Sunday, February 6, 2011

"E Squad" Adventures

There are six women in my dojo. Two are busy with school and aren't actively training right now, so it isn't often that we out-number the men on a given evening. Last Thursday night's class - when only the four females gi'd up to train - was a rare exception.

Sensei S, the only male in the building, started us off by moving the class into the mat room to work on break falls and rolls. You'd think with three shodans and an ikkyu, we'd have been talking about things like the importance of protecting the head or where to look during the roll. Instead, we questioned whether our female hips were actually going to go where we wanted them to as effortlessly as Sensei's did when he demonstrated what we'd be working on. It's obvious that we women are built differently than the men we train with, but with only "us girls" in the room (Sensei was out-estrogened, hee-hee), we could discuss with each other on the sidelines what we usually say to ourselves in the privacy of our own heads. And on occasion, those conversations were overheard by whomever was on the mat working the technique with Sensei, making her dissolve into a giggling puddle. Not that our all estrogen class was any less structured or formal than normal, but every now and again, one of us would relax too much while being guided into a throw/roll or launch ourselves too high to get some assisting momentum behind us and end up plopping loudly onto the mat. And no explanation was necessary because the rest of us understood what that momentary "This is gonna be difficult because my butt is just too big" pause was about.

This post is not a plug for an all-girl training environment - although I've often wondered what receiving instruction from and learning with nothing but women would be like. I rather like training with the "Y" chromosome set because they push me when sparring and challenge me to think on my feet. But sometimes, it's OK to hang out with the girls, though. There's something unique about that unspoken understanding when your training partner has a mental block and can't even attempt a technique because of a simple fear of how or where she'll land. No one assumes she's weak or that her reaction is indicative of how all women will react in a similar situation. We know that it is her "something" without having to discuss it or explain it at all - because everybody's got theirs. It is what it is.

In the aikido class I started training in about a month ago, I've been present a few times when Sensei M. has led the class. A fourth dan with a booming voice and a curly ponytail that whips around when she's giving instruction or being tossed around during the training sessions, I met her when I surprised her in the changing room before my first class. Use to being the only woman in the place, knocking before entering the ladies area wasn't something she was accustomed to doing, she said. We both got quite a kick out of that.

In karate, I occasionally train with another Sensei M. Busy competing internationally and teaching Krav Maga as well as USA Goju, she thoroughly kicks our butts cardio-vascularly during class. She's an amazing practitioner and instructor who is always willing to pass along what she's learned to others. But still I remember a fourth dan spar her once like she stole his wallet when she was only a nidan - all because she swept him to the ground while sparring the week before. He hit her so hard that he knocked out her contact lens, which I remember crawling around on the floor trying to find with her after class. Ugly, ego-driven and unnecessary, it was what it was - and I won't train anywhere near that yondan today as a result. I can't see that happening with other women, though. Not that it couldn't, just probably wouldn't.

Three cheers for the E Squad :-)


  1. My class on the rez is mostly girls...and it is quite a different energy than boys. I can say one thing tho...they kiai and kick better than the about loud and loving it. I have two female shodans and one nidan...tough as nails and fast learners. Thanks for sharing the female side of an often testosterone driven art.

  2. I can't imagine an all female class! What a treat you had. I wonder what your sensei made of it - he must have seen a different side to your characters that day.

  3. Shinzen, I think we females kiai loud and love it so much because we so often get the message that being feminine and lady-like = being quite. When given permission to scream like a banshee, we do it gladly, I think (at least I do, LOL).

    My sensei actually dubbed the all girl group the "E Squad", Sue. He also said what Shinzen said about the energy when only the women are on the mat: it's. just. different. For years, his classes were made up of mostly women, so he's use to our shinanigans by now, I guess. We're all kinda close outside of the dojo, too, so he sees this side of us on a regular. I'm sure he wasn't the least bit surprised!