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Old 03-14-2003, 08:15 AM   #1
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Question Sexism in the Dojo

Now, that I have your attention...
It's probably not as extreme as that, but I wanted to throw out the possibility and get as much input as I can.

I'm one of only two women in a dojo which is generally comprised of all men. She and I started training around the same time, about two and a half months ago, and our big pet peeve is that we feel that sometimes, we're just not being taken seriously. I know, you're thinking, "well, that's just because you're beginners"; but let me just explain further.

Specifically, when it comes to a lot of techniques that involve a joint pin or lock (ie. ikkyo, nikkyo, etc.) a lot of the guys in the dojo will plain out say that whereas they can "be tougher on the other guys", they're afraid of hurting me and the other woman.

We don't typically get this from the other two beginners (who are male); most likely because they, like us, are still learning how to get techniques down pat and haven't yet learned to control the amount of pain they inflict. But the most disturbing thing is that our Sensei will sometimes say this, which makes me wonder whether it's just that he and the other senior guys are being kind to us because they're sincerely worried or whether they just believe that we can't handle it like the other guys. The fact is, we don't see anyone saying this to the other two male beginners.

The jist of it is, she and I feel that we can handle as much pain as everyone else (if not more---hey, we're women: we have higher pain thresholds), and deserve the same quality of training that results from the more serious and strong attacks our male counterparts are subject to.

Anyone have any comments? I know one of these days, I'll just have to find the time to go early and try to catch my sensei alone and broach the subject, as he's really non-responsive though he's online and doesn't answer his e-messages (which is pretty annoying, especially since I call attention to them at the dojo and still haven't received a response---someone needs to teach him some 'Netiquette.
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Old 03-14-2003, 08:34 AM   #2
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Chances are they are just treating you like beginners and having some compassion, since they can't take a chance that you can handle the technique without someone getting injured. Taking some of these 'crank-ons' can require quite a bit of conditioning first. Be thankful, there will probably come a time when they show you no mercy.
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Old 03-14-2003, 08:49 AM   #3
DavidEllard
Dojo: Dunstable/Dinton
Location: Milton Keynes, Uk
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At the risk of generalising we tend to find girls pick up Aikido quicker than boys. The reasons two possible reasons we see are: they are less likely to try to power through tequniques using strength and they seem more comfortable using their centre.

It is quite possible people are being gentle with you cos you are female, but then again it might be because your dojo isn't familiar with female practioners so don't know how to deal with them, or even because the other people training there are sexist - whether consciously or not.

You are probably in the best position to tell if people are being sexist - what is thier behaviour like of the mat - do they ever appear sexist there? if so they are more likely to be sexist on the mat. If they treat you as an equal and with respect off - they are more likely to do the same on.

A couple of side notes:

We have an issue within our training group because all our sensei's and senior people are male finding... 'role-models' for number of female low grades we have. We are trying to get them to come to a camp in norway with us in the summer so they can see some *really* good aikidoka who just happen to be female.

From the sounds of it i doubt you have any senior females within your training group - I'm sure things would be different if there were

(oh - and for a final note - don't be too anxious to experience the pain - depending the style you learn it is quite possible to train hard and well, with no pain ... even on nikkyo!)
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Old 03-14-2003, 08:58 AM   #4
Qatana
 
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There are six women in our dojo, three of them shodan or higher.Trust me, they get treated exactly like the men.

Everybody is very gentle with beginners tho now I've been there three months some are starting to make it just a little "harder".They will know when...

Q
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Old 03-14-2003, 09:31 AM   #5
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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Bit confused, if you're saying your sensei refers to your gender specifically rather than your status as a beginner, then yes there's a problem, a big problem. Despite irreverant randomn aikidokas, most dojos are very heirachical and the mannerisms and attitudes of the sensei will be adopted by the more personality-challenged members of the dojo. Gender shouldn't count at any stage, as the old joke goes, "there's no sex on the mat"...

If, however, the references for "gentleness" are all towards your beginner status, I'd suggest you just enjoy the feeling of calm before the storm.

Hope you get things sorted
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Old 03-14-2003, 09:46 AM   #6
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Hi,

When I first started training theere was an uneven ratio of women to men and some men would be more gentle on the women.

