Likes Likes:  3
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 25

Thread: Open Letter to Hombu

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default Open Letter to Hombu

    Gasshō!

    I have recently addressed a topic that I see as a fundamental and urgent problem in Shorinjikempo (and elsewhere) in an open letter to hombu.
    It is my hope that an open discussion on this can help get us closer to solve the problem and would especially like to hear from those directly concerned about their experiences, their treatment within Shorinjikempo, their thoughts on the topic!

    I will copy the letter into the next post and also attach it as PDF files for ease of spreading it around (it is in English and Japanese).
    Translations into other languages might also be a good idea …

    Kesshu,
    Jan Lipsius.
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default The Letter

    Open letter to Hombu and all Kenshi
    by Jan Lipsius,
    Sandan Chukenshi, Fukushibucho Humboldt University Berlin Branch Germany

    During the first WSKO Online Seminar Official Class on June 19th, Kawashima- sensei reminded us what it means to be a kenshi in the words of Kaiso himself – to be a hero for and take care of our kohai, to act as their shield.
    Hopefully all of us try to do that, but looking at it from the other side I see one major problem that is stil too common in this day and age, even if there has been some occasional progress.
    I believe every kenshi around the world is familiar with this image: You go to a seminar, excited and ready to learn all you can from those heroes, those who came before you and have so much to teach. The instructors are lined up in front of the group and introduced, one by one. And one by one, all of them are men. Always. I have been practising Shorinji Kempo for over twenty years and I remember nary a female instructor at any of the seminars I have attended, nor at any of the clubs I have trained at.
    As a man myself, it would not be hard to simply take that as a given without a second thought. But if even I ask myself why this is and how it could be that there are so few female instructors – heroines – in Shorinji Kempo, how must it be for the many female kenshi around the world? Who do they look up to and think, „That could be me“?
    Kaiso said: „Give me leaders, not followers.“ But where are all the female leaders in Shorinji Kempo?
    Women are generally underrepresented in martial arts, as in many sports and in leadership positions elsewhere. But we have slowly come to realise, namely in recent years, that this is a major problem for a multitude of reasons, not just as role models for other women and girls.
    One of the most common arguments by those defending the male dominated status quo is that there are simply no qualified women for such leadership roles, though that more often than not has turned out to be false when examined more closely. How about Shorinji Kempo, then? I personally know many female kenshi of sandan rank or higher, most of whom have at least entertained the idea of becoming branch masters, while several have actually tried to open up branches themselves.
    All have failed or even given up. Why?
    The answer is quite simple, though it is an inconvenient truth to hear – a truth, nonetheless: They have been hindered in many ways, great or small, by those in power with the ability to stop them. They are told that they are not good enough or should only teach beginners, that right then is not the right time, or many other excuses.
    Those who say these things are men, often older men, grown up in a world where nobody gave a second thought to men holding all positions of power.
    These older men are often completely fine with letting the younger women do lots of work in the dojo, from handling paperwork to teaching classes and beyond, using their enthusiasm, ideas, and energy for the benefit of the group. Only when it comes to giving them actual power and status these men suddenly find a hundred problems and faults with that and them.
    Obviously, this cannot stand any longer. Especially in the days of campaigns like „Me too“ and „Time’s up“, that have shone a bright light on these inequities and the powers that keep them in place.
    So what do we do about this? We as kenshi, we as leaders? What does Hombu do about it, or WSKO?
    Every kenshi can choose to be an ally and personally support those women we know, namely those who try to become branch masters, of course. We can make our voices heard, challenging what is wrong.
    But unless those in positions of power do not open the way, there is little we ‚little kenshi‘ can do. However, I firmly believe that hombu, as the true heirs of Kaiso and the leaders devoting their lives to preserve and further his vision and mission, do have that power.
    It is no secret, and a great grief to all of us that Kaiso’s amazing message has been so slow to spread around the world and I cannot help but wonder if this isn’t at least part of the reason. If half of the population does not find themselves represented among the leadership in our great martial art and philosophy, if they cannot look and see heroines of their own to look up to, maybe they are also more reluctant to join, less likely to follow this path?
    Maybe it is harder for many men to understand why having a purely male leadership is such a problem. But it always helps to take the other perspective, that of women, namely those new or thinking of joining, especially younger ones. How often do they encounter behavior that goes unchecked and tolerated, but that a female leader would immediately recognise as inappropriate or worse?
    Like comments on looks or other aspects based on gender that many men do not realise are unwanted, uncalled for, or even offensive. Just imagine whether you would say the same to (another) man – if no, then it is probably not a good idea. Treating women differently, even if it is meant positively, can also lead to them feeling as not taken seriously or seen as lesser than. A striking example of that are gender based categories in embu taikai, or even rules that men are not allow to throw women. Anybody practising with women everyday knows that those are unnecessary distinctions. If there is worry about the health of a participant – male or female – they should be allowed to make the choice for themselves, not have others do that for them, based on their gender!
    While it is true that our second Shike is a woman, that does not mean that gender discrimination towards women in Shorinji Kempo does not exists to this day. The role of Shike is mainly seen as being passed on in Kaiso’s family – irrespective of gender – which most kenshi are not a part of.
    In the end, the image presenting itself to all (female) kenshi, every day, is that of that line-up of instructors, of examples to follow. All of them men.
    It is they who lead us in everyday practice, who stand in front of everyone else as examples, who are recognised as those to look up to and to follow – our heroes and heroines.
    Kaiso himself was a great advocate of abolishing any kind of discrimination. Therefore I do not believe that he would accept gender-based discrimination in this day and age, after all our societies have gone through recently!
    I have trained in other martial arts as well, often under female instructors every bit as capable as their male counterparts, sometimes more so.
    I have never had a problem with that and I have heard from many female practitioners how great it felt to them to see a woman at the top, at the head of the class, showing them that that could be them as well.
    This could be us too. This could be Shorinji Kempo in the 21st century, open and equal to everyone.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    PS: If anyone is interested in sharing their experiences and opinions on this topic, but doesn't want to do so publicly, I can offer to send it to me and I'll publish it anonymously!
    Even if You don't want it published at all, please feel free to contact me directly here, on Facebook, or per eMail. I will handle everything with the strictest confidentiality.

