A Message from Yamada Sensei 2020_08_09

There have been some complaints on social media by aikido practitioners about how women have been treated unfairly. These complaints about gender equity are targeting me and the USAF, so I’d like to express my opinion. Gender discrimination in aikido is something I never believed in. I have tried to remain fair and open minded in my aikido career. I consider people’s rank, experience and integrity to be very important. I personally view my students, women and men, the same and have given equal opportunities to all of them, on the mat, for promotions, to teach class and to open their own dojos.

One of my biggest surprises was that there were two of my students, NYA members, among the group complaining. I was very upset and felt sad because these two women were equally treated just like other people at NY Aikikai. They were given a class to teach regularly every week along with other female teachers. They took my classes for decades, and even traveled to teach at seminars. Needless to say, there was no complaint from male members about the opportunities I gave my female students and many men attended the classes taught by female teachers. One teacher responsibility I feel strongly about is to create peace and harmony in your dojo. Anybody who makes unnecessary waves disrupts the balance and enjoyment for others who want to come and practice peacefully. When people ask, “Was I not chosen to teach because I’m a woman?” I have to say that is not true. It’s simply because you are not ready yet and the time will come for you sooner or later.

I’m Japanese and educated in the old budo world, but I know how to make adjustments and to be flexible. I knew I would be teaching in USA and I tried my best to make mental adjustments when I came to USA.

You must understand that aikido is a unique art, not like other arts or sports. On the mat, all people can practice equally and enjoy equally. There are many women who have even more physical ability and skills than men have. Women may and can participate in all sports and martial arts but in a different way we do in aikido. For instance, sports teams are separate by gender like baseball, boxing, football and basketball. Even most other martial arts are separate even by rank. That is why each sport has a separate league. We don’t have to separate or make another league in aikido. We are all together.

In old days, aikido was tougher and only limited to persons accepted to become students. But after World War II, the late Kisshomaru Doshu made a big adjustment and changed the way of practice to the way we practice today. Uke gives in completely to Nage and reacts according to Nage’s physical ability, so that everybody can have fun on the mat. We all should thank Doshu for giving us an opportunity to enjoy aikido equally. I want all of you to concentrate only on practice, not other stuff; just feel lucky to be a part of aikido society.

I’d like to show you a photo taken about 45 years ago. They were my assistants at that time. Don’t they look tough and don’t they look proud?

Y. Yamada


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