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Old 10-07-2003, 07:58 AM   #1
Paula Lydon
Dojo: Aikido Shugenkai
Location: Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2002
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Unhappy gender balance

~~An observation: My dojo seems to be at about one female student for every six (or so) male students. Also, since I've been there--7 years--there seem fewer upper dan female sempei who either train regularily or are in any sort of teaching/leadership role. Being me, of course, I have begun wondering...

1) We like to say that gender doesn't matter on the mat, but I appreciate having more advanced female students to observe, question, etc. as well as male. These 'older sisters' have understandings that relate directly to being female and training that males will not.

2) Why don't more females stay, either at lower or upper levels? Is there something in the dojo atmosphere that subliminally discourages females? Is there something in the training itself?

3) Is is all just part of social conditioning and to be expected? Yet, I've seen dojo with many women up to the majority, in every position availiable.

4) I do get a sense quite often that to be a young male is best, a young female is 2nd best, to be either but with lots of rank is 3rd best.

Any thoughts? Yours in

~~Paula~~
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Old 10-07-2003, 08:29 AM   #2
jxa127
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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Paula,

My dojo has the ratio you mention, but when I go to seminars, I see a 2:3 ratio (women to men), with a fair number of the women shodan or higher.

Our dojo is still growing. We have far fewer women come to check out the place than men. Of those that check out a class, few stay. It may be that in our area, with small cities and a lot of rural land, fewer women are interested in martial arts. In contrast, the dojos near a large city seem to have many more female students.

Personally, I really enjoy working with women, but I don't find it very much different from working with men. I see more differences between people of different experience levels than between people of different gender.

Just some observations.

Regards,

-Drew

----
-Drew Ames
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Old 10-07-2003, 09:34 AM   #3
BKimpel
Location: Alberta, Canada
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When you look at a martial art as a community program or course, and you put it the same group (which really it is, it is extra-life activity and people only have so much time in their life outside of work and families) then you'll see that women usually prefer aerobics or some sort of music-related art form, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and the more traditional arts like quilting, etc. How many men do you see in those classes? Not nearly as many as are in martial arts. So when you question where are all the woman -- they are in those other courses.

It's just interest patterns. Fewer women are interested in martial arts, and fewer men are interested in those other art forms.

(I said fewer, not none...no flaming me please)

The ratios are probably pretty acurate, given the number of woman that are actually interested in a martial art. I suspect the attrition rate of martial arts is gender-irrespective too, in that people quit for the same reasons regardless of whether they are a man or a woman but when you only have 10 woman to begin with -- when 8 quit it is much more noticeable.

Bruce

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 10-07-2003, 09:37 AM   #4
akiy
 
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"What percentage of your aikido dojo is female?"

http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=91

-- Jun

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Old 10-07-2003, 09:51 AM   #5
giriasis
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
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I think many of your questions touch on why women don't practice aikido. I feel that partially it is cultural/social reason in that women are not typically encouraged to train in martial arts. In other physical endeavors such as gymnastics women dominate the field yet women have been encouraged for years through the media and our culture that gymnastics is a "women's sport".

But once they get to a dojo, for whatever, reason, the challenge is keeping them there. In my four years of training aikido, I've found that women getting past the first stages of ukemi the biggest challenge, more so than the men. Women, like myself, seem to be more intimidated by the rolls and breakfalls. I've seen this in most of the new women that have come to our dojo. However, most men, although still finding rolls challenging, seem to jump right on into the rolls and in a couple of months they are happily breakfalling. I think this is the biggest difference. It took me a couple of months just to roll confidently. But once the women catch on to the rolls and breakfalls they seem to come across the same issues and challenges like their male peers.

As far as training is concerned, the differences have more to do with body type. As such, most women have smaller bodies and face the challenges smaller framed people face.

I'm medium framed, when I train with larger and physically stronger people, I tend to focus on moving from my center more and keeping my extension. When my stronger partners resist, I have a lot to work with and they usually fall pretty hard. When I train with smaller people, mostly petite women, I focus on my connection and finding the energy they have to give me so I just don't plow them over.

