There are many 1,000's of women training in the art of Aikido, as the techniques do not rely on physical strength for their effectiveness. There are also women in Aikido because it is never used for aggressive purposes, and provides a very powerful means of Self-Defense, without the use of muscle strength.
Regular training in aikido has many physical and mental health benefits. The basic movements are particularly good for developing the core muscles and for lower body strength, but also good for improving stamina, over-all muscle tone and for developing a leaner physique.
Students are encouraged to study at their own pace, and by studying aikido in a relaxed atmosphere, are able to learn faster, and leave feeling positive, energised and revitalised.
There are many amazing Aikido women practising and teaching the art of Aikido. But, it seems that there are few women in positions of power. In fact, there are no female instructors who have regularly taught at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and it's difficult to find any woman acting as head of dojo in Japan.
When you look further afield, you will see a large female presence teaching the art, but, the leadership of nearly all Aikido organizations is usually male. Aikido Women often have many responsibilities, and are indispensable to the various associations and organizations, but they mainly support the male leadership.
Aikido women are often at the forefront when teaching a balanced view of Aikido. Yes, practical Self Defense is very important, but the real aim is the community connection, harmony and world peace.
Since the practice of Aikido is usually performed empty handed, stronger, younger, and more aggressive practitioners have an advantage, in terms of overcoming their partners. But, Aikido is actually about overcoming yourself!
Morihei Ueshiba said "True Victory is Self Victory" which is not about how to defeat someone else, but how to defeat your inner demons or ego. So the true aim is to help yourself and others to be at peace.
The Dan system of grading was originally set up to ensure that a quality level was maintained in the art. The real problem was that it tended to focus on only the technical, martial side of the art.
There are a growing number of teachers who, although not very interested in the martial technical side of the art, are exploring new areas and providing great insight into the connection between physical technique and the spiritual side of training. Many of them are female instructors, Aikido women, who have run dojos for years and have a great depth of teaching experience, often bringing students into the art who would never have been interested in training in the more macho world of traditional Martial Arts.
Of course, there are many Aikido women who have successfully trained hard with men. Pat Hendricks, Mary Heiny, Lorraine Dianne, Patty Saotome, etc. All managed to get ahead in a male dominated hierarchy of Aikido, but this isn't how women measure their worth or level of success.
Women are generally more interested in the social aspect of the art than the martial side. The connection between dojo members is usually created through the efforts of groups of female students rather than male. They are far better at helping students who are emotionally damaged or are physically less confident.
The Aikido women instructors, many who have over thirty years of experience in both training and teaching, often find themselves down a rank or two below their equally experienced male counter-parts. You may come across many dojo's that place male students at the top of the technical and hierarchical heap while the women students do all of the organizational and administrative work, that actually keeps it all going.
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, saw the essential mission, as bringing people together. People may have exceptional talents teaching children, they may be nurturing to those of us who have been damaged in various ways. We will find individuals who have great insight into the spiritual side, but not the practical or martial aspects.
Top Instructors should aim to develop a new generation of instructors both male and female, young and old, who are empowered to explore all aspects of Aikido, and should be supported in following their visions. This way Aikido can grow to a level to be of great benefit to the world community.
Aikido women can help lead us all to world peace!
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