Funny thing is that the sensei was a woman and every once in a while her uke would hold back on her, and she'd scold him for it. It's not like she wanted her male students to be rough, just engaging. She was a godan.
Quote:
David Ellard (DavidEllard) wrote:
it might be because your dojo isn't familiar with female practioners so don't know how to deal with them, or even because the other people training there are sexist - whether consciously or not.
I'm not in the poster's dojo, but David suggests something that I have seen more than once.
Quote:
David Ellard (DavidEllard) wrote:
We have an issue within our training group because all our sensei's and senior people are male finding... 'role-models' for number of female low grades we have. We are trying to get them to come to a camp in norway with us in the summer so they can see some *really* good aikidoka who just happen to be female.
David: you may find that if any of those new women are strong enough to not require that their role model be female, they'll mature to be a pretty good role model down the line. Of course there are other ingredients, but having the ability to see men as legitimate role models as well might be a good thing.
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Old 03-14-2003, 10:12 AM   #7
DavidEllard
Dojo: Dunstable/Dinton
Location: Milton Keynes, Uk
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Very True.

No disrespect was meant.

But a couple of the ladies i'm thinking of are my friends our of class, and when we've talked they've often said they see the lack of any senior women within our organisation, the lack of any women teachers, as giving them the percpetion that aikido is more of a male pursuit. I think in any activity although it is possible to break new ground it is easy and more comforting if there are people you can look at.

The Endo Shihan course we went to recently helped - for there was a good mix of sexes at all levels on the mat.
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Old 03-14-2003, 10:38 AM   #8
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Strange to read about all that gentleness and sexism, I thought nothing like that happens in aikido. There are seven women in my group and about twenty men and noone ever treated us somehow different, whether any of us was a beginner (like me) or not. Otherwise I wouldn't have so large bruises on my wrists. And if sometimes I am treated not so hard it is because of the lack of skills, not me being female. For example, nobody tries to throw me in very earnest yet, cause I can't make a normal ukemi. But every training the throws become a bit harder and the time soon comes when there will be no difference between me and the others in this. And if sudenly some guy has strange ideas about women+aikido, the rest, including women will be really surprised. Sensei (he's male)most of all I guess. We are not asexual at all, we once talked about it and it turned out that women prefer to work in pairs with men what I find quite natural. Don't know about guys' preferences but they enjoy female presence in dojo, allways glad to see us what I find natural too. Sensei once said it is more interesting when there are many of us at the training. Quite agree. But the sexism as you wrote about it - no, never. Fortunately.
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Old 03-14-2003, 11:22 AM   #9
"rogercmarks"
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My wife considers me more of a Feminist than she is, which perhaps in itself is sexist (on her part?). However, in spite of all my philosophical belief in the precept that there are no male of female Akidoka, only Akidoka, I have to admit that reality kicks in. I rationalise this as 'Biological Imperative' and if I don't do my duty by my female uke and maybe hold back that little bit or, as uke, am a tad wimpish when attacking a female nage that is just how it is. In my defence, I offer the excuse that I will also moderate my practice with those I perceive as physically weaker or less able. I however do not automatically judge that a female is per se weaker or less able - I have been disabused of this a long time ago!
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Old 03-14-2003, 11:45 AM   #10
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Being the only female student, or the only even moderately advanced female student in the dojo can get lonely, even if the guys are completely supportive and cool. I've been in that sitch for most of my time training. OTO, it's not THAT bad. Also, I got attitude from certain guys as a beginner but that doesn't happen now!
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Old 03-14-2003, 11:46 AM   #11
beanchild
Dojo: Aikido Academy, Columbia, SC
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best thing to do is talk to your sensai about folks taking it too easy; just before or after class might work. i know that many times my sensai has good reasons for things that he says or even jokes that he makes. unless there is a definite problem, like you feel your training is suffering, stick things out a bit longer. when the guys feel comfortable working with you both, they'll probably take things up a notch.

btw, i'm a female aikidoka if you wondered. been studying for almost 3 yrs.
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Old 03-14-2003, 12:45 PM   #12
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If they want to show compassion, let them. Better than someone trying to prove how "weak" you are. Time proves how strong you are (see Jo's post).

