View Full Version : Aikido for ADHD children

Please visit our sponsor:

11-14-2003, 08:05 AM
A friend of mine has a son (around 6) who is diagnosed with ADHD.

I read somewhere that martial arts in general is good for ADHD children. Has anyone had any training experience with ADHD children? How does training improve their condition?
Is it better to look for special /private classes or is the regular class ok?

I would like to recommend an aikido class for my friend's son, but she lives in Japan, around the Yokohama area. Can anyone recommend a dojo around there that supports classes for ADHD kids?

11-14-2003, 09:21 AM
I've trained with children. I've trained with young adults with ADHD. However, I have not trained with an ADHD child (if I have, I was unaware.)

I'd say the best thing to do is give it a try. If the child's disorder is severe, it might be difficult for him to pay good enough attention when the sensei is demonstrating a technique. If the sensei is made aware of the child's problem, I think that would help. There are good drugs on the market for ADHD (Strattera, Ritalin, etc.) which may ease the disorder sufficiently.


Kevin Leavitt
11-14-2003, 06:38 PM
I taught about 10 kids that were emotionally disturbed/abused. (similar to ADHD). It was a challenge to keep them focused and listening.

You have to get real creative and run a fast pace in order to keep their attention.

Played tons of games and the loved role playing games especially.

You learn fast that it is not so much about teaching them the finer points of the art, but using the art to teach them about moving, coordination, and what not.

Keep them constantly moving and challenged!

Jeanne Shepard
11-14-2003, 08:11 PM
I work as a therapist with kids with a variety of neurological disorders, and use Aikido as a therapeutic activity. It is the rolling and spinning that helps the child's nervous system. See "Akido as therapy" at <www.tantobeak.com>. It is essential that you have 1:1 ratio with someone who understands the child's needs.


11-14-2003, 10:03 PM
Maybe try the dojo of Takeda Yoshinobu Shihan in Higashi Totsuka, Yokohama.


Takeda Shihan is amazing and very interested in healing of all kinds. I know there's a children's class at his dojo. I know several of his higher ranked students in the area have classes for children. This is a really good organization.

11-14-2003, 10:19 PM
Takeda Yoshinobu Shihan is of Aikido Kenkyukai right?

We've practiced with a student of his, Murase Kaoru from Tokyo. We were taught how to teach children. Murase-sensei did say it was important for children to have their own classes, for the teaching methods are different that of adults.

When he was conducting the class for children, I saw that all the children was motivated and excited. Since then I saw the importance of a children's class, that is if our dojo ever get enough children to have one.

11-17-2003, 10:02 AM
thx everybody & Steve for the reccomendation. Hope this'll turn to good progress.

Anders Bjonback
11-17-2003, 03:52 PM
I have ADHD. And I trained in martial arts as a kid. It's true that physical stuff does help with ADHD. However, it has to be an activity the kid enjoys. When I was in grade school, I found it almost impossible to learn something I wasn't interested in. The more I would study or try, the more my frontal lobes would shut down, being more unable to concentrate and think.

I remember in Tai Kwon Do, I would space out while doing forms, looking at ceiling or the floor, and not really paying attention. I managed to stay white belt, with no stripes (or whatever ranking system they used) for a year, and quit. Judo I found much more fun, but yet again, another factor about ADHD--the enviornment. Because I was a sensitive kid and I was training in a bad environment--an unsympathetic teacher and mean kids, it was a negative experience for me. Because of my attention and learning problems, I never really learned how to breakfall correctly, so whenever someone did a hip-throw to me as a yellow belt, I would be in pain.

My dad tried getting me to play hockey when I was six, and I would just sit down on the ice and not do anything. I just wasn't interested, so I just didn't do it.

Brazilian Jui Jitsu in high school, when I still had problems with my ADHD to some extent, was also not a good idea. It got me more grounded, I'm not denying that, knowing how important physical activity is, but it didn't help with my impulsiveness. It just made me more agressive with my impulsiveness, rather than remaning in control, when I was hyper.

But, anyway, aikido can help (if the child has a good teacher and enviornment, and he's interested) in impulsiveness, concentration, and awareness.

One symptom of ADHD I know from personal experience is being unaware of one's placement in space, and timing (or time itself.) When I was walking with my parents, I would unintentionally step on their heels, or if I was walking in front of them, I would slow down all of a sudden without realizing it. I would also nearly walk into them from the side. Also, when I would ride my bike with my family, I would lag behind, and then, not really being aware, follow them across the street and almost be run over (to some extent, most kids have problems like these, but this was to an extreme).