In regards to dojo atmosphere, that's a tricky one. First, it is up to the sensei to create a positive atmosphere for all students, including the women. Second, it is up to each practitioner to be positive. For example, as the senior female kyu rank in my dojo (although we have several dan ranks), I take the time and work with the other women in the class. And if I don't, just being another female body on the mat helps. As a woman, I found it encouraging to know that there were other women in my dojo, and it was very encouraging to see the dan ranks. Although, due to size not all schools have this.

The atmosphere needs to be welcoming-- for all newbies. But, the atmosphere has to be something natural if it is too forced then that makes people uncomfortable, too. In regards to the atmosphere just peculiar to women, I would suggest keeping locker room talk in the locker room, and leaving a line of communication open in case there is any inappropriate behaviour (i.e. sexual groping) on the mat.

I do believe that this applies to all people in the dojo. We should be courteous and welcoming to all. We should have open lines of communication for all.

In my experience and opinion, the difference between a woman's experience and a man's, in my opinion, is subtle. It is hard to pin point and nail down, but if we are open enough and sensitive enough, we might begin to see the slight differences. Slight as they are but important nevertheless

Last edited by giriasis : 10-07-2003 at 10:00 AM.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:02 AM   #6
frankfer
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The ratio seems to be much better at your dojo than at mine. At my dojo, until recently, there were only 2 women to the 30+ males in each class nightly and are still kyu rank.

There are currently more beginner women (maybe 5 total), but they seem to leave within a 3 month period.

It seems the women are treated differently by the sempai (even kohai) as well as the chief instructor. Which I believe the chief instructor is the one that needs to set the example of all persons in Aikido should be treated equally. Until that happens, I have to sit back and watch the women become discouraged and leave only for new ones to follow 3 months later.

The ones, well one now, that does stay around is not "allowed" to go up the ranks as quickly as the males are, although IMHO she is very talented. She doesn't get involved in the dojo politics and I assume that is why she is still training. It is a shame to watch someone so talented and she has to "wait" until her male counterparts are at her level before she is allowed to test.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:14 AM   #7
ian
 
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Statistically men do more sport than women, so you'll find this in pretty much everything. Also, combat sports tend to be more male dominated. What you need to do is encourage more women to join!

I've also found personally that, more men have an intial interest, but also women are very discouraged by ukemi (possibly see it as painful or potentially damaging). Also in the aikido groups I've seen where there are many women the techniques tend to be done much more gently. Is it a physical threat women feel during certain training methods? Hard to say.

I didn't understand your 4th point Paula.

Ian

Last edited by ian : 10-07-2003 at 10:18 AM.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:15 AM   #8
giriasis
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
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Frank,

It sounds like the women who start at your school are noticing this difference and are voting with their feet and are leaving.

It is very frustrating to be as skilled or even more skilled than your male counterparts and watch them move up the ranks faster, and you (the general 'you') are held back just because you are a woman. I'd leave, too.

Since you notice this difference, what do you do about it?

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:28 AM   #9
rachmass
Dojo: Aikido of Cincinnati/Huron Valley Aikikai
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There is a paralell thread running on Aikido Journal right now:

http://143.207.8.139/cgi-bin/ubb/ult...c&f=9&t=001974

Plus, this was addressed recently in Women in Aikido (Anne Marie, can you give that link please?).

This is a very interesting topic!
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:29 AM   #10
ian
 
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It'd be interesting to know what it's like training in the traditionally male dominated society of Japan. I'd pretty much agree with your (extensive) post Anne Marie.

Is there a difference (in general) between training objectives for men and women? Do some instructors believe women incapable of effective self-defence? (or maybe there is just a difficulty relating to them?

I hope in our the members believe they are not treated differently because of their sex (though allowances are made for physical ability and confidence.)

Ian

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:33 AM   #11
frankfer
Location: NY
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Rachel,

I try to encourage all the women that join to hang in there. The first 3 months I believe are difficult for anyone, male or female. First you need to learn to roll and that is more of a fear for adults than children. Once they feel comfortable falling and understand it is the sempai's role to assist all kohai in their training, they seem to be more relaxed and want to stay. But I see them change, overnight sometimes, just because of the way the chief instructor, who is not approachable, treats the women. The CI treats the women like kids and most of the women that join are intelligent working women and they leave because they are insulted more than for any other reason.