Let the guys work through their fears of hurting you. Often, their fears of themselves (and your smaller body) are LEGITIMATE. Over time, their fear will decrease as both yours and their skill increases. They, too, are learning to control their bodies.

There is no need to prove you can "handle as much pain as everyone else". (ego, ego, ego and, uh, why?).

People take you seriously when you stay and train. Trying to prove you are serious about training proves nothing but that you are serious about proving you are serious.

I amů

Female w/ about 10 years experience in a rather large dojo.
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Old 03-14-2003, 02:00 PM   #13
Paul Klembeck
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Another possibility to consider is the "meatyness" factor. I am always a little wary of using much force on people with small bones and wrists, at least until I have trained with them enough to be sure their ukemi skills are advanced enough to keep them safe. While there is no gender motivation in this, women tend to have smaller wrists than males, so there is a correllation with using less power on women beginners than male beginners. Having always had women teachers in every dojo I have trained at, I have good reason to know women are as strong as men, and except for beginners with slender wrists, I treat them the same.

Paul Klembeck
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Old 03-14-2003, 02:33 PM   #14
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Smile

Original poster here. Thanks everyone for all your input. Although I had long since personally resolved to simply train hard despite whatever treatment I receive, I still appreciate hearing others' perspectives and experiences on the matter.

As for the following response:
Quote:
() wrote:
There is no need to prove you can "handle as much pain as everyone else". (ego, ego, ego and, uh, why?).
I'm afraid you missed the point. Or perhaps I simply did not articulate my meaning well enough. I was quoting the other female aikidoka in the context of the sentiment that we weren't feeling like we were being treated equally compared to how the other two male beginners were being treated.

We have been exposed to a great deal of rhetoric on the part of our sensei in which he has stressed time and time again that other students must not simply "take easy falls" for us (beginners as a whole) and if they grab our wrists, for example, it should be as tight as they can. This was on the premise that the more serious the attack, the higher the quality of training, as it is a scenario which has more realism behind it. I strongly agree with this concept, which is why I found it so disturbing that many disregard it.

To put things further in context (as these conditions were implied in other posts), the other female beginner is a large-boned, physically strong woman, and though I myself am rather petite, I am the same size and stature as one of the male beginners. The other male beginner is tall, and lanky. So, as Yoda said, "Size matters not," in this case, as none of us, save perhaps the other female beginner, is particularly "meaty" as one poster considered earlier on.

Thanks again for all your help!
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Old 03-15-2003, 12:58 PM   #15
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From my first karate class, I learned I had better act tougher than the guys if they were not to treat me like I was made of china. Sad but true.

I have seen dojo environments where women were not supposed to actually learn anything. It was hopeless to get people to throw you for more advanced ukemi, etc. I eventually left this place.

Part of it might be possible to sort out by talking about it, though. Your instructor might be not very used to teaching women, new to the situation and not knowing how to handle it. Talk to him, both of you together, and explain that you want no special treatment or comments because of your sex.

If the instructor does not learn to handle female students, neither will the dojo as a whole.
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Old 03-15-2003, 05:18 PM   #16
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I have a sneaking suspicion that the originator of this thread is one of my students. If so, I have the following to say:

I do have genuine concerns about the safety of my new female students. They are smaller and weaker than my male students and I am trying to take that into account when dealing with them. I don't intend to be sexist, so please don't harbour any thoughts to the contrary. Typically, women have not remained in the dojo for long, usually because they find things too rough. I am trying to do what I can to change this, so I may, in an attempt to do so, be erring too far in the opposite extreme. Please bear with me while I work this all out.
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Old 03-15-2003, 06:21 PM   #17
Arianah
Dojo: Aikido of Norwalk
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Well, I guess since I'm female, it's my duty to chime in here.

My first day of class, I showed up, looked around, and saw only one other woman in the room. It didn't phase me when she left, and piles of new men came, leaving me the lone woman. Sure, I was thrown much more gently than the other (male) beginners, and every time I was thrown with any force, I was asked if I was ok. But I just kept training, learning how to take harder falls, and soon joking with people, telling them with a big grin, "You know, I won't break if you really throw me!" It took a little time, but I was soon rolling with the boys, slammed to the mat with the best of them.