In terms of time, sometimes I found that I would have a lack of sense of time itself. I would have no clue whether I was doing something for a ten minutes or an hour.

Timing in a conversation--I would have no sense of that, either. I would interrupt people without realizing it.

I know that aikido has definetly helped me with being aware of where I am in space, but in terms of timing in conversation, I think I gradually got over that to some extent as I got older. My auditory processing problem may have also had something to do with it.

Impulse control--I overcame that as I got older, but I also think that Aikido and meditation has helped with that a lot. As a kid, I think that medication was what really helped me with impulse control, and when I got older--i.e., in high school, I no longer needed medication for it. Although, of course, when I get hyper, it becomes a problem, but that's just an aspect of myself I need to be aware of.

I don't think that aikido can't be a short, immediate cure for the impulsiveness aspect of ADHD, though. I think it's more of a long term thing with that. But it might be different for other people, though.

I think ADHD isn't necessarily a problem. It really opens the door to creativity, and it has certain advantages. If one really enjoys something, he or she could become "hyper focused" on it and stay at it forever. This created problems for me when teachers would ask why I could draw or read something I enjoyed with no problem, but could not do something I didn't like. Some less sympathetic and aware teachers saw it as an excuse rather than a reality of my cognitive process.

Oh, a neat aspect of ADHD--it's not lack of attention, it's too much attention. I had a lot of trouble for the longest time talking to someone when around other people, because I could not focus on what he or she was saying. I would hear everything that was going on around me, and be distracted by it. Medication helped with being able to read and study better, but I don't remember if it really helped with that. After one learns to work with one's own mind, though, he or she may not need medication anymore. I know one woman with ADHD who, through learning to work with her disorder, has fine-tuned her ability to be aware of everything around her to the extent that she could hear--and understand--every conversation in a room simultaniously. Once one learns to work with one's own mind, with one's disadantages, one is left with his or her own advantages from ADHD. My former Brazillian Jui Jitsu teacher could attest to this--he's an absolute genious at the things he enjoys, particularily the martial arts.

ADHD does influence my aikido negatively to some extent, especially when I'm stressed out. In randori it's most evident because of the class's more loose structure. I sometimes find myself acting too impulsively, getting hyper. At other times, I might space out. Yet I don't find myself getting too distracted by everything that's going on around me, which is good.

I don't know how my ADHD has influenced my aikido posititively. It might, but I don't really know.

Please let me know if this is not cohereant. I wrote this in a hurry, and if something isn't understandable, or if you want me to elaborate on something, please tell me.

One more thing. If you're one of those people who doesn't like medicating their child--medication isn't necessarily a bad thing. I had side effects (major one was non-verbal ticks--compulsively opening my mouth wide to strech my lips) to some medications, so I was taken off them and put on others. As I got older and my body changed, or if my lifestyle changed to being more stressful, I had to change medications. But in my childhood, medication was a necessity to get me to be able to do well in school.

Okay, another thing. Twitching, antsyness, etc. I remember when I would bounce my foot, etc. That was my way of releasing nervous energy so my mind could settle down. On the outside, I looked like I was antsy, but in reality, I was able to have more clarity of thought because I was not penting up my energy. That stayed as a habit, though, and in middle school, my tutor would remind me when I was unconsiously bouncing my foot. She would simply remind me, and I would stop. In a way, at that time I was traning my mind to be able to be at the task at hand without having to bounce my leg.

One thing that really helped me concentrate in school was drawing while the teacher was talking. It gave me a thing to do, so I was more present and really listen to what the teacher was saying. My mom used to not belive this when she would read The Lord of the Rings to me as a child, but then I would ask questions about certain words or concepts I didn't understand, ones that she had just read to me while I was drawing. It was my way of working with my mind so I could be present.

But it might be different with other people, and it certainly can be used as an excuse to escape in certain cercumstances.

I certainly have more to say, and I can elaborate, so if you're interested, I can yak some more.

11-17-2003, 06:55 PM
Thank you Anders for your generousity & bravery in sharing your story. My own brand of ADD generally manifests as poor impulse control, my mouth goes off before my brain can process the impulse to speak, and i can be difficult to communicate with, especially when i feel threatened.

Until i started training Aikido a year ago there was nothing that really helped to calm me down except intensive meditation. I cannot tolerate any medication that i have tried, they all have aggravated my condition rather than relieving it.

