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Old 10-22-2004, 09:31 AM   #26
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 522
Re: Different dojo populations...

We have a dojo with mostly older students (average age was 43 last time I checked). Not many women, but one of them is the highest-ranked member, a fourth dan.

We're on the extreme end of "teaching permitted." I don't have any sense that my gender makes a difference there; it's the nature of the community that everyone, junior and senior, is going to coach me if they think they have a point to make. One of the pleasures of getting better is being able to grin at your kohei's advice, especially when you can throw them with the technique they just told you wouldn't work. But they're also right a lot of the time. Currently I'm biting back my pride and getting tips from a ten-year-old on the takedown from koteoroshi....

The place where I really notice being female is in the way newcomers, male and female, react to me. Newcomer men sometimes try to be extra gentle; slightly less junior men sometimes try me out to see how much I can handle, more so than the women do (with one memorable exception). Newcomer women watch me carefully to see how they're likely to be treated, setting their expectations accordingly; they don't do the same to my male peers. Once people have been around for a year or so, they absorb the expectation that everyone's to be treated the same. The fourth dan is a *very* strong personality and holds us to that standard.

I think the instructors (not necessarily just the head instructor) set the tone of the dojo more than anything else. We don't have our particular style because we have older students; we have older students because our style works for them.

I haven't noticed that younger men teach more than older ones at all. If anything it's the opposite; the one person in our dojo who sometimes coaches me more than I really want to hear is in his fifties. I suspect when it happens, it's part of a pecking-order dynamic that we don't express in that particular way. (The pecking-order stuff does happen. Just not like that. My sense is that there are so few women, we're part of the mens' pecking order rather than having one of our own.)

Mary Kaye
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Old 10-22-2004, 01:16 PM   #27
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 647
Re: Different dojo populations...

Mary Kuhner wrote:
I haven't noticed that younger men teach more than older ones at all. If anything it's the opposite; the one person in our dojo who sometimes coaches me more than I really want to hear is in his fifties. I suspect when it happens, it's part of a pecking-order dynamic that we don't express in that particular way.
While this kind of reflektions are interesting, I'd like to point out that I originally was thinking about dojos dominated by young men - not of the individuals in themselves. I wonder what a dojo dominated by young women would be like. I have never seen one. Well, that would have been my extremely small university dojo... but I am not so young, and I teach the fearful and clumpsy better than I teach the brave and self concious.

In the dojo I trained where the average age was highest, and also very few women trained - and those who did seemed to get nowhere - it was very very difficult to get people to throw me for high falls/break falls. The men over 50 I think were uneasy about being "rough" on a woman, and probably that attitude spread to the younger folks. I think when they were young and did break falls themselves, they trained in a pretty rough manner letting their bodies take quite a lot. Now they did not want to do break falls any more, and did not want to throw people this way either - me being a woman just added to it. The slightly younger but still very skilled people did not want to throw me for high falls either; they pointed out all the bad things in my ukemi like if I could learn to correct for them without someone ever throwing me for high falls... when I came to this dojo I thought my high falls were decent but needed improvement. Needless to say I eventually improved this ukemi someplace else.

The most competitive dojo I know of has very few women, although one might think that their very soft and fluid aikido should attract women. Was it the competitive atmosphere that scared the women away? I don't know. This is by the way a dojo where there is "only one teacher on the mat", a concept very determinedly introduced by those who created the dojo. I never said gender was the only thing that matters... but that the dojos where everybody I trained with taught me all the time, were "young men" dojos.

One thing I liked in a dojo that had the entire age spectrum from teenagers to people in their 50's, plus decent representation of both sexes, is the very outspoked acceptance for people training in different ways. In this case, I think it was the strategy and attitude of the dojo creators that created this very mixed dojo population, from youngsters to people who started training after having a heart attack. So yeah... maybe it is the atmosphere that creates the dojo demographics, not the other way around?
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