Was it sexism? I think that's getting a bit extreme. Maybe a little frustrating, but not malicious. If you just train, and let people know that you can take a bit more than they're dishing out, I'm sure they'll be happy to comply. If someone's grabbing your wrist like it's made of glass, don't get offended. Offer a smile and say, "C'mon! Attack me!" This doesn't mean you have to start proving yourself to them, just letting them know how you want to train. Just keep training and it will probably work itself out.

And try not to take it too seriously.

Sarah

Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.
-Albert Einstein
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Old 03-15-2003, 06:29 PM   #18
Arianah
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Quote:
() wrote:
They are smaller and weaker than my male students ...
Not necessarily...

Sarah

Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.
-Albert Einstein
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Old 03-16-2003, 12:05 AM   #19
"Crimson"
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Ok from a male perspective we were always breed not to injure women. well this may flo over on to the mats. and if all else fails just tell them not to go easy on you.
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Old 03-16-2003, 08:17 AM   #20
Laurent Veillat
Dojo: Judo-A´kido Club Foyen
Location: Dordogne
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Hi!

thisquestion about sexism in a dojo seems weard to me. The answer is in the word Ai: union ki: energy(kind of) do: way;

if guys are kind to you maybe it's because your the kind type.

The other question is: why do you practice aikido? To hurt yourself? To be bruised by other aikidoka? Male or not?

As I've read up there, there is no sexes on the tatamis.

Cool! practice it!

In case thre are real macho guys in your dojo, move!

I've practice many years and found kind people of both sexes on the tatamis, and mad people too! I rekon mad women are exceptions.

Hope you don't feel hurt by my roughness.
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Old 03-16-2003, 12:10 PM   #21
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Quote:
() wrote:
I have a sneaking suspicion that the originator of this thread is one of my students. If so, I have the following to say:

I do have genuine concerns about the safety of my new female students. They are smaller and weaker than my male students and I am trying to take that into account when dealing with them. I don't intend to be sexist, so please don't harbour any thoughts to the contrary. Typically, women have not remained in the dojo for long, usually because they find things too rough. I am trying to do what I can to change this, so I may, in an attempt to do so, be erring too far in the opposite extreme. Please bear with me while I work this all out.
With all due respect, perhaps the women don't stay because of the sexist attitude. And it is sexist---you are assuming the women beginners don't have ukemi skills equal to the male beginners, or your concern would be about BEGINNERS, not WOMEN. The women MIGHT be smaller (I don't know, often there are small males in class as well), but usually the smaller folks are more flexible, more quick and responsive, and so better able to receive techniques. If it was because they were small, you would be saying (and your students would be saying) "I am taking it easy on you because you are a small beginner". The fact that you (and your students) instead say "girl/female/etc" as a reason to take it easy reveals the sexist undertone to the thought process.
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Old 03-16-2003, 02:16 PM   #22
"Sara M"
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in my dojo, im the only female except for a friend who has just started to study. Im sure she'll say the same, when I say there is no sexist actions at all on the mat. However thinking about it... i guess it could have been because i train with so many guys... but on my grading, i was put with another female, and i was in no way as hard on her, as i would have been if i was partnered up with a guy... I never even thought about it that way before, and i consider myself to be completely non-sexist!...
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Old 03-16-2003, 04:40 PM   #23
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Whoa there...

Original poster here again. Looks like I'll have to do this in a couple of separate posts, as things are getting a little misunderstood...

First of all, I want to sincerely thank all of the female respondents to my post (Maxine, Sarah, Sara, and all the other females who have chosen to remain anonymous):

I truly appreciate the honesty with which you've shared your personal experiences with us, and though I myself am no stranger to "the Old Boys Club" in other aspects of my life (education, occupation, etc.) aside from Aikido, your words of encouragement are still just as inspiring to me! All the best to you in your future endeavours, both on and off the mat.

Now on to...
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Old 03-16-2003, 08:25 PM   #24
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Question Original Poster here, continued...