I believe at this school it is the CI that causes the womens attendance to be so low.

As for moving up the ranks, it is very frustrating, even though Aikido is not "competetive", to want to grow and you are not "allowed" to, sort of poisons the reason for going to the dojo each day.

I believe once you receive Shodan that you are really just beginning and you are serious about "learning and understanding" Aikido. So why hold someone back, because of gender, if they are committed and serious?
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:37 AM   #12
giriasis
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
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Here's one that we had going on for some time regarding why women don't train in martial arts:

http://pub48.ezboard.com/fwomeninaik...picID=58.topic

But if you read through the site, you'll find a lot of times we bring up those subtle distinctions and discuss them from our female point of view.

Anne Marie

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 10-07-2003, 10:53 AM   #13
Erik
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Go into a gym and look at who lifts weights and who hangs out in the aerobics classes. There are exceptions but I bet the ratio is about 90/10 each way. Then ask yourself where your dojo fits with those two parameters as the extremes.
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Old 10-07-2003, 11:09 AM   #14
giriasis
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
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Frank,

As a further source for support the women in you dojo that you mentioned, if they participate on internet bulletin boards, you can send them here. http://pub48.ezboard.com/bwomeninaikido I started this site so women can talk to each other about aikido. While its nice to have the male perspective or just talk with other peers about aikido sometimes it is nice to hear or talk with another woman.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 10-07-2003, 05:38 PM   #15
Paula Lydon
Dojo: Aikido Shugenkai
Location: Colorado
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~~Ian D. had a good point in that perhaps male sensei (possibly more so Japanese) have a difficult time relating to their female students. It's easy to say that, ideally, there should be no difference, that all students are treated the same. And they may be, but, as Anne Marie pointed out regarding subtlties in interaction and experience, 'treated thus' and 'related to' can be quite different critters on an energetic level. It may look right, but something just doesn't feel right...

~~Frank, what does you CI say when you ask him about the situation with the women? It seems that everyone in the dojo must know it's going on.

~~Paula~~
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Old 10-08-2003, 02:03 AM   #16
sanosuke
Dojo: Seigi Dojo
Location: Jakarta
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could it be the word "MARTIAL ART" that scares females at the first time? bcos from what i observe females refuse to take up martial art because :

1. they tend to generalize martial art training as hard, tough training like we see in kungfu movies (even the wax on, wax off kind of training...)

2. the perception of martial art itself, here in indonesia people still perceive martial art as sanctuaries for trouble-makers/fighters to release their alter ego, thus, females (even some males) often draw themselves from training because they coudn't stand up the beating

3. they don't dare to try, that's why in my opinion, flipping during demonstration might even scared people away, because what they see flipping is very hurt, they get scared on the first time

4. unfortunately some martial art still use the serious, tense atmosphere so the training is not enjoyable. Most people i know drawing off from martial art is caused by this reason (hell, if only they know that in aikido you're encouraged to smile and laugh during training, in appropriate time of course)

5. Injury, this is also the main reason. people, usually females is really scared about this, causing no.3

oh, and females also don't want to look muscular like female judoka, so eventhough i already explain that aikido training doesn't concern on muscular training, they still refuse to go(sigh). Sometimes i can't blame them because some of the system had run that way...
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Old 10-08-2003, 02:49 AM   #17
YEME
Dojo: South West Aiki
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Strangely enough in my gym the woman outnumber the men on the weight machines...just a weird observation.

in my dojo the ratio is about 2 to 15.

i think the reasons for starting the art are somewhat to blame. A lot of women at my dojo joined only because of partners who joined at same time...

injury is a big part of it too. we don't think we're indestructible and in a beginner class with bigger strength-using males you learn that real quick.

So maybe a quick reason to leave in early stages.

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.
--Isaac Asimov

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Old 10-08-2003, 03:11 AM   #18
PeterR
 
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I tried to respond a few posts back but had to delete it. Some might have thought it cro-manganish and given me more flack than I deserved.

