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Old 01-03-2005, 09:36 AM   #26
ali og
Dojo: Southside Dojo
Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 11
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Mary Kuhner wrote:
I don't think I have a preference for gender of sensei, but I do appreciate it when there are senior women (whether teachers or students) in a dojo--it's encouraging to see other women up there. I find dojo with women beginners but no women seniors particularly daunting--I start wondering what happened to them, why they left....

I find that, while I admire my sensei greatly, the people I identify with most strongly are kyu ranks a few grades above me, and it's particularly helpful to have women there. The fourth dan sensei has wonderful aikido, but it's so far above me I have trouble seeing it as a goal. First kyus make mistakes I can actually see, which makes them seem more accessible.

Mary Kaye
Mary, this is a good point. My main MA teachers are large men. All are very good-natured and welcoming, so it's hard to feel intimidated as a student. My main aikido teachers are also aware of some of the physical differences between men and women in terms of teaching (there aren't really many, but our forward breakfalls were taught with thought to not landing on one's breasts...sounds funny, but it was important). So perhaps teacher gender is not all that crucial.

However, as Mary points out, having women at a range of ranks is helpful to everyone - men and women. For women, it may be less intimidating to try/stick with a class. Personally, I'm not intimidated walking into a mostly male dojo, but there are women who would be. When I first came to my dojo, there was a younger woman there who was unranked, though she'd been practicing for a year. Within a couple of months, she tested and holds a rokyu rank. I was glad she had tested because a) her skill level is good and b) it gave me a sense of the possible.

For men, I would suspect that it allows them to see women in a different light - to touch women in a very different way than they might otherwise. There is an intimacy of aikido because of the partner work that forces you to "feel" and "listen to" someone's center. At our dojo, we've discussed whether womens' centers are different than mens', so as much as everyone has a different center, perhaps there is a different energy women bring to their practice. I don't know - I'm throwing this out there.

Anyway, thanks for starting this thread, Rachel!

- al
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Old 01-03-2005, 10:29 AM   #27
David Yap
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 561
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

David Bryant wrote:
Male or Female sensei ? I never care much. I just want to take the class of someone who can teach me something...<snip>...What difference can it make what sex a teacher is, if He or She is a good instructor you still have to benefit from the lesson
Absolutely true. After all, Wing Chun kungfu was founded by a woman and so was White Crane (from which Goju-ryu karate derived).


David Y
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Old 01-21-2005, 06:48 AM   #28
Dojo: Aikikai Foundation Hombu Dojo, Aikido of Hilo
Location: Tokyo
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 63
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Susan Bosco wrote:
This conversation is fascinating. I walked into an all male practice and was perfectly fine with it. In response to Dan's comment regarding the "overweight" woman in a room filled with men. I'm noticeably overweight and feel that part of my practice is overcoming any discomfort or self-consciousness (I would experience with men or women). Also, I find men and women equally intimidating depending upon their individual personalities. I'm new to Aikido but from the research I've done so far it seems that we need to move beyond and above the superficial and self-conscious to something far deeper in order to pracitce effectively. When I'm able to do that I feel empowered and confident.
Actually Susan, I am quite big myself, and I also, like you don't feel intimidated by these situations. I don't think it's really because I'm bigger than average that I don't feel scared, I just think it's because I'm so used to Aikido class, and like situations. However, I imagine that some women DO feel more comfortable seeing other women in the environment.
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Old 01-21-2005, 08:59 AM   #29
bbleeker's Avatar
Location: Diemen, the Netherlands
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 18
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Hi Xu Wenfung,

What does the quote in your sig mean?
I think "iitai? iitai? iitakunai daiyo!" means "hurt? hurt? that doesn't hurt!" (right?), but what does "Yowaimushi dese ne!" mean?

Last edited by bbleeker : 01-21-2005 at 09:02 AM.

Berna Bleeker
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Old 01-21-2005, 10:01 AM   #30
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 59
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

David Valadez wrote:
How about this then:

However, now, in my own training, teaching others, gender identity and experience, as part of a personality, as part of a personal history, as part of an emotional content, seems to be popping up in a way that it can't always be passed off as "stylistic" preferences.

