Did you know the percentage of women-identifying entrepreneurs has increased by 114% in the last 20 years? Entrepreneurship is flourishing across the US and in Tacoma, women are leading the movement.
With women-owned businesses on the rise we’re seeing increased inclusivity, access, and a reinvigoration of the local economy.
For Women’s History Month, we’re featuring a woman-owned business having a powerful impact on Tacoma’s community and the non-profit they support.
Read on to learn more about Tacoma Aikikai and the journey of a green-thumbed badass martial artist.
AIKIDO TACOMA AIKIKAI BY EA MURPHY
Why did you want to get into Aikido?
Ea: I got into Aikido by chance. One day I was riding in a friend’s car to a social activist protest when they mentioned the Aikido dojo they went to and invited me to come. It was a very strong community of people who were centered around social justice missions. I started there and realized this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What was that journey like for you?
Ea: I trained for two years at the dojo in Oakland, California. When I moved to Oregon, I joined a dojo affiliated with the international Aikido organization, which took me all over the world for the past twenty plus years, including training in Japan under Yoko Okamoto Sensei. I knew I wanted to open my own dojo so I went to train under Yoko Sensei because of who she was in the Aikido community and how successful she was in running her own dojo in Japan. It’s also just an immense honor to experience and study the art in its home culture.
Why did you open a dojo in Tacoma?
Ea: I knew I wanted to open a dojo on the west coast and Yoko Sensei encouraged me to look into Tacoma. When I came here and got out of the car I knew this was exactly the place I was looking for. It’s close to my friends and family in Oregon, the feel of the city was vibrant, it’s beautiful scenery with the mountains and water. It felt right.
What did learning Aikido mean for you?
Ea: Learning Aikido really gave me a sense of direction. It’s something I can always work on because you’re never going to get it, but you can always work on getting better. On the mat, you can put everything in your life aside and keep working on it.
What was it like being a female senior teacher in a male-dominated space?
Ea: Aikido culture can be very complex for women. I’m very fortunate that in the communities I learned in, there were already a lot of women training and practicing. There are different organizations that foster women’s growth in different ways and our organization had very strong women so that’s who I grew up around.
At the same time, there are institutions, like in every sector of society, that make it harder for women to achieve the same level of mastery as men. Up until a couple of years ago, you had to be a man if you wanted to apprentice in the home dojo in Japan. That’s recently changed, but of course, that mentality filters down. We honor and respect the home dojo. It’s a great wealth of knowledge and we look forward to seeing changes that welcome a more inclusive space for all.
It’s amazing seeing a woman run a dojo – that must have a huge impact on other women and girls.
Ea: Being an identified woman does make this space feel more accessible. But it’s not enough if we’re not vigilant in creating inclusive spaces. That’s our job and it’s the job that requires the most vigilance. We can’t control everything that happens but we can create a culture that’s welcoming of every person on the highest level.
You mentioned you also wrote a book?
Ea: I’m a gardener so while training I wrote a book about soil science called, “Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach.” It’s a how-to book on gardening.
Do the skills you learn from gardening tie into learning Aikido?
Ea: There’s a lot of philosophy around nature in Aikido. The idea is that we find our true natures by asking questions about ourselves and learning conflict and resolution on the mat. Aikido teaches you different ways of responding to conflict, not with force, but with another tool like moving with it or blending. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was a farmer who did a lot of work with nature and felt like the natural world was really important. Farming and Aikido were really connected because it’s working with the same principles of nature.
What local nonprofit organization are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about working with youth, especially teenagers, because of all the transitions they go through at this point in their life. I particularly think it’s important to empower youth facing the additional challenges of coming out as LGBTQ+, which is why I love Oasis Youth Center. They provide vital resources and support for LGBTQ+ youth and their families. I believe that our species and our planet really depend on the future of our youth, and LGBTQ+ youth have so much to teach us about how to become a stronger, more inclusive, more equitable, and more creative society.
Want to learn Aikido in Tacoma? Check out Aikido Tacoma Aikikai and empower yourself!
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