I have observed that since i started taking regular ukemi, as i mentioned in another thread, i become far less confrontational. And in the past two weeks i have been off the mat due to dental surgery AND the flu i am getting into more arguments and being more "generally disagreeable".

When i was a child ADD/ADHD didn't exist, i wasn't "hyper", no one could understand why i was flunking out of school and i was seriously depressed.

Now i am in my forties, i hang around with a community of several hundred artists and performers, almost all of whom have some "behavioral disorder" or other; and they are the most brilliant, gifted, talented and forgiving people i have ever known.To us, we are normal, not "disordered" but "differently brained".

I think Aikido is a wonderful way for *some* of the differently brained to learn how to function in "normal" society.

11-17-2003, 10:15 PM
I see... thank you for the information. I guess I had a type of ADHD when I was a kid. It wasn't serious, it's just that I had trouble with learning all the way until middle school.

It was when I was in high school that my learning ability improved, drastically. Maybe it helped being in a military academy for three years. It does improve my "Ki", although I have no concept of it at the time.

Interesting. And I do see results with kids in Aikido class that might have the possibility of ADHD syndrome. Kids that can't stand still, constantly fidget, and have their concentration elsewhere, actually improved for the better.

11-18-2003, 08:34 AM
And Thalib

could This, referring to another comment that you made on another thread, Possibly be the cause of Rodman's Temper, instead of "Bad Ki"?

Perhaps it is that Ki is Ki and it can be channelled more or less skillfully due to brain structure instead of good/bad?

Maybe if Rodman studied Aikido and learned How to *use* Ki he would not be so angry?

Maybe it is simply a block in the flow of Ki in the first place that causes these disorders, and Aikido is a tool to unblock those channels.

Maybe the neural pathways have been blocked in such a way as to not let Ki flow freely, Maybe aikido, like Long-term intensive meditation, can cause the growth of new, healthy neural pathways so that Ki may flow more naturally.

Maybe i just took your comment personally and felt judged...

11-18-2003, 08:50 AM
I wasn't judging you Adell-san. I was being serious that I might have ADHD as a kid without realizing it. Even now, sometimes I have trouble sitting still for a long time, or staying home for long periods. Though now, I am able to discipline myself, I have Aikido to thank for that. Here in Indonesia, there is low ADHD awarenes, maybe even none.

By the way, which post made you felt being judged? This one or the "Rodman" one? In any case, I never meant any disrespect. I post those seriously and not poking fun.

But the way that I've read your post, there is nothing personal that I could see. Instead I see your post as open minded and objective. And I do agree with you completely.

In order for Ki to flow one needs to be of one mind and body. I believe this is what you meant by your post.

11-18-2003, 09:21 AM
Just a note,

What I meant by "bad Ki", is not in anyway referring to things such as "evil" or "bad". Bad Ki is Ki with disrupted flow.

Ki always flows wether one realizes it or not. But the way it flows, that's where it matters. Water flowing through a pipe, it could flow out smoothly, it could drip out, it could not flow out at all. Depends on the piping.

If we see Ki like a wave, we could see it as a nice smooth curvy sinusoidal wave for good. We could also see it disrupted, jagged, and sharp ups and downs for bad.

Uncontrolled emotions not only it disrupts Ki, but it also make the Ki disruptive to others. There are other factors that disrupts Ki. These factors could be physical, mental, or even spiritual.

11-18-2003, 09:23 AM
Thank you,Thalib

yes, it was the Rodman statement which i reacted to...people "like us" with poor impulse control generally have no trouble expressing our feelings but on the other hand we can be far to expressive!

Maybe aikido can show us a way to regulate our expressiveness in a more skillful way. This is where we overlap in the "emotional ukemi" thread--i think i can learn in my body, by taking ukemi,by practicing Aikido, exactly how much of what i out out, can i take it back...if i can't take it, maybe i will learn, in my body, how to control my impulses so that i can put out what i need to express in a way that returns to me in a way i can take it, and therefore it can be received by others in the manner i intend...cause if i can't take my own stuff, how can i expect someone else to?

Maybe, just maybe, this conversation we are having now, is an example of how this might work...

Ted Marr
11-18-2003, 09:50 AM
Heck, from your description, it sounds like I had ADHD... but then again, that was also true of EVERY SINGLE KID IN MY SCHOOL. True, it's certainly a matter of degree rather than some kind of binary, but every kid on this earth has trouble with self-control. My understanding of ADHD is that it is an under-activity in the center(s) of the brain that regulate executