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Women in Aikido: A brief introduction


Just this past Wednesday I had the honor of having the night’s class taught by Mary Heiny Sensei, 6th Dan. Her site can be viewed here. But as a brief introduction of her she is one of the few (if not the only) high ranking female instructor of Aikido in the world who studied with O’Sensei. She also studied extensively with Michio Hikisuchi, 10th Dan for a while after his passing.

I’m sure it is the same with other martial arts but it’s always interesting to see women instructors do their thing. Let me give you a short discussion on what I have noticed about women instructors – and women Aikidoka in general.

1.) A fellow brown belt once stated that women Aikidoka tend to give away their centers easier and more willingly than their male counterparts. Two things – this might be a reflection of how women conduct themselves in a male dominated environment in general; secondly this seems to only apply to the lower belts (1st Dan or lower). Which leads to my second point…

2.) Even though women tend to give up their center easily, then problem doesn’t show itself in the higher belt women – as in the case of Mary Heiny Sensei. When you attack her, you have a hard time even trying to touch her. I know this because I’ve uke-ed for her on a number occasions and I’m a fast runner. Perhaps this is due to experience? Confidence in one’s abilities? Confidence in one’s own existence? Don’t know. All I know is training with women is interesting, which leads to my third and final point…

3.) You see this in the exercise known as kokyu ho. As shown here:

Kokyo Ho

Part of the exercise is to not use your upper body strength but instead use your center to move your partner down. As a guy you usually run into other men who use their upper body strength to lock out or pin the other person down – I’m also guilty of doing this on a regular basis (it’s a guy thing). What you get with the good women is that it feels as it the strength is going through air (if the guy doing the movement). My fellow males and I would always run into our upper body/shoulder strength, so when we run into the good women, it’s as if our upper body strength is neutralized!

Shocking? Somewhat, but not really. It’s great training.

To all the ladies out there; you are more than welcome to try out Aikido! Don’t let anything for that prevent you from knowing yourself and/or learning how to defend yourself!

This is one powerful and beautiful picture (yes I'm talking about the lady!)

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14 thoughts on “Women in Aikido: A brief introduction

  1. Pingback: Martial Arts News – 2.13.11 « Striking Thoughts

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  3. Pingback: “Women in Aikido: A brief introduction,” from The Accidental Aikidoist

  4. I’ve had similar experiences with the women I practice with. I’ve been to a seminar with Mary Heiny Sensei, and found her insights to be exceptionally helpful in my practice!

  5. Pingback: Women in Aikido: A brief Introduction, Part 2 | Young and Restless Blog

  6. Mary – She is an inspiration! Especially to the women in Aikido out there. I’m a guy, but I appreciate what she does and how she does it.
    Matt – Very much so, the material that she teaches makes her among the last of a generation of students who studied directly under O’Sensei.

  7. Love this post! “Confidence in one’s own existence?” – yes, most definitely.

    I totally concur with your first point. I noticed myself bending over to make my partner more comfortable when I started training and I do see that in lower belts as well(5th kyu).

    Congrats on getting posted on Aikido Journal my friend!

  8. I taught my 9yo niece shionage from a wrist grab. My auntie was like, yeah like shes gonna be able to do that on a big guy. She didn’t even think about using strength against me, she just did the technique as I taught her and threw me luckily into a chair which banged into the wall lol. If it wasn’t their I would have busted my haid into the window. Girls can do ‘anything’ in aikido better than men, cause they concentreate on the technique!

    • Cole – Women don’t concentrate on the technique, it’s a physical and psychological advantage as well (larger center with hip movements and less emphasis on brute strength).
      Great story!

      Steve – What brings us to life, our egos start taking a backseat to things.

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