Quote:
() wrote:
I have a sneaking suspicion that the originator of this thread is one of my students. If so, I have the following to say:

I do have genuine concerns about the safety of my new female students. They are smaller and weaker than my male students and I am trying to take that into account when dealing with them. I don't intend to be sexist, so please don't harbour any thoughts to the contrary. Typically, women have not remained in the dojo for long, usually because they find things too rough. I am trying to do what I can to change this, so I may, in an attempt to do so, be erring too far in the opposite extreme. Please bear with me while I work this all out.
Well, I'm all for the theoretical game, so here goes:

If you are in fact my instructor, there are a couple of things that I believe you need to seriously consider for your own sake, not only as a teacher, but simply as a person:

First of all, I strongly disbelieve that this situation is one which is entirely your own responsibility to "work this all out" on your own. The dynamics between individuals, like interaction in Aikido training (dare I use the analogy), involves a certain level of understanding on the part of all parties involved. In other words, this situation involves me as well, and as a unique individual, I cannot simply "bear with you" while I get lumped into the "Category= Female" for you to decide on your own what to do with me.

Women in the past may have left your dojo because they found things "too rough", as you say. I can see that this must have happened enough times for you to now question whether or not the level of training you have offered is too extreme. Regardless, you still cannot ultimately assume that this training will be too hard for all women.

Perhaps if you spent more time trying to get to know your individual students on a deeper level, you would find that where some of us may be lacking in physical strength, we make up for it tenfold in strength of will, mind, and spirit---all things of which you yourself preach as even more important in Aikido than physical strength alone.

Perhaps if you bothered once in a while to respond to my messages (thus showing me respect and acknowledgment and opening yourself to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you may learn something valuable from discourse with another) you would begin to know me no longer as merely another small, female body in a white gi. You would know me as others know me: as a relentless and determined person who is not afraid to rise to any challenge. You would know exactly how resolute I am in my training, and how seriously I consider it a lifelong commitment. You would know just how much I truly respect you, and that I am more than happy with the "rough" training you put us through because I love how you constantly give me the opportunity to push myself to be the best I can be. And finally, you would know that the last thing I want is for this opportunity to be taken away from me just because you've convinced yourself that I can't handle it.

I understand your concerns for our safety, but to a certain extent, because we are adults, you must put your trust in our own self-knowledge and ability to determine our own limits, communicate to you if we are uncomfortable with anything, and take responsibility for our own decisions be they right or wrong. And the only way you can rest assured that we are in fact communicating this to you is by being open and responsive to us.

Which is truly a shame, because if you really are my sensei, chances are you won't even read this message at all.

-----

"In just refusing to retreat from something one gains the strength of two men." ---Hagakure - The Book of the Samurai
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Old 03-16-2003, 08:44 PM   #25
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Original Poster here again...re: misunderstanding

Quote:
() wrote:
With all due respect, perhaps the women don't stay because of the sexist attitude. And it is sexist---you are assuming the women beginners don't have ukemi skills equal to the male beginners, or your concern would be about BEGINNERS, not WOMEN. The women MIGHT be smaller (I don't know, often there are small males in class as well), but usually the smaller folks are more flexible, more quick and responsive, and so better able to receive techniques. If it was because they were small, you would be saying (and your students would be saying) "I am taking it easy on you because you are a small beginner". The fact that you (and your students) instead say "girl/female/etc" as a reason to take it easy reveals the sexist undertone to the thought process.
Just thought I'd clear things up a bit. This poster is extrapolating towards things that I did not say at all. Please, whoever you are, re-read my original post.

1. I never insisted that my situation was definitively based upon sexism. I merely threw it out as a possibility and wanted to hear others' responses to this.

2. I don't believe we have to get as politically-correct as you suggest with having to distinctly say all the time "I am taking it easy on you because you are a small beginner". This gets a little silly after a while. I believe the actual problem lies in a lack of communication and understanding in general.

3. You misunderstood what I described my sensei and senior students as saying: They never once referred to being afraid of hurting girls/females in general, as you inferred. What I said was that they would say this referring to me and the other female aikidoka specifically. For example, "I'm afraid of going too hard on you and ____." It was because this was never said to the other two beginners (who are male) that there seemed to be an unfair distinction.

As much as I appreciate the supportive words, I simply cannot stand by them if they do not speak the truth. Thanks though.
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