When I looked deeper, there is a difference between the two types of training, and this may be where the first difference is coming from. In the first case, training was mostly centered on waza training. I think in waza training, things can only get so deep, and hence things like gender experience/gender identity, etc., might not come to the surface at all. In the type of training we are practicing now, training is centered on acquiring spontaneity. Such training seems to go a bit deeper, I feel, and so a whole lot of stuff comes to the surface - gender experience and gender identity often being one of them. (Of course, this applies for men and women.)
David, how do you practice acquiring spontaneity? And how does gender experience and identity manifest itself in that training?
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Old 01-22-2005, 05:23 PM   #31
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 824
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Rachel Klein wrote:
Actually Susan, I am quite big myself, and I also, like you don't feel intimidated by these situations. I don't think it's really because I'm bigger than average that I don't feel scared, I just think it's because I'm so used to Aikido class, and like situations. However, I imagine that some women DO feel more comfortable seeing other women in the environment.
I'm with Rachel, here, too. I never meant my comment to mean that all women feel intimidated by men, but some do. I never really felt intimiated by men either, but seeing other women at higher levels was just a little more comforting. It means that you could have someone to talk to after or before class like all they guys do. It means, you have someone to hang out with in the locker room. I like the comfort not because of intimidation but just out of a need to connect with other women as I tend to socialize with more women than men.

But sometimes it's fun being the only woman in class. Because you can get to beat them up

Any case, I don't think there is a big difference in teaching style due to gender but there is definently a difference due to someone's personality and life journey. For example, Lorraine DiAnne is very strong and powerful and Penny Bernath is very fluid and soft, but you have men like Harvey Konisberg who is soft or my sensei who's know for being "hard". Of course all these sensei's have great technique and powerful, but I have never seen their teaching style change because of their gender but just due to the nature of their aikido background, training, personalities, etc.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 01-26-2005, 09:22 PM   #32
Dojo: Institute of Aikido Australia
Location: Perth
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 48
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Allison Kelaher-Young wrote:
My main aikido teachers are also aware of some of the physical differences between men and women in terms of teaching (there aren't really many, but our forward breakfalls were taught with thought to not landing on one's breasts...sounds funny, but it was important).
Hmmm. I forgot to remind my class of (mostly) men to keep their legs apart during a sideways breakfall. It looked like it hurt

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Old 01-26-2005, 10:26 PM   #33
senshincenter's Avatar
Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,473
Re: Difference: Male and Female Sensei

Hi Camilla,

Thanks for replying -- sorry in the delay in responding -- I am afraid to admit I am not watching this thread anymore. However, I will check on it now, since you asked a directed question.

I guess my reasoning works like this: If Budo (which includes Aikido) requires that we invest our total being into our training, etc. (the rhetoric is quite commonly known), and/or if it requires that at some point we reconcile with our own karma (or personal history, if you will, which is part of our total being), then at some point our identity as it is personally experienced is going to have to come to the surface. This in turn will mean that we will all have to confront very real issues that are ours or partly ours because of the gender experience we are accruing as part of any given culture.

As an example, here is a common one in men -- it nearly always comes out in spontaneity training (especially in my male students who are law enforcement agents). It is so common it even comes out in kihon waza training -- just not to the same degree. In the States, generally speaking, ideas of masculinity, which males are generally geared toward experiencing, is very alien to Aikido's Yin-based tactics, Aikido's strategy of Path of Least Resistance, and even Aikido's tactic of Clearing the Line of Attack. When a male deshi is placed in a spontaneous training environment with high enough intensity, he most often reverts to his habitual way of being -- which thus includes cultural notions of masculinity. As a result, a male deshi within such a training environment will almost always attempt to stay on the Line of the Attack, push back against on-coming resistance, and judge what is "powerful" only by how much energy he is wasting rather than how much work is actually being accomplished by the smallest amount of energy spent. To be sure, it is easy to dismiss this stuff as simply "not being skilled," but this is not wholly accurate. Moreover, we do not so easily solve this attachment to habitual ways of being by simply trying to become more skilled.

Often, the cultural history of person can be easily predicted and therefore stimulated by a different drill and/or a different intensity and this speaks to the fact that one is dealing with habitual ways of being -- not purely empirical skills or lack thereof (unless we want to define "skillful" as reconciling with one's habitual self -- which I do). So too, it is not enough to say that we have seen female deshi do the same thing -- though I am sure they have and often do. What I am referring too is an almost unconscious drive to be unable to do anything else once a situation has become spontaneously intense (so that habitual ways of being our brought to the surface). I guess the real measurement is not what they do wrong as much as how difficult it is for them to stop doing that wrong thing. It is a question of, "How deep must they go in their practical reflections in order to free themselves and thus become open to new options, or even new habits, etc.?" In my experience, I have never seen a female deshi struggle or struggle as much with dropping such inadequate tactics once the obviousness of their inadequacy is hitting them in the face (literally) during spontaneous training. Again, this is not to say that there are not such female deshi out there. I am sure there are. We are dealing here with general trends. And, to date, it is not a general trend for folks to grow up without experiencing gender and/or without having that experience be deeply intertwined with their own personal identity.

For more on how we do spontaneous training, please see our web site. I have a video clip of our beginner spontaneous drill (with a paragraph explaining things a bit), and there are several writings in all three sections on spontaneity and/or Shu-Ha-Ri as these things are understood at our dojo.

Hope I answered your question properly, thanks.

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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