    JL
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default Update and German version

    It seems that eBudo is not that popular as a discussion forum anymore.
    But I suppose it can still serve as an easily accessible archive, so I'll post an update, as well as attach the German translation of my letter. Others may follow (if someone's interested in making one, please let me know!) …

    So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many kenshi expressing their support in this important issue, including a good number of branchmasters – and the Brazilian Federation!
    Unfortunately, I still haven't gotten a response from Japan, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time since the letter is circulating there. If they agree, I will post that here as well, of course.

    A number of brave women have also come forward with their own thoughts and experiences – including positive ones. I will list a few examples to illustrate the importance of this continued debate, leaving out names or occasions.

    - High-ranking female kenshi and experienced instructors have been criticised for leading junbi taiso, including making it "too hard", despite the level being exactly what male instructors taught. Some of them were even professionals in the field and thus arguably far more capable than their detractors (I believe this might fall under "mansplaining").
    - Many official materials put out by hombu and other sources take the male form as a given, like using he/his pronouns throughout the branchmaster manual, photos that show exclusively male kenshi – or women as mothers, holding small children, like in "This Is Shorinji Kempo".
    - Women being prevented from teaching and opening branches on the basis of not being big or strong enough to teach (male) kenshi. Comparing this to the first example makes it especially ridiculous. Also, I have to wonder whether the same has been told to smaller/slighter men …
    - Women at seminars being shunted aside, giving bad facilities, treated as an afterthought or a less important group.
    - Female instructors offering to teach at seminars, including areas they were professionally trained in, but the offers were rejected out of lack of interest.
    - Even high grade female kenshi being treated as 'just the wife' or like secretaries, despite their qualifications.
    - Men who opine that female kenshi passing higher grade exams means that the exams themselves have been devalued. I would personally add that such an opinion does not shine a great light on the examiners (usually exclusively men, again) – something that goes contrary to my personal experience, meaning that those who offer opinions like that do not necessarily think them through.

    I hope this discussion will continue, help some people to understand the importance of the issue, and one day effect some change!
    I also want to once more thank those who have offered support, who have given their thoughts and opinions, and especially those who have come forward with their own experiences! I know it must be hard, namely when it is such an ingrained culture we are facing.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,627
    Likes (received)
    143

    Default

    Hi Jan,
    E-Budo is more of a historic archive and quiet backwater on the internet, now, but it is still a good repository for important messages. We do get a lot of visitors, though probably they are mainly 'bots and webcrawlers. You can get more human visitors by adding tags when you create a new thread. Those will appear when individuals do a search for Shorinjikempo topics, and could bring them to your message.

