Male vs. Female Sensei

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby Lori » Mon Oct 05, 1998 3:39 am

Probably the best of both worlds in the operation of a dojo would be to have a mixture of male and female instructors. As "genderless" as we propone to be within the practice of our art - the fighting concept remains a male dominated area - and males will often tend to believe that a "male" skill is best learned from another male. On the flip side, in my own experience and from feedback on this forum, I have seen that upon initial entry to the world of martial arts, many times a woman will feel more comfortable with a female instructor. Later, this will become less and less important, as the art becomes more individualized gender becomes less of an issue.

However, the "best of both worlds" isn't always readily available. I feel confident in my teaching abilities, or I wouldn't be teaching! Yet I feel very fortunate to have some wonderful men instructing at my side - each of us brings our own gifts to the school - and some are born of our gender whether we like it or not.

What about other dojo out there? Do you feel a benefit or lack in offering instruction by male or female instructors, or a combination thereof? In the old forum we had some great comments by male students of women sensei - feel free to voice those opinions again - pros, cons or general input. Women - would a female sensei have encouraged your entry into the martial arts any sooner? Do you feel that a female instructor has more to offer to female students? Or not?

Also, what should women sensei concern themselves with - if anything - to meet the sensibilites of mixed gender classes or potential students?

Looking forward to your comments.

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby evanpantazi » Mon Oct 05, 1998 12:09 pm

Lori Sensei,

I realize this is off topic a bit but I would like to address the pairing of Male and Female students. Sometimes (please remember this as you read on) we run into the male or female that don't want to pair off with the other gender: Men feel they need to hold back and Women feel (especially in grappling situations) intimidated.

These opportunities by both parties should be viewed as a different lesson in and of itself. The Women definately need to work on Men as that is most likely to be the attacker they will face. The need to work with a stronger body type is critical, but we all realize this. It is more the Men while working with the Women that need to appreciate the slighter anatomy an use it to their advantage. As you workout with a slighter frame (and it is not necessarily a female), take note when grabbing the inner anatomy of say the wrist or arm. Pay close attention to the bone structure and the muscle, as this will give a greater understanding of how to use proper physics and gain more control.

As for Female instructors they can offer insights that the typical Male Sensei cannot. They become especially adept when dealing with techinque against a stronger opponent where they have needed to learn in greater detail the lessons of leverage, balance and timing to a finer degree. Brute strength is not the focus which is a diminishing quality in all of us as we age.

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby David in Sacramento » Mon Oct 05, 1998 6:19 pm

Lori and friends Image

I started studying Uechi-ryu though a university class taught by my sensei Joan Neide. I must admit that in my youth and immaturity (Dave, that was only 4 years ago-ED) I was a little apprehensive about having a woman as a teacher.(SEXIST PIG!!-ed)

I am the first to admit that any apprehension I had was completely unfounded. I am actually quite embarassed by the fact that I felt any apprehension at all. I still don't know why I felt the way I did, perhaps never seeing a female karate instructor before, perhaps my own macho misconseptions of the martial arts. Whatever it was, it was VERY quickly dispelled the moment Sensei Neide started teaching.

To me now..woman or man..really doesn't matter..skill..character and dedication do.

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby Jackie Olsen » Tue Oct 06, 1998 5:25 am

Lori ...

Knowing that there were women training in martial arts helped me stay in my first class. (Back then I naively assumed all Senseis were men.) However, after most of them dropped out, I had to overcome being intimidated by the guys (not because of anything they did ... just my own fears).

I did long for a woman to train with because, let's face it, women do move differently. Eventually a higher rank came back to the dojo, which was great for all of us because she is quite good in all aspects of training even though she is small.

I'm 5'10" and tower over most of my partners -- men and women. So, I have to pay attention to my targets, space & distance of people shorter than me. Then, my tendency is to strike too low when faced with a taller partner. And often men will try to "muscle" me down because of my height.

I do like training with both sexes because of the different perspectives each offer. I think it matters more to those just beginning than those who've been training for a while. New students are quite apprehensive when they see a female in front of the class. Once they've seen us train, it becomes less of an issue.

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby moulton » Tue Oct 06, 1998 10:02 am

Hello Lori.

A Love and Hate Relationship! That's what I call working out under a woman sensei. Same thing with paring off with a woman during class.

Also... many men refuse to, or at least are reluctant to, work out with a woman because they need to pit their strength and skills requiring strength with someone possessing the same type of skills.

Also, people of both sexes often shy away from pairing off with a handicapped individual for many of the same reasons -- they feel they just cannot get a good workout off that person.

The pool of men who enjoy working out wirh a woman and the pool of people who actually enjoy working with handicapped people is small.

When I was young I wanted to work out with only the strongest, fastest. but experience and circumstance has a way of modifying a person's attitude to help him see the martial arts benefits of working out with everyone, big/small, young/old, strong/week male/female more clearly.

A person develops a special skill-set working out with a woman or a person of lesser stature that can pay-off on the mat or in the street. Specifically the ability to really get one in without hurting them (mat)or practicing the ability to get effectively get through/around someone's defenses/offenses using tact instead of strength (street). This requires thinking ahead and predicting what that person will do ahead of time. It is a different skill then bone-meet-bone and bruise-giveth-bruise.

Just some random early morning thoughts...


Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby david » Wed Oct 07, 1998 1:09 am

Like practice partners, Senseis -- male or female -- click more when we share their energy, intent, and outlook on practice. In karate I have not trained under a woman sensei. I have trained with more advance karate women where our practices clicked. I am sure it would be the same if I were their student.

At my aikido dojo, there are probably 12-15 instructors under the shihan. About 40% of the instructors are women. I enjoy training overall but more so with three particular instructors. Two of them are woman. One has fortunately replaced the departed monday morning instructor that I really liked training with previously. She is quickly developing a "following" of her own. These three instructors are similar in being high energy and intense in their training. They also have that "martial" quality to their bearing and approach. Hard to describe, but the women also have a "martialness" without the "machismo". They laugh a little more and visibly enjoy the practice. I like that.

I think as time goes on, and more women become more represented in the higher ranks of martial arts, students will get used to it. The praises or complaints will be more focused around an individual instructor's qualities as opposed to his/her gender.
Maybe, this is just wishful thinking...


[This message has been edited by david (edited 10-06-98).]
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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby JohnC » Wed Oct 07, 1998 4:17 am

Hello Lori!:

While I have never trained under an actual woman sensei, I have trained with women sempais, which is very close to your post point and echoed by others.

The 2 women sempais I remember most were a brown belt with extensive martial experience and a relatively less seasoned green belt. The brown belt was of small stature, 5-3 or so and light in weight, while the green belt was nearly 6 feet and of solid weight.

The brown belt was very fluid, crisp and fast. Her moves and kumite reeked of skill and the martiality that David spoke of that transcends gender and commands respect. She kiced butt with exquisite control!

What the green belt lacked in skill, she made up in strength and she just plain kicked butt! I remember when we did some pure physical strength and balance/tug-of-war rope work and she would not be moved!

Now, I am but a small fry in martial rank and no power lifter, but still, I found nothing wanting in the exchanges with these ladies from any perspective you could think of - skill, ferocity, strength, teaching ability, etc.

Now, our dojo is particularly unique in that we draw mostly women in the military and/or law enforcement, so that they are probably in far better condition and much more acclimated to the martial environment than the general population of women. But, probably most women of rank are, like their male counterparts, a rare breed anyway.

Unfortunately, the green belt was transferred out, and the brown belt semiretired from training after childbirth.

Osu to them both wherever they may be!

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby david » Wed Oct 07, 1998 11:05 am


People leave practice all the time. With certain types of people, I am always left with a sense of loss.

Wish them well. They may wound their way back to practice someday.

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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby Melanie L » Wed Oct 14, 1998 6:08 pm

Dear Sensei Lori,

I can't tell you how much I enjoy your forum.
I have been studying Uechi for almost four years now and really appreciate womens' issues being discussed so openly and intelligently. Congradulations and thank you!

With regards to female senseis I can't help but think we would all benefit from their expertise, as we would from any other qualified instructor. More importantly though, they, and other female students set a wonderful example in the dojo. There are a few unfortunate students that have trouble relating to females in the dojo. I have observed this with certain visiting students in how they respond to me while I work-out or give instruction. I take the optomistic view that this difficulty is largely due to a lack of exposure to female students as I do not get this reaction while working out with my fellow dojo members.

From my first beginners class I was taught that we can learn from any student we work out with. I have found this to be true without exception. Each has their own strengths that, to an open-minded student, represent diverse learning opportunities. The same is true for female senseis and male senseis; the quality of instuction is equal for both. I thank my senseis for drilling this concept into our fertile minds as beginners. It saved most of us the misfortune of missing out on valuable learning experiences. We don't only learn techniques from our senseis we learn our attitudes about Uechi practice as well. Impressionable beginners need to be taught and shown that respect for all manner of students and senseis is necessary for full Uechi growth. A good fighter never prejudges his opponent on the basis of rank. Similarly a good student should never prejudge their sensei on the basis of gender or race or handicap, etc...

Thanks again for your forum. Just think of how many minds you must have opened with it!

Mealnie Little
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Male vs. Female Sensei

Postby Lori » Thu Oct 15, 1998 6:14 am


Thank you for such kind words! It's nice to know that the messages here are having a positive impact! I appreciate your post and extend a warm welcome to forum participation!

You wrote:
From my first beginners class I was taught that we can learn from any student we work out with. I have found this to be true without exception. Each has their own strengths that, to an open-minded student, represent diverse learning opportunities.

Most appropriate teaching for any beginner! There are some that perhaps do not care for a forum of this type, feeling that perhaps discussion of our differences will increase the perception of a "gender gap" yet your words exemplify the purpose of this forum! As much as we strive to leave superficial differences outside the door with our shoes - it is our inner differences that can be so instructional in our study! These differences are not restricted to gender - they extend to philosophy, size, body type, physical ability etc. etc.! These differences, as you wrote above, can present excellent learning opportunities to the open-minded student! It is for this reason this discussion has a place, and for this reason that your input is welcomed! Looking forward to your future posts!

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