View Full Version : Age to begin Aikido

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10-03-2001, 10:08 PM
Hello. I read an interview with George Leonard who didn't start Aikido till he was what, 47. That's cool. I'm 36 and was thinking I was too old. :-) But my main interest of late is getting my daughter, now 5 years of age, into a martial art -- and I would prefer Aikido over the other arts. I'm no expert; I had brief stays in a couple dojos 15 years ago (Aikido, Judo and Zen do Ryu Karate) but not enough to learn anything I'm afraid. Aside from the fact that there is no Aikido where I live (alas!), I also cannot seem to find any information about children and Aikido. Is there a minimum age for studying Aikido? Are there recommendations?

Thanks for reading.
Best regards,

10-03-2001, 10:21 PM
I've seen some kid's classes get even fairly young students to follow along...but keep in mind the number of adults who have trouble with the complexity and the philosophy aspects compared to say, kiddie karate.

I would be careful of any martial art that teaches joint locks to children before puberty...while kids tend to be more flexible, they also may not register when something is about to get torn or worse yet, broken. A fracture through the growth plate (end of bone) in a young child might stop the growth in that bone, leading to a shortened arm on one side. Of course, this can happen with a lot of things kids do, and of course I am not an instructor...

10-04-2001, 12:19 AM
The dojo I attend has a wonderful kids program. The program at our dojo is rather large. The ages start at 5 and go up to age 12. You can read more about it at http://www.floridaaikikai.com Peter Bernath is our sensei, and he is great with the kids. He emphasizes not only basic self-defense but also cooperation, respect, and cultural awareness. Outside of the regular classes we have a couple of kids seminars each year. The kids summer camp is a week long day-camp, and the kids get to learn more aikido, and they also get to learn about Japanese culture such as language, origami, cuisine(they make sushi), etc.

The kids program starts testing the kids at 10th kyu (yellow belt) and goes up to 6th kyu (brown belt). Compare this to the adult program where we start testing at 5th kyu.Peter doesn't issue kiddie black belts but would rather attempt to convey the basics. At times he uses games to teach basics where the kids learn them more naturally than adult who have an easier time conceptualizing.

When they reach 6th kyu (brown belt), if the kids are old enough (teenage) and once their ukemi is strong enough, Peter allows them to join in with the adult class. I have trained with some of the teens who have joined the adult classes after doing the kids class for years, and I am always amazed at how strong their grounding in the basics are.

I don't know much about Peter's view in regards to teaching joint locks, but I haven't seen many done in the kid's classes. His email is listed on the web page and I'm sure he would be more than willing to answer your questions and direct you to someone who is closer to your area.

Also it's my understanding that the content of the kids programs are up to the sensei of the dojo, so my description of what you might find is particular to my school. And also it is completely up to the sensei whether or not there should be a kids program, some people disagree in teaching aikido to kids. Having seen Peter teach, I believe it can be done if it is done right. (Which, of course, I believe Peter does.)

Anne Marie

10-04-2001, 04:51 AM
I don't teach aikido to under 16 year olds; partly because I need to go on a special course (about legal liability for child abuse accusations etc), but mainly because:

a. children are impatient, and aikido often requires a lot of patience!

b. the height difference between adults and children can make the training less worthwhile for the adult students.

Where courses for children seem to have been succesful is when they train seperate from adults and there is far more repetition of excercises and 'games' based around aikido movements.

Karate is often better suited to children because:

- they can feel that they are attaining something more quickly

- often have a more established grading system

- much of it is done without a partner, so size/height doesn't matter

- it is easier to get what looks like a good technique! (i.e. co-ordination & blending less important).

Western karate, after all, was designed for teaching in schools, whereas aikido wasn't. Maybe you should take your child along to different martial arts and see what she prefers - so many people get into aikido from another martial art; there is no rush.


10-04-2001, 07:56 AM
Shodokan Aikido Honbu has a children's class I think the minimal age is about five. There is nothing cuter in the world than a little Japanese girl doing unsoku.

Besides the standing drills that are a hallmark of Shodokan Aikido the classes look a lot like Judo children's class. As the kids get older they do more complex techniques and ranndori but great care is taken with respect to joints. The joint techniques are still done but softly softly.

10-04-2001, 07:16 PM
Originally posted by ian
Where courses for children seem to have been succesful is when they train seperate from adults and there is far more repetition of excercises and 'games' based around aikido movements.

From a legal (child protection) point of view, its essential that children train separately from adults anyway. If you teach adults and children together, any one of the adults in the class could be accused of (or, God forbid, actually commit) some act of child abuse. As the leader of that class, you would then also be in deep trouble for creating the circumstances that allowed such a thing to happen. (Quite apart from any safety issues, like, say a large adult falling onto a small child.)

Karate is often better suited to children because:
< a bit of snippage >
Western karate, after all, was designed for teaching in schools, whereas aikido wasn't. Maybe you should take your child along to different martial arts and see what she prefers - so many people get into aikido from another martial art; there is no rush.


If you think your child might like aikido but it isn't available, I think judo would also be a good option.