Last session had me worried - the woman are starting to outnumber the men. I like training with women, I want them in my dojo but I really want a 70/30 ratio with the men dominating.

The reason really revolves around the group dynamic - getting a bunch of men to push their martial spirit is a lot easier than a group of women. If the dynamic is right several but not all women will be right in there and the rest I can accomodate. I can push a man where culture demands I must push less with a woman.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 10-08-2003, 03:11 AM   #19
JJF
 
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Maybe when people come to have a look at practice women tend to see themselves in the role of uke whereas men tend to see themselves as nage, which looks much more fun and less hurt-full .... just a thought - but it could explain why women are less likely to join in the first place.

On a more serious note: I think that the lack of role models is a common problem. Often when female aikidoka reaches upper kyu or dan ranks they also reach an age where they will start a family or focus on a career. It's often so much harder for a woman to find the time to continue practice, than for a man. The lack of high ranking women in the dojo could be a problem for new students. We need someone to look up to, and I think it is easier to be inspired by someone of the same gender.

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

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Old 10-08-2003, 07:30 AM   #20
frankfer
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Paula,

When the CI is approached regarding the way the women are treated in the dojo, he seems oblivious to the comments and isn't AWARE of his behavior. I've been practicing at the same dojo for about as long as you have been at your dojo and I continually see his behavior towards women and he still doesn't seem to think there is anything wrong with his behavior. The CI is not asian, so in reading the other posts that is not the reason. Also, this same CI treats new women in the dojo as prey. The CI is not married, but his behavior towards new women in the dojo does not appear to be very AIKI. This is another cause of the women not staying. Not sure if this is the case at any other dojo, but there is definately a pattern at this one.
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Old 10-08-2003, 05:25 PM   #21
Paula Lydon
Dojo: Aikido Shugenkai
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~~Gee, Frank, maybe you should show him this thread...

~~Paula~~
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Old 10-08-2003, 07:25 PM   #22
Suzanne Cooper
Dojo: Retsushinkan Dojo/Alabama
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Hmmm...I must be training in dojo heaven...

I was a part of many organized activities during my 20 years in show business from uncountable numbers of choirs, bands, orchestras, plays, and commercials--but I've never been a part of a group so interested in furthering every single individual as a person as my dojo.

If there's any sexism, I haven't seen it. And like most members of minorites (I heard once that there are approximately 1% more men in the world than women), I look. Its as though they concentrate on what each person needs rather than on why each person needs it. I guess I'm saying that I've not gotten the impression in my dojo that anyone has thought "If she was a man, she wouldn't have this or that problem with technique."

And you know, I LOVE to be uke! Call me strange, but I really think uke has the more interesting part. Maybe after I've hit the mat a few hundred more times, I'll think differently, but right now it's the most fun.

I got guts, yes I do. I do aikido--do YOU?
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Old 10-08-2003, 07:31 PM   #23
Suzanne Cooper
Dojo: Retsushinkan Dojo/Alabama
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I just took a poll of my teenagers and their opinions of being uke and they like it, too. My younger child said it helps her understand what she's doing wrong.

I got guts, yes I do. I do aikido--do YOU?
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Old 10-08-2003, 08:05 PM   #24
Clayton Kale
Dojo: Nihon Goshin Aikido Academy
Location: South Carolina
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Quote:
Suzanne Cooper wrote:
Hmmm...I must be training in dojo heaven...
I agree with you. Reading other posts on this and other threads, sheesh. We don't have near the problems or ego clashes that I've read about. Maybe we're lucky 'cuz we're in the south. Whatcha think, Suzanne?

Seriously though, in my dojo, males outnumber females, but we've got several ikkyus, nikyus and sankyus and yonkyus. I have noticed there are many young girls in the kids' classes. I have noticed that a new female student in the adult class usually doesn't stay long... at least since I've been there.... hmmm. Maybe I should wash my gi.

"Pefect practice makes perfect." -Steven A. Weber Godan Nihon Goshin Aikido

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Old 10-08-2003, 08:30 PM   #25
Suzanne Cooper
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Heeheehee! That could be it, Clayton!

I got guts, yes I do. I do aikido--do YOU?
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