Directors, and not at all on the Technical Committee.

Over the years, women have spoken up as individuals to various members of the Board and Technical Committee and others, only to be dismissed. Others are afraid to speak up at all, and some have left the USAF. However, this subject of gender equity in the USAF is important for both women and men. Our world is complex and filled with stressors. The Martial Art of Aikido, offers ways for people of all genders to live in harmony with one another, to build community, to train body, mind and spirit.

A group of USAF women recently got together to share thoughts, and decided to petition you and the board to open-mindedly look at the roles of women in the USAF. This petition was created out of love…for you…for Aikido…for each other. It has been shared, and as it gained extensive support with both women and men practitioners, we decided it was time to petition you and the board for your support. We hope that you will read the petition and see that we are seeking an ongoing dialogue addressing why women have less of a presence in the USAF than our numbers suggest and what can be done about this. We live in a time of changing social mores. We want to ensure that the USAF stays vital and flexible, so we can better nurture and grow this beautiful art we love.

Thank you for listening. We look forward to meeting with you and the board for presentation of the petition and discussion. Perhaps such a meeting can take place at the Winter Seminar in November?

With deepest respect and love,

The USAF Women’s Coalition

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Old 10-07-2019, 03:28 PM   #5
sorokod
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

What is the organisational relationship between NYA and USAF? What is Yamada's official role in USAF?

Also, perhaps not very important in the greater scheme of things, but members of the Coalition secretly recorded "dear yamada sensei" which was ok because dear sensei should not have expectations of privacy - oh boy.

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Old 10-07-2019, 03:46 PM   #6
Chris Li
 
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

The New York Aikikai is a member of the USAF. Yamada is Chief Instructor and Technical Director of the USAF and Chairman of the Technical Committee:

http://usafaikidonews.com/category/u...-of-directors/

In New York (and most states), I believe that it is legal to record a conversation as long as at least one of the parties in the conversation gives consent, it does not require that all parties consent to the recording.

Best,

Chris

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Old 10-09-2019, 05:03 AM   #7
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post

In New York (and most states), I believe that it is legal to record a conversation as long as at least one of the parties in the conversation gives consent, it does not require that all parties consent to the recording.
Fantastic news

Here is Facebook free link to Yamada's letter: https://i.redd.it/5ncuw85dp8r31.jpg

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Old 10-14-2019, 07:34 AM   #8
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Re: USAF Responds to Petition "Support Women in the USAF"

Here is a great post by Malory Graham (6th dan, Seattle Aikikai) on the recent petition calling for gender equity in the United States Aikido Federation. [First posted on Facebook; reprinted here with permission.]

Quote:
Malory Graham wrote:
Time to Tenkan

When I first saw the gender equity petition in aikido I thought it was a bad idea. But I did not think it was a bad idea for the same reasons that I've seen in the USAF official response. I thought it was a bad idea because after 30 years in this organization and seeing how things operate behind closed doors as a USAF board member, I assumed a petition like this would at best fall on deaf ears and be ignored or at worst be ridiculed with disparaging jokes about women in aikido. I never imagined that a petition requesting that gender equity in aikido be addressed would be seen as a threat and the cause for retaliation and intimidation in our organization.

I have sat quietly on the sidelines for the past 2 weeks both watching how things unfold hoping for better behavior as well as trying behind the scenes mediation to turn the situation around for everyone's favor. Isn't that what our art is all about? As those efforts have failed, I have grown deeply concerned about the divisive nature I see emerging.

As an American, I am grateful for my 1st amendment right to free speech. Objecting to taxation without representation is in my DNA. That ethic, and the right to voice dissent, doesn't just disappear because I practice a Japanese martial art.

I have finally decided to add my name to the gender equity petition* not as a way to choose sides but to manifest my own integrity. (*I'm purposely not calling it a "women's petition" because gender equity affects all of us).

I am also choosing to not remain anonymous in signing this petition for the following reasons:

1) I am proud to be a loyal student of Yamada Sensei and I see no conflict between being loyal and signing a petition asking that attention be paid to gender equality. I am also grateful for the many pioneering things Yamada Sensei has done over his career to support women in aikido.

2) I do not in any way see this petition as an attack or threat to the USAF. In fact I fear that the initial framing of the petition as a threat by USAF staff instead of as an opportunity is where this unnecessary controversy originated.

3) I choose not to be intimidated or live in fear of retaliation for voicing my opinion.

This situation has put into stark relief that I have been living a double life and it is time for that to end. In no other area in my life-- except aikido-- would I be intimidated to voice my opinion or tolerate living as a second class citizen because of my gender.

I have spent my whole professional life in the nonprofit social service sector, most notably fighting for gender parity in the film industry by running a film school for young women. At the same time I have spent twenty years running a dojo and being a member of a traditional Japanese hierarchical organization with inherent gender inequity. I have loved and embraced the Japanese etiquette of our system and the loyalty that one has to a teacher. It has connected me to a deep tradition of budo that I revere. However it has also created a double-standard in my life in which I turn a blind eye to sexism in one arena and actively work against it in another. I have spoken to many women in aikido who also laugh at the dichotomy we find ourselves in.

However times are changing and a younger generation of both women and men in aikido are clearly looking at this through the lens of #metoo and not finding it acceptable. Instead of hiding behind the old ways of how things have always been done, I applaud their fresh perspective and efforts. If we want our beautiful art of aikido to flourish in the future it must be adaptable. I believe we must be proactive in addressing our aging aikido population and dwindling numbers by actively recruiting from historically underserved populations. If women make up 51% of the US population it seems obvious to try to make our dojos more welcoming to this demographic for the future sustainability of our art. And, by the way, if you are threatened by gender equity now, just wait until the next generation hits you up with non-binary gender non-conforming issues! (PM me if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

After 30+ years in this male-dominated field, I am not naive enough to think that gender parity will happen overnight in response to a petition. I also don't think putting a woman on the technical committee as a mere token of affirmative action really addresses the core problem. I'm more concerned about the pervasive sentiment shared behind closed doors that women's aikido isn't "technically good enough" to warrant a position on the committee. While I am all for being judged by one's merit, maybe the whole paradigm about how we place value on "what is good enough aikido?" and who decides "what is good enough aikido?" should also be addressed to see if it has bias?

While I wish not to get into a battle over whether sexism exists in our organization or not, I can share a small personal story to illustrate a deeper level of inherent and pervasive gender bias that I believe needs to be addressed. I doubt many of my male peers in the USAF upon receiving their 6th Dan have shared my experience because of their gender.

When I was awarded my 6th Dan from Yamada Sensei awhile ago instead of feeling honored, I was horrified. I didn't feel deserving of the rank and was frankly worried about how it would be perceived. Unfortunately my fears were justified as I heard men close to me make remarks like "who did she sleep with to get that?" or "you better start getting good at aikido to deserve that" or "what kind of a 6th Dan are you if I can block your technique?" And the worst part of it is, I internalized that. I said things to myself like "well, I know my aikido isn't very good but I think maybe I'm an ok teacher and I have been running a successful dojo for twenty years so while I'm not deserving of it, its ok to have an honorary rank." That's not humility--that is internalized sexism.

If any good can come from this debacle maybe we can switch the discussion from "is there sexism in the USAF?" to listen to why any marginalized group may not feel valued in aikido. If any of the views shared in this letter are confusing or disturbing to you, I welcome you to reach out to me personally so that we can find common dialogue.

I love the art that so many of us have devoted our lives to and believe the future of aikido will be well served by embracing diverse practitioners and perspectives. I sincerely hope that those in leadership roles, including men willing to step up as allies for gender equity, can tenkan on this topic and bring about a solution that is, to borrow from O sensei's words, "not about winners and losers but uniting us all as one human family."

Malory Graham,

6th Dan, USAF Shidoin

Chief Instructor, Seattle Aikikai

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