One big advantage of judo over karate for transferring into aikido later is the ukemi. I started aikido just a few years ago, but watching my fellow beginners struggling to get to grips with ukemi, I was enormously thankful for my childhood judo classes. You wouldn't believe how much easier it is to learn how to breakfall when you're still young enough to think you're indestructable!

I think Ian's last point about checking out different martial arts and allowing your daughter to choose for herself is a very good one though. If thats the way things go, I'm sure it would be better for her to be an enthusiastic karateka than a reluctant aikidoka.

originally posted by Peter
There is nothing cuter in the world than a little Japanese girl doing unsoku.
Not even a little japanese girl doing tegatana dousa? :D


10-04-2001, 07:53 PM
I really don't see why someone would include 5 year olds with adults. The point of having a "kid's program" is to specially tailor what is taught for them to their needs and their learning abilities.

In regards to the size issue, I see this a lot in the kids classes because of the age range. So we usually match them up with the same sized partners.

And yes, there is nothing cuter than the little girls doing tai no henka.

Anne Marie

10-05-2001, 08:30 AM
Originally posted by deepsoup

Not even a little japanese girl doing tegatana dousa? :D

Melt :) Ichi ni san shi

ze'ev erlich
10-05-2001, 02:17 PM
When I was practicing Aikido in Kyoto, I saw several dojos that had kids and adults in the same class. the minimal age was 5 or 4something and they actualy were having fun and playing 70% of the time. the rest of the time they spent sleeping or practicing waza.
one of the black belts was always with them, though we never forced them to do anything and we just let them play as long as they were not too noisy.
Outside Japan I find out that classes are seperated and that kids are expected to do ,much more than their Japanese mates.
However,as the Japanese kids grew, they got more serious and became really good.
Koyama sensei always told us to learn from the kids, and that their Aikido is the most natural.
As I said, that's whats going on in several dojos in Kyoto, and I don't know about other parts in Japan.
In my dojo in Israel, I let parents bring their children to class. They play most of the time but now after some 6 months of playing the child who is under 6 asked me if he could be tested for the first time. I told him 'yes' and he began to practice for the test. By observing they learn a lot even if they don't really train.
Sensei --- give it a try, let kids participate in adults classes, let them be there, let them play, they bring a lot of light and joy to class.

10-05-2001, 08:52 PM

Let me begin by saying that I'm really biased when it comes to Aikido for children. I think Aikido is quite possibly the best martial art for children to learn for a number of reasons. One reason is that Aikido actually teaches children how not to fight. By this I mean Aikido teaches children how to avoid conflict and use peaceful, non-violent measures to solve problems. The non-competitive nature of Aikido also allows children the opportunity to learn without the fear of being a "loser" or not being as good as someone else.

Joint locks and pinning techniques can be taught to children (I have a five year old student who has an incredible Shihonage pin), the difference is making sure the children do the techniques in such fashion as to not "hurt their buddy". I've seen children get hurt more often in Karate/Tae Kwon Do by getting kicked in the belly or punched in the head during sparring drills.

I've found that more parents enroll their daughters in Aikido than their sons. I think it is because Aikido appears to be a less agressive martial art and that appeals to the them. Actually, parents have told me how their son, who is in karate, doesn't pick on his sister, who is in Aikido, anymore because he's tired of being tossed on the ground.

I could write pages on this topic, but if you want a really good source for aikido and children you should get the book "Children and the Martial Arts: An Aikido Point of View" written by Gaku Homma. It's an excellent book that will probably answer all the questions you could think up.

10-05-2001, 10:00 PM
ok first off let me say I am NOT a sensei so when I dissagree with Ian who is a sensi ( i am assuming this from his post) I am in no way trying to disresect him. I just have some things to share and hope to get a fair share of the argument ;)

yes aikido does requre lots and lots of patiance which children in the dojo I am in take it in a swingy mood ( depens on day) I am go to the adults classes sometimes and they seem to have smaller attention spans than kids. the adult also talk on the mat more than the kids ever do ( i am dead seoruis) so, I may be biased here but I go to both adults ( not alwasy but a lot) and kids always. games are fun to! i am almost 17 ( 1 month). but it really does depend on the kid ultimitly.

I accually believe that hight differences are great for adults ( mind you though I am not a sensei so my knowlege is limited) the reason adults benifit from it is it helps them be able to move with their center low and balenced. and a nother bonus kids bones are fragal and adults HAVE to not use muscle and learn true technque. so kids can be very beifical to adults ( in my own opnion.)

I think 5 is great if the child is mature ( only the parents know that!) but dont force the child into aikido if she wants to learn ballerina thats cool to! ( which later would help aikido if she started). Also children try to show off their aikido outside the dojo ( I know a friend of mine was a un wanted uke for another friend of mine ( I went to a different school until high school) and he would go hey check this out and when ever I try to get him into aikido he is scared becase of my other aikido friend.) also it is ok to be confused from my writing :) btw have fun!

10-14-2001, 01:10 PM
I began aikido when i was 9 and i was the only kid but maybe a 5 years old kid should train with others kids i should have to do the same thing but there was no kids class hehehe.

Arrivederci :cool: