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How to make practical progress to achieve gender balance and equity in Aikido? At the Second Aikido and Gender Day 2018, the participant aikidoka dealt with this question from different angles. In various ways, from Aikido training to workshops and interactive dialogues, they identified a rich collection of items which may serve as 'building blocks' for an agenda for further work.

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Katarina Gullberg, Chairperson, Swedish Aikikai

The 2018 Gender Day took place in Sports Centre Papendal near Arnhem, in the Netherlands. Aikidoka from the Netherland, Slovenia, Sweden and Austria, women and men as well, joined the event. This seminar was a follow-up on the First Aikido Gender Day from March last year, when three over-all themes emerged and turned to be the focus of this year’s edition:
1. How to include more women in aikido, as participants, instructors and board members?
2. How can instructors and dojo leaders encourage the balancing of feminine and masculine qualities in Body-Mind unity, an essential part of aikido?
3. Experience indicates that Gender Balance can evoke a joyful training atmosphere inducive to learning. How can instructors and dojo leaders encourage this aspect?

In addition, a list of female and male qualities had been identified in the leadership workshop by Anita Paalvast. The themes and the list were the basis for Gender Day 2018.

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Anita Paalvast, leadership trainer and member of Aikido in Company Foundation

Aikido practice
The day started with two Aikido classes which focused on blending feminine and masculine qualities in aikido. Caroline Bied-Charreton (5th dan) showed how 'feminine' qualities such as flexibility, calmness and sensitivity can be applied in techniques like ikkyo and make them more flowing. By applying calmness and sensitivity, tori can not only improve herself, but also relate better to uke and transfer calmness to her. In the same spirit, Satomi Ishikawa (4th dan) (co-chairperson of the IAF Gender Balance Working Group) demonstrated that being centered in combination with opening up in receiving the attack could make techniques more effective. She also emphasized the role of uke in creating realistic tori-uke co-operation. Ultimately, she explained, this is what would entail peace.

Workshop on feminine and masculine qualities in leadership
After lunch, Anita Paalvast (leadership trainer and member of Aikido in Company Foundation) led a workshop on feminine and masculine qualities in leadership, based on the results of last year's workshop. She guided participants into deeper thinking about feminine/masculine qualities, how to allow or not allow them in Aikido, in the dojo, and in the Aikido world. This produced a wealth of examples, a lively discussion and food for thought.

Staša Pisek (Slovenian Aikikai and member of the IAF Gender Balance Working Group) shared her experiences in organizing the International First Female Instructor Seminar in Slovenia on 11-13 May 2018, led by Nadia Korichi (4th dan, France), Satomi Ishikawa (4th dan, Netherland) and herself (3rd dan).

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Staša Pisek, Slovenian Aikikai and member of the IAF Gender Balance Working Group

The event was well attended by equal numbers of women and men from Slovenia and other countries. Everyone was inspired and motivated to further develop their aikido.

Katarina Gullberg (Chairperson, Swedish Aikikai) talked about her experiences as the chair of Swedish Aikikai, in which she was now chosen for a second term. Her main challenge was to provide space for every aikidoka to grow and develop, while at the same time achieve concrete results. Positions in Swedish aikido organizations are still mainly occupied by men and she found that simply by being a woman in leadership inspires other female aikidoka to develop themselves.
Gerrit-Bartus Dielessen (sociologist at Johan Cruyff Institute and Utrecht University; Chairperson, Aikido Bond Nederland) reflected on 'Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Aikido' from the social sciences view. In this perspective, gender is socially constructed. Rather than ‘being’ a certain gender, people ‘do’ gender. They tend to act according to what they consider a 'real man' or 'real woman'. Sport tends to strengthen gender divisions more than in other institutions. However, the gender construct is changeable, yet how to do this effectively is greatly under-researched. Factors which would contribute to 'undoing gender' are: increasing visibility of and exposure to senior female aikidoka, practicing women and men together, maintaining equal standards of exercise and grading and deflating stereotypes like 'fighting is masculine'. Leadership in sports organizations is still highly male-dominated, but a recent Zenger Folman study (see Forbes.com), found that women outscored men in all but one of the 16 leadership competences studied!

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Gerrit-Bartus Dielessen, sociologist at Johan Cruyff Institute and Utrecht University; Chairperson, Aikido Bond Nederland

Interactive Forum
The last session was spent on the question regarding what steps to take in order to put all the ideas generated so far into practice. This was done in an interactive forum led by José Otte (Researcher/Coach and co-chairperson of the IAF Gender Balance Group). Three "how to" questions were asked:

1. How to include more women in Aikido, in the dojo, in teaching and in leadership?
2. You wake up in 2022 to discover that everything you wrote on post-its has become true. What does your learning dojo look like, what has happened, who were involved?
3. What can you do (in your dojo) to co-create more balanced body-mind or feminine-masculine qualities?

Participants divided in groups, wrote statements on post-its, ordered them into 'flows'/mind-maps and presented them in three rounds. The result was a collection of 'building blocks' which are a good starting point for an agenda for research and development in gender equity in aikido.

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Finally, Cathrien de Pater, chief organizer of the Gender Day, thanked all participants, trainers and speakers. She also showed appreciation to Trudeke Sterringa and Pieter Lagerwaard, from the Aikido Federation of the Netherlands, for their support in the organization. The Secretary of IAF, mr. Wilko Vriesman, closed the meeting saying the Board was looking forward to receiving the results and inviting everyone for drinks!

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