View Full Version : Teaching LITTLE kids

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04-23-2002, 04:42 AM
Hello everyone...

I was wondering:

Does anyone have experience on teaching Aikido to little children? I mean LITTLE I mean starting teaching when they have just learned how to walk? How have you done it and how have the results come out?

Estonian Aikikai
Riveta Sportsclub

04-23-2002, 05:37 AM
Duct tape - lots of duct tape.

Why would you want to?

Seriously though they start them out really young here. Nothing in the world cuter than a three year old doing unsoku - ichi ni san ......

Some of the twelve year olds hold serious promise but you know Aikido is one of those things you really have to find yourself. Few in the kids classes join the adults when its time ... of course those that do turn out to be serious players.

Finally, again my perspective, all Aikido or Judo has to offer the really young is some rolling around time. The lesson of Budo takes a bit of maturity. That and the fact that a 15 year old can get in a year as someone the same age who has been practicing for five on average - why bother. I suspect the main reason this is done is because although Shodokan Honbu is a place of serious budo study it is still a community dojo. Kids classes are community service - rediculously low prices especially when you compare it to dance or music and a money loser when you see the size of the class.

Here no matter how good they are - when they walk into the adults class they start at the beginning. Might move up the ranks quicker but it does involve a mental frame shift.

04-25-2002, 08:36 AM
Sure that everything was right.

Anyhow - onto what my mind drifted was that has anyone experience teaching those things as natural. Especially rolling and movement - so that they won't have to learn to walk AGAIN but they will just learn that there are two different ways of moving. And that they won't be "afraid" to roll etc etc.

Estonian Aikikai
Riveta Sportsclub

George S. Ledyard
04-29-2002, 08:14 AM
Originally posted by Jorx
Sure that everything was right.

Anyhow - onto what my mind drifted was that has anyone experience teaching those things as natural. Especially rolling and movement - so that they won't have to learn to walk AGAIN but they will just learn that there are two different ways of moving. And that they won't be "afraid" to roll etc etc.

Estonian Aikikai
Riveta Sportsclub

George S. Ledyard
04-29-2002, 08:24 AM
Originally posted by Jorx
Sure that everything was right.

Anyhow - onto what my mind drifted was that has anyone experience teaching those things as natural. Especially rolling and movement - so that they won't have to learn to walk AGAIN but they will just learn that there are two different ways of moving. And that they won't be "afraid" to roll etc etc.

Estonian Aikikai
Riveta Sportsclub

The really little guys love to move(4-6 years, I don't do younger as they have almost zero focus for technical instruction). Anything that involves constant movement is pretty easy to teach them (irimi tenkan, uke following drills, blending drills, footwork drills like step turn and triangles etc.) I don't find that teaching them rolling is easy at all. They tend to do barrel rolls rather than straighter rolls and they have very short attention spans for working out the technical details of rolling. On the other hand, they are very light and don't get hurt when they roll incorrectly so I let them do what they do as long as it is circular and it doesn't hurt. As they get a bit older they tend to self correct.

One of the things they really like is playing attack the Sensei at the end of class. You can only do this with a small group but they go after you and you roll them around. They begin to develop very fearless ukemi. Getting thrown becomes natural. Because they are soo light you can control how hard they are hitting and make sure thay don't get hurt. As they go forward you start to stress that they take better and more formal ukemi as they attack you. Eventually they get to the point of being real ukes.

Doug Mathieu
04-29-2002, 01:07 PM

We have a kids class at our Dojo where I help our Sensei with them.

Until joining our current Dojo I only had experience with my own kids, 2 girls who would have been around 6 years old when they 1st did anything.

Our Dojo starts with kids at least 6 years old. If Sensei feels a younger child can apply themselves he may allow them in at a younger age.

My Sensei is terrific with the kids. He has a rountine where a 1 hour class operates with warm up (lots of running) drills, technique and games.

Usually techniques take only 15 minutes. However the drills and games work in lots of ukemi, shikko and other Aikido movement, body principles, etc.

For example one of the kids favorites is shikko dodge ball. 2 teams face each other and the players have to stay on their knees and only use shikko or ukemi to avoid the thrown ball.

Our sensei also does a good job of working in morals such as senior students help juniors, uniforms must be clean, no negative comments are allowed about other students, blending and not confronting aggression.

I personally feel its very rewarding to see the kids become more confident, move better and show some of the ideals told them such as taking care of a struggling student instead of putting them down.

04-29-2002, 10:18 PM
Personally, I don't have any experience with the younger ones. However, I just recently learnt an Important Safety note!!

Be sure not to apply any pressure to the wrists. Avoid ikkyo, sankyo, etc. The reason being is that their wrists are still developing and are in a very crucial stage of development. As I understand it, their wrists still contain a large amount of cartlidge, and the various wrist pressures can easily damage their wrists' ability to develop properly... This is true up until about the age of 10(give or take a couple years).

By the time they're teenagers though, they'll be able to take it without a doubt... though you can probably see how they're wrists are still a bit tender, and the pain becomes acute much more easily.

And so, back to the main theme... I just wanted to add this knowledge as it may not be well-known.


P.S. In the kids class at my dojo, they do techniques like ski kotegaeshi, by using the uke's forearms. So, lots of little modifications were made to real techniques for safety.

04-30-2002, 10:29 AM
My thoughts were towards teaching your own kid actually. Quite much from the beginning. But thanks for the info about the kid's classes - we do it quite the same way.

Ikkyo to the wrist???:confused:

Anyhow... the little ones have so much trouble getting the hang of the basics that they won't get to sankyo and yonkyo before age of 10:)

The ukemis, moving and ikkyo, kotegaeshi, iriminage, sumi-otoshi and the other basics is quite enough.

Adam Walsh
05-23-2002, 06:05 AM
Sensei has recently started a childrens class which my friends and I help out with (5+ I think). Very strange performing techniques with them as they're parents are invariably watching and we're all making every effort to apply the appropriate amount of pressure in a pin (ie. none).

I must say that I'm not used to being around children so it's quite the learning experience for me too!

Ali B
05-24-2002, 08:17 AM
I find the childrens class a learning experience for me. We have children as young as three years old. My sensei says that we should all try to be like the children because they have less fear.

If you have never practiced with small children I recommend it. You won´t find truer attacks! I always leave the dojo more tired, than from the adults class.

In my club, the teacher is also a student of the children. We can all learn from them.


Adam Walsh
05-24-2002, 08:33 AM
I like the ...
"In my club, the teacher is also a student of the children. We can all learn from them."... comment. The kids don't attack the way they're supposed to or react in a "take down" the same either which makes for very realistic training.

Also because you have to confer the technique far more verbally than normal you break it down so that you pick up inconsistencies in your own technique and learn from them.

Coming up with funny analogies for the little guys to understand certain movements and overhearing your friends do the same for the group they're helping is also really funny.

Richard Harnack
05-24-2002, 04:46 PM
I used to teach in a parks and recreation program where the children were as young as 4 years old. Once a year I teach a workshop for a local Athletic Club where the children range in age from 4.5 years to 12 years of age.

In my private dojo, I do not let in children younger than 7 any more. Here's why:

1. Mental focus or lack of. The younger children actually need a shorter class 35 - 45 minutes and they need to be kept in constant motion. This puts a strain on the curriculum.

2. Skeletal structure. Younger children still have not developed the rigidity in their collarbone and other long bones that a child of 7 and older has. This sometimes can lead to "greenstick" fractures which can go unnoticed unless the child has an X-ray. Since rolling the way we do in Aikido can put stress on the collarbone, this is a risk I choose to live without.

3. Lastly, I see far too many children being brought in to the martial arts for "discipline" when they most likely should be running around outside like "wild indians" and just playing and being "kids".

05-25-2002, 11:46 AM
hehehhe I assist and learn in the Childrens class. being 17 I start the warmups and basic movements. and I ussually have to throw every single one of them ( about 8). man are they fast. they dont really use their arms but just run at you and you have to be careful sometimes because they run so fast. Rolling varies and yes it does have to do with age. the younger ones do teh barrel roll described in a post up and the older ones try to correct themselves. Playing is a must for kids but we also do alot of the technical aspects as well. I started AIkido in teh 17th grade so I was 13 years old :) I am now 17 a first kyu ( which means nothing at all except i have tested a lot.) well as for ending up with less engergy I agree.

06-14-2002, 12:01 AM
I recently went to the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration at the Tokyo Budokan and at the end of the program they had all the kids classes...some were no more than 4 or five years old! One of the Sensei's was picking up a couple of 'wanderers' by the belt and pulling them back on the mat.

At my Dojo, between the morning class and the late afternoon class, there is a children"s class and to be honest, it's always so serious...most times the class ends with a rousing game of dodgeball.

it's just a lot of fun!

06-14-2002, 08:19 AM
Its kinda like trying to herd kittens. Interesting image isn't it?

Children are different than adults. Understand developmentally who they are and what they need.

Until again,


06-14-2002, 08:54 AM
Hi There !
I've been helping out with childrens classes
over the years a little,and in the last year a lot.
I find it an invaluable way of building
patience and good attitude.
You just can't be a faker and have good results with kids.
For one,I am always surprised at the effectivenes of our techniques when performed
correctly,it's such a gas having a hard breakfall from some skinny kid just doing
what's been showed by the teacher.
It's a great reminder of the naturalnes that
always is the aim of our training and the natural power that goes with it.
Second , it's a great reminder of how vonurable you are when your height isn't in place , like if your opponent was a dwarf.
At our last childrens graduation I was immensly pleased to see that hard work does pay off,it was almost real aikido in glimpses.
Third, to hear parents comment on the change in the behaviour of their children,and knowing
this would never be achieved via normal gym-classes in school - I strongly feel that
we are on the path and sowing for the future.
"We can play and fight real at the same time
without getting tired" heard in Gene LeBelle's studio.
Have a very nice day - Yours Chr.B. :rolleyes:

06-14-2002, 09:24 AM
Hi again !
Maybe my post was really intended for the
other thread on teaching children and not so much for little kids,still,keep having a nice day !:p
Chr. B

07-10-2002, 07:32 PM
Bruce Bookman has a very good tape on teaching children.

I have found that below about age 6 it is difficult to get the attention span. However, I had a 7 year old that could take tobu ukemi from 4 feet off the ground without a rotation point. He could do it from any throw.

My experience has found that you have to play a lot of games. I try to use games as a way of teaching principles. When teaching rolls for example and getting off line I would use very soft balls and toss them at the kids-they had to do a forward or backward roll to get out of the way. I would also have them roll and grab the ball as they went over and pick it up. Games are the key in my experience. You will spend a lot of time thinking up ways to play and learn at the same time while getting your points across. Breaks at least every half hour are also essential.

John Riggs

Leslie Parks
07-23-2002, 10:16 AM
As to the original question about how young to start...a senior instructor at my dojo told me years ago that he was teaching his kids ukemi at a very early age at home on the carpet as part of play (as he put it, 'we didn't have much furniture then, so we put the carpet to use'). I believe this was as toddlers. When they started each started formal aikido classes at age 7, they already had the ukemi down...and their rolls look just like their fathers.

As to the more general issue of teaching kids, I've never had so much fun, nor have I ever learned so much myself. I have found however, that in a class of mixed age kids (usually up to age 10 or 11) for beginners, children younger than 7 lack the focus to attend to technical instruction and require a huge amount of attention, which detracts from being able to teach the other children. They are well able to do basic ukemi and other drills, so if one wants to have aikido available for that age group (4-7), perhaps a shorter class with ukemi & learning games (sort of a "pre-aikido") would be more appropriate. Just something I've been mulling over.

07-28-2002, 05:10 AM
hi every one

i have no experiance with teaching little kids aikido but im a nursery nurse by day and i know children have a very low attention span.

although u do get the odd one who is really good, but never the less childrens bones have not fully developed yet and and if ur talking about really young children ie younger than 6 years.

then if u plan on teaching them aikido it is advicable to keep it to a minimal ie just practice straching, warm ups, hand movemnents, and may be the odd kick but definatelly no throws as if a child falls/lands wrongly and brakes sum thing as a childs bone r very fragail at a young age then u the sensi is held responsibal.