View Full Version : Frustrated with aikido kids classes

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10-13-2011, 03:57 AM
Dear aikiweb fellows,

I'd never have thought that I'd ever use the anonymous forum, but now I'm so frustrated that I just have to look for some advice outside my own dojo.

Since some years I regularly help at the kids classes, and I have been appointed "assistant kid teacher" recently. Not that this is a great promotion or whatever, but our sensei has realised that the kids' teacher needs some structured support and that kids classes should get better and more systematic. The real teacher is a yudansha, who gives kids classes since many years, but he does no more attend to regular classes or seminars for at least three years.

So what happens is that his technique gets worse. He becomes aware of that and tries to cover weaknesses (instead of going again to regular class) by doing longer and longer warming-up (very un-dynamic warming-up; you can still shiver after 30 minutes of warming-up exercise), hours of empty tai sabaki, uncorrect jo katas and less and less techniques. Kids don't even regularly practise falls, they don't learn the most basic techniques, and in over three years, no kid passed any kyu grade. They just don't learn anything. Obviously, this bores the students, and they dwindle away. So kids classes were always agonising in our dojo.

With the start of the new semester, we got a bunch of new kids, and they are all very motivated. And I'm there as "assistant". There is a second "assistant", too, but he doesn't come so often.

Now what did we naively imagine that would happen?
He could be happy to delegate some things - for example the warming up - to me, who is younger and wilder and could do it more dynamically, thus, more interesting to the kids. He could ask the second assistant, who is a sports teacher, to come with some exercises that show aiki principles in play form.
He could use us as uke and show some techniques, trusting that we would NEVER EVER block his non-working technique and reveal that he cannot perform it, and then we could help the kids one by one to apply the technique. So the kids could learn something.
He could us make show them falls.
He could delegate the one or other lesson to us and use the spare time to go to regular classes and get some more practice.

And what happens in reality?
He sees us as sort of intruders.
Many classes pass without that he shows one single technique.
When exceptionally showing techniques, he confuses their names (hijikime oase instead of udekime nage...), endings (finish nikyo with sankyo...) and seems to have forgotten basic notions of kuzushi and maai. We keep silence and say nothing. We don't want the teacher to lose face, we just want the class to improve.

Yesterday, there were two white belt adults participating also to the kids class. After one hour of useless single exercise, for example, solo tai sabaki for a sukumen irimi nage that doesn't work, he asks one of them to be uke for this sukumen irimi nage.
The white belt resists, and the sukumen irimi nage doesn't work.
He explains to the kids that they should do it this way.

Whenever I try to help a kid with a technique or even one of these endless tai sabakis, he does not think "now the assistant takes care of those, I could look at these" - he still corrects one after the other so that every exercise takes time and time.
When correcting someone, he does not show how to do it correctly but starts talking endlessly repeating anecdotes how at an international seminar many years ago, some yudansha were not able to do the solo tai sabaki he now teaches the kids. In meantime, the other kids start playing, punching, rolling on the mats...

He tries to show kaiten nage with the same white belt as uke, who doesn't get unbalanced and kaiten nage doesn't work. He explains that he focused on one single aspect of kaiten nage (how to get uke's hand in the right position) and that was what we should train.
He tells the two white belts to practice with each other (kids were gone at that time because kids' training is one hour, which was spent with tai sabaki and pathetic sukumen irimi nage) and intended me to wait until lesson is over. I bowed and asked them if I could join, and then he found lots of errors in all kaiten nages I executed; I suppose the greatest error was that I unbalanced uke and showed that kaiten nage could accidentally work.

I am so fed up with this situation!
Last year I once asked sensei if he couldn't very gently suggest that the kid teacher should, from time to time practice aikido techniques instead of only tai sabaki and invite him to participate again to adult lessons. Sensei said that he had already tried, but without success, and that he didn't want to hurt the kid teacher's feelings (who is normally a very sweet, old guy). I suppose that's why he came up with this "assistant teacher" scheme, but it doesn't work since the kid teacher prefers NOT to have assistants in order to keep to his preferred set of warming-up and tai sabaki exercises instead of teaching ukemi and kihon waza.

So what are the alternatives?
- Continue training, hoping the situation improves and trying to teach at least a little bit to the kids. I did that for maybe two years but it is too disappointing now to see all these new, eager kids also getting bored one after another....and there is NO improvement.
- Quit kids classes and leave them alone to the kid teacher, since that is what he wants. But then kids classes would get even WORSE.
- Ask the other assistant to take over more, since the kid teacher is less adverse against HIS participation...I suppose because he comes less often. But he also is fed up with endless tai sabaki, no or non-working techniques and kids getting inevitably bored.
- Talk again to Sensei...but I did already, and it didn't help!

What would you do????
Is there any other solution I didn't think about?

Sorry for the long text, but this issue occupies my mind too much.

Thanks a lot in advance for answers and advice!

10-13-2011, 01:13 PM
It's up to your teacher. Ask him/her.

10-13-2011, 01:24 PM
If your teacher doesn't think it's important enough to change, that seems like the pertinent point to go off of. I'm guessing your frustration comes through and perhaps that is feeding the situation to some degree. You could talk to the yudansha about the boredom you see...I would be careful not to come across as accusing him of anything for the sake of the conversation. All in all I think this is your teacher's call though.

10-13-2011, 01:56 PM
Bail. (That means quit, walk, away, stop trying.) You've talked to your sensei, he sees the problem and won't fix it, and the guy teaching kid's classes doesn't want to be corrected by you, there's nothing you can do in this situation. Don't complain, don't criticize. Just walk away.

Thank your sensei and the kid's teacher for allowing you to be the assistant for that class, but tell them you find you no longer can fit them in to your schedule. Focus your efforts on your own training. Maybe sometime in the future an opportunity will open up to affect the kids' classes, but you can't do it now.

If your sensei asks you for an honest assessment of the kids' classes and won't let you say no, only then should you tell him what you really think. But I doubt he will--it sounds like he's already heard it.

Chris Li
10-13-2011, 04:23 PM
I am so fed up with this situation!
Last year I once asked sensei if he couldn't very gently suggest that the kid teacher should, from time to time practice aikido techniques instead of only tai sabaki and invite him to participate again to adult lessons. Sensei said that he had already tried, but without success, and that he didn't want to hurt the kid teacher's feelings (who is normally a very sweet, old guy). I suppose that's why he came up with this "assistant teacher" scheme, but it doesn't work since the kid teacher prefers NOT to have assistants in order to keep to his preferred set of warming-up and tai sabaki exercises instead of teaching ukemi and kihon waza.

This kind of "hinting" strategy is quite common in Aikido (more so than other places I've seen) - but it causes more problems than it "solves". Just tell the kid's teacher straight up what your concerns are (it can be done nicely, but directly). If he doesn't like it, then leave. You don't gain anything by staying and enabling the situation to continue.



Tim Ruijs
10-14-2011, 02:23 AM
When you say that your teacher does not want to hurt this man's feelings I can to some extent relate to that. But, he (the teacher) is responsible for his dojo and must act appropriately. In this case he can make clear agreements on how often this man is to attend regular class, the teacher could attend kids class to firsthand see how things go, replace the man with someone else....

You will have to decide for yourself what is best for you.
Aikido: Be able to do the right thing at the right time.
Well, you already did this once when you talked to your teacher about it! Now you know how your teacher feels about the situation it is time to make your next move....what would be the right thing?
Stay and try to solve the situation with your teacher, or let things be and move on elsewhere?

Other can tell you what they think you should do, but basically that is their character/personality speaking. These decisions must come from the heart, your heart.

10-14-2011, 03:01 AM
Tell him what you think from the heart, from your feelings. It doesn't need to be ruthless, but in a caring and concerned way. You are a human being and he is a human being, and sensei is not god or the all knowing father, therefore you must tell him, if you care about the kids class.

The man has feelings, but he is not going to die of stroke if you tell him the truth. He is clearly trying to cover up the fact that his technique has become poor, and surely he knows this! Deep inside he knows, and he is scared that somone someday will point this out.

Yes it might not be a pleasant conversation for him, but he knows and therefore you will not tell him something he doesn't already know in his heart. Hiding these things can be extremely harmful for the person hiding the feelings, and you might be doing him a great favour by showing him a way out of his self made illusion. People need to learn all their life, and you need to remind him of this.

Speaking the truth always dissolves the lies and illusions, and he must face the truth sooner or later. For the kids sake I hope it will be sooner. :)

:ai: :ki: Is all that is true :ai: :ki: :do: Is walking the way of truth, and therefore also showing others the same way

10-14-2011, 08:01 AM
Dear all,

thanks so much for the friendly and supportive comments so far!
I went yesterday again to sensei and asked him if he couldn't try once again to convince our kids teacher to do also aikido techniques during the training...and he sighed and said "I'll try..."
And he said that he'd more closely supervise some of the parallel classes, where the kid sensei gives kid lessons and the main sensei gives adult classes.

But I cannot bring myself to make any comment concerning the efficiency of the techniques.
I completely share Aikirk's opinion that the guy probably knows in his inner self that his technical ability is on the decline. I just doubt that confronting him with his denial would do anything else than injuring his self-esteem.

I'll try to convince the second assistant to make 50 - 50 with me. So I could bail out at least a bit without having the feeling to abandon the kids completely. Maybe the guy takes more kindly to the other assistant, at least for a while.

Thanks a lot again!!!!

Hanna B
10-17-2011, 03:53 AM
Most kids' classes in aikido I've seen don't actually teach the kids aikido. Teaching kids judo is no problem, they can throw each other all over the place. Teaching them how to perform nikkyo and sankyo on each other, on joints that are not yet fullly matured, is something completely else.

Teaching good kiddies class that actually teaches them aikido is immensely difficult. Try and imagine what this yudansha has been going through in attempts to try to adapt aikido so the kids can practise safely... then perhaps somewhat giving up?

I don't know what the solution to the situation is. If I were you I'd probably talked to the main teacher and say I don't think I can be assistant in those classes, and possibly express my thoughts and feeling - if I feel that would be somewhat well recepted.

Perhaps someone should ask this yudansha what he/she feels about the situation. Perhaps he/she would love to actually have time to go to regular classes. Perhaps he/she is fed up with doing something somewhat meaningless, but still needed because kiddies classes means money to the dojo.

10-17-2011, 08:13 AM
I agree with Hanna -- actually teaching aikido techniques to kids is a bit ambitious, as strange as that may seem. I don't mean that it can't be done, but it's a very gradual process, and with some kids it isn't going to happen at all -- they're just not ready for that kind of learning. With adults, you can start on technique-focused training in the first class -- they will be nowhere near mastery, but they are ready to train with that orientation or goal. Kids aren't like that. I suspect that the ideal kids' class would be somewhere in between where you want it to be and where it is now.

Hanna B
10-17-2011, 03:45 PM
Here's a suggestion for the future.

Find a dojo not too far away that has a reputation of doing GOOD children's classes. Then go to them and learn how to do it. Okay, it shouldn't be you doing that, necessarily. Perhaps this yudansha who is teaching kids' classes now? Him and the assistants together? The dojo's main teacher? A new group of people, taking over the kid's classes trying to re-create them from scratch?

Hanna B
10-17-2011, 03:49 PM
I could add that the kid's aikido I've seen, that also has a good reputation, teaches techniques adapted for safety. They don't necessarily "work" all the time.

I have issues with that. I have issues with kids' aikido training as such.

I think it is a very difficult concept.

The best grading system for kids I've seen is this: "When the semester is approaching its end, the people who have been teaching the classes sit down together and decide what technique should be for this rank this time, based on what the kids have been training and what they have been learning".

10-25-2011, 08:50 AM
In your position, I would leave the children's class. I don't see a reason not to be honest, though. Tell your head instructor in private that the children's class, as it is currently being taught, is not something you want to be a part of. Then wash your hands of the whole matter.

10-25-2011, 04:31 PM
I'm sorry but the idea that you can;t teach kids Aikido is nonsense.

Sure don't apply Nikkyo, Sankyo etc. but everything else can be done albeit with the occasional modification.
The feeling that kids can't or shouldn't do Aikido correctly leads to classes such as described by the OP. "Its only kids so what I do doesn;t matter" is the worst attitude to have.

Just be sensible (i.e. not brutal) kids are more intelligent than you seem to think!