Aikido and Feminism

Good grief, I’ve been quiet, haven’t I?
IMG_11067Well, if you’ve been watching my Flickr stream, you know I passed my brown belt test. Tons of pix here. While I was testing, I thought I was doing terribly, but I’m always my own worst critic.
I also recently sent a link to one of my favorite essays on feminism of all time to a young woman on a message board where I occasionally hang out. She had, much to my dismay, said that she was not a feminist in a post espousing the idea that men and women are equal! So I sent her Yes, You Are, by the brilliant and hilarious Sars of TomatoNation. Here’s a taste:

The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.
Yes, you are.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore, but if I did, I’d probably include “to fight abuse and misuse of the word “feminist” wherever I find it.”
Aikido and feminism are definitely connected for me. One of the reasons I’m so proud to have reached brown belt is that I’m one of only two women with this rank in my dojo. We have no higher-ranked women, either. The idea of a woman attaining high rank in a martial art — even one as pacifist as Aikido — is so unusual in our society that we have very few women at the dojo at all. There are a handful of teen gals who train, but most of them will probably go the way of other teen gals who trained there — off to college, and off the mat.

It doesn’t help that we don’t have any female teachers at my dojo (partly because, as I said, we don’t have any women ranked higher than first-degree brown belt). We used to have one, but, well, it’s a long story. But the idea that women must be one way, and that men must be another, which is at the very heart of sexism, keeps a lot of women off the mat. The pressure to conform pulls a lot of women who do train off the mat eventually, one way or another. And, of course, once there aren’t very many women, it’s hard to get more. It’s a cycle that feeds itself.
I have a goal. Not a New Year’s Resolution, because I don’t do those anymore (and anyway, this will probably take more than just this year).
I want to keep improving my Aikido and start teaching. And I want to find a way to reach out to women in our community and encourage them to train. Training in Aikido begets self-confidence, self-discipline, self-respect, health, and all sorts of other positive benefits. And few things make it obvious that men and women are equal like watching a skilled female Aikido student training. A woman can execute a hip throw just as well as a man, given the same training. Like most things, Aikido doesn’t require a particular set of genital plumbing.
Feminism and Aikido: two great things that go great together.
Interested in Aikido? Here’s the dojo where I train. And here’s a list of dojos in our Aikido federation.

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