Brian Kagen pick: “Aikido masters master gender neutrality” by Stephen Dunmire

“‘The mat was a place where everyone mixed,’ said White, recalling her initial experiences with aikido. White, now a first degree black belt, began studying aikido 25 years ago while living in Japan. The sport’s gender-neutralizing uniforms, ban on makeup and jewelry and generally silent environment within the dojo allowed her to forget about gender while practicing.”

Brian Kagen is an avid web researcher with a particular interest in martial arts. His training background includes both judo and aikido. He has contributed hundreds of article links over the years for AJ readers.

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  1. The more we become artificialized, the less gender matters. In natural, raw, co-operative survival, gender roles polarise strongly and become everything to make all the difference whether a tribe adapts, survives or becomes extinct.
    Artificialized people suffer from hubris and ingrained, complacent lack of co-operation where everyone wants to be top of the pile and “individual,” but are deeply unqualified to lead anything because they can not lead themselves, whilst all the time relying on the input of others for their imagined “individuality.” The pile is a pile of fantasies having no bearing in actuality, but propped up by a maze of artificial constructs which crumble instantly, when nature, the great leveller, merely sneezes. Look at the volcano in Europe, for example. Millions of dollars will be lost because planes can’t safely fly. Nature does not care. It is not possible to truly lead from vacuity, opinions, unfounded theories or wishes. There is no “top” or “glass ceiling,” simply ability or the lack of it. Those who subscribe to dysfunctional fantasies end up leading those dumb enough to follow, into disasters. For evidence just look around you.
    One of the preeminent pathologies of artificialized people, is that we cripple our true potential with vexatious gender contests and other irrelevant, ego insecurity based gender issues, propped up by artificial “power” that does not really exist, whilst all the while pretending not to. This has nothing to do with suitability to actually perform a task. It gets in the way of simple common sense. For example, in a tribal situation, men prefer to hunt and the women prefer them to, just as the women prefer to gather and cook because they don’t want to lose their mammaries and reproductive organs, especially during pregnancy, to the bone crunching intensity of the hunt. There will be other males wherewith to propagate. Nowadays, where the biggest risk is usually a paper cut, anything can go. And damn near everyone is too lazy to clean up behind themselves or wash the dishes after a meal. This is a good place to start overcoming mental problems and it’s free. In the street and the jungle gender does have relevance. In the Aikido dojo it does not have to, and should not have to. But it may.

  2. briankag says:
  3. …’in the day’ as i recall, the dojo was a pretty sexy place. not sexist. sexy. and everyone seemed pretty ok with it. there were all sorts of flavors, gay, straight, singles… everyone seemed ok with it at the time. training was training. technique was technique. but i was so much younger then, and denying sexuality… NOT

  4. As a someone who is transitioning from male to female in which all my fellow Aikidoka at my dojo witness and outwardly have no issue with – gender does not play a role on the mat – except when we do ground techniques – the younger inexperience women feel safer doing ground techniques with other women – the more experienced women tend not to be bothered by it so much.

    I appreciate the basically gender neutrality on the mat – what is not so fun – at my point of transition – is I have no place to change except in our gender neutral bathroom. I’m not complaining – it’s just my reality for the time being.

    So to sum up – gender, I feel, is not important on the mat but I do feel that gender and perception of gender does affect each of us in subtle unconscious ways in the dojo. My transitioning has allowed me a unique perspective to see both sides of the gender spectrum both on and off the mat.

  5. In a period of great financial distress with many school endowments being cut, and many children worrying about whether they have the money to finish school, I wonder whether a topic like “Takin’ It Like a Man: Troubling Gender in Japanese Martial Art” is rather a symbol of the divorce of academia from society.

    Here we have highly paid professors (some with tenure) spending hours preparing to discuss a topic of peripheral interest to society as a whole and aikidoka in particular. There were no reponses / comments to this on Aikiweb. Scanning the article I struggle to see how any of the comments and conclusion were particularly applicable to furthering my understanding of aikido or martial arts in general or even society. Most of them were more observations than conclusions.

    Gender does not matter in Aikido… so what? What is the implication? It matters more in other arts… ok … does this really have an implication on society as a whole?

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