    That said, your point is well taken about the dearth of female leadership in your art; I'd say that it is a common condition in many other martial systems, too.
    Cady Goldfield

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    Yes, time's change … :-/
    Is there any way to tell if there are actual human page views?
    We're linking back to this thread from Facebook, eMails, etc., so people should be able to find it 'manually' …

    Quote Originally Posted by Cady Goldfield View Post
    That said, your point is well taken about the dearth of female leadership in your art; I'd say that it is a common condition in many other martial systems, too.
    I agree.
    I have just talked to a Western aikidoka who lived in Japan for a while and told me that similar customs prevail there, like women not being allowed to sit cross-legged or in any position with 'spread knees' …
    As I wrote in the original letter, I am sure the problem runs far deeper than just an inequity in the number of branchmaster in Shorinjikempo.
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,627
    Likes (received)
    143

    Default

    There isn't any way to accurately determine how many visits a thread has gotten, but there is a box at the bottom of the page that shows how many registered forum members have read it. I'm not sure whether that is visible to members, though, or whether only we moderators and admins can see it. I believe you should be able to. So far, seven members have viewed your thread.

    Old customs die slowly. Japanese etiquette has weakened in the general public, but they persist in "high society" and in formal martial arts. The etiquette for sitting has relaxed a bit in the West, at least. Women in hakama or keiko gi can sit cross legged, as far as I know; however, it's still considered "improper" for women to sit with legs open as you mention, and this includes in regular daily Western situations. A women seated on a bus or train, park bench, office chari, or whatever, is still considered "unladylike" if her legs are spraddled open, or crossed too widely in a typically masculine posture. These cultural restrictions persist for a number of reasons, the main one, I suspect, being the unconscious natural connection to sexual behaviors, and it's not surprising that they are considered improper in budo environments as well. Some folks just have a hard time letting logic and right thinking overrule humans' base instincts. ;o)
    Cady Goldfield

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    Hmm, I don't think I can see that …

    So, would You say that (gendai) budo is a more traditional part of Japanese society? I suppose that would explain a lot …
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,627
    Likes (received)
    143

    Default

    From the way modern Japanese society appears, it seems that budo in general -- gendai and koryu -- is a dying discipline. Or, at least, it is at a point where the original motivations that drove it have weakened.

    Fortunately, there still are many individuals who continue to practice the traditional arts. Gendai such as judo, kendo and aikido have their followings in Japan and abroad, but I don't know whether, to the typical Japanese person, they still are considered highly relevant or important parts of Japanese culture. A lot of Japanese youth love anime, but seem to prefer the fantasy of video games and graphic novels, to actually studying and training in a sword/weapons art. I know of some koryu menkyo kaiden who are putting their hopes in Western students to carry on their arts and traditions outside of Japan.

    Within the existing koryu and gendai organizations, there is a lot of political in-fighting and strife. I hope that the system is not breaking down, but there are so many symptoms that point to that possibility. It could just be that the human world is at a stage in the cycle of civilization where there is a breakdown in institutions and traditional values. After it hits rock-bottom and there is a catastrophic shift in world order, the need for warrior arts will return, and with it, the serious and necessary push for excellence and efficacy. To my perception, our post-industrial, wealthy nations have gotten soft. The deterioration of budo and its organizations may just be a symptom of that, following a natural course.
    Cady Goldfield

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default Update 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Cady Goldfield View Post
    From the way modern Japanese society appears, it seems that budo in general -- gendai and koryu -- is a dying discipline. Or, at least, it is at a point where the original motivations that drove it have weakened.
    Well, that is a bleak outlook for sure. Who knows, maybe bringing in more women by working for true equality would even give an infusion of new people, ideas, and enthusiasm that could turn such a trend around …

    ***

    Meanwhile, it is time for a second update.

    More support has poured in, both publicly and privately, for which I am very thankful.
    More brave women have also come forward with their stories and experiences, which is incredibly important and highly appreciated!
    There now is also a French translation of my letter available, attached to this post. Several others will follow over time. Anyone interested in translating it themselves, please let me know!

    To put some hard(er) facts behind the points in the letter, here are the numbers of female branchmasters within WSKO I could find so far or have been made aware of. Obviously there could be more, so these are lower limits, so to speak:
    - 3 for Japan
    - 3 for Indonesia
    - 4 for Europe
    - 0 for North America
    - 0 for South America
    If anyone knows of any others, please let me know!
    For my last exam in 2013 I did a count of all the shibu listed on the WSKO homepage (which do not include Japan and Indonesia). There were over 200, so the percentage is … low.

    A major point that has emerged from the continuing discussion is that the situation for women in Japan appears to be particularly bad in many ways, though the cases I'll relay below are second hand anecdotes and observations I cannot personally verify. The situation and experience will also, of course, vary from region to region, dojo to dojo etc.
    - Women not being allowed to wear hoi or sit in anza.
    This particularly seems to be the case in very traditional doin, but similar pratices have also been reported in other martial arts (see the discussion above with Cady Goldfield).
    - Women of any rank not being allowed to lead classes in the absence of the branchmaster/instructor, while male minarai (white belts) are asked to do it instead.
    That one seems utterly ridiculous to me, comparable to a young boy being asked to 'protect' his adult sister's 'honour' by accompanying her outside of the family's home, as has been reported from some cultures.
    - Women being kept from opening branches or teaching there with the argument that men would 'queue up around the block' to fight them to prove male superiority.
    Personally, I would not be suprised if in such a (ludicrous!) case those men might not actually find their beliefs in their superiority … shall we say, shattered. ;-)

    But of course this is not about criticising Japanese culture as a whole or in particular. There have also been reports of unacceptable behaviour towards women elsewhere, treating them differently than men merely on the basis of gender, as already mentioned in my first update. Here are a few more.
    - A female kenshi in an embu competition being asked by her male partner to wear full make-up to increase their chances, because 'all the other women did it, too'.
    To my knowledge, he did not even consider wearing make-up himself.
    - Several women have expressed the feeling that there is lip service being paid to equality, but when it comes down to rising through the ranks there is still a clear tilt towards men, something akin to the "glass ceiling" familiar from the business world, in the West and elsewhere.
    - Women in general not being considered decisive in decision-making, and/or in the responsibility to lead, just on the basis of their gender.
    - Many people knowing women who once trained in Shorinjikempo with great enthusiasm, but some time along the way stopped after losing interest or getting disillusioned with the treatment they received. That does not always have to be exclusively because of this issue, of course, but it is still a very disheartening experience that speaks directly to the original content and intent of my letter.

    On that note, unfortunately I still haven't received a reply from hombu itself. This probably means that they are giving great thought to formulating an adequate response – so I'm greatly anticipating what it will be, whenever it arrives … :-)
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    Addendum to update 2:
    Shorinji Kempo Netherlands has just also issued a message of official support for this cause. :-)
    Arigato gozaimashita!
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  12. Likes Cady Goldfield liked this post
  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    Second addendum:
    The United Kingdom Shorinji Kempo Federation has now also come forward with a public statement of support.
    Arigato gozaimashita!
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  14. Likes Cady Goldfield liked this post
  15. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default Italian translation

    The Italian translation is now also complete.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

  16. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Rome
    Posts
    6
    Likes (received)
    3

    Default

    Hi Jan
    I read the letter both in english and italian and I totally agree with you that should be more women on the sensei's line. As already told you on facebook in Italy we have never create problems to women that wanted to teach and we had also a branch master, Firenze Branch, that was a woman from Rome.
    Teach is not as simple as depicted, expecially today, by a pletora of self defense and martial arts systems. "Have a weekend with us, pay x euros, and you will be able to teach" is the mantra of these systems. Now to be able to teach you needs a lot of work, sacrifice and will. All these skills are "gender free", of course, and everyone can do this if she/he wants. Speaking by my personal experience I met a lot of very skilled women in Shorinji Kempo but only few of them had the vision and the desire to teach. One was the Firenze Branch Master. The others preferred to train without complicating their life by adding an activity that, if well done, becomes a job even if not paid as a job.

    without complicating your life by adding what becomes a jobwithout complicating your life by adding what becomes a job
    Max
    Shorinji Kempo
    Roma Eur Shibu Italy

  17. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berlin, Germany
    Posts
    1,264
    Likes (received)
    22

    Default

    Gasshō Max-sensei!

    Thanks for Your reply and please excuse the long delay in answering.
    I agree with Your points, but feel like it's important to also point out that all of these arguments against becoming a branchmaster are pertinent for both men and women. Thus they cannot really explain the vast gap in female BMs (and kenshi).

    Kesshu,
    ______ Jan.
    Jan Lipsius
    少林寺拳法
    Shorinjikempo
    Humboldt University Berlin Branch

    "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Gandhi

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. An Open Letter To Bunkai Researchers...
    By bartfast in forum Traditional Karate
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 1st August 2014, 19:48
  2. Open Letter to Lazy Students
    By Prince Loeffler in forum Member's Lounge
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 29th August 2007, 20:14
  3. Open Letter Redux
    By glad2bhere in forum Member's Lounge
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 23rd December 2004, 23:39
  4. An open letter to Tsudamisao
    By Steve Williams in forum Shorinji Kempo
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 14th July 2004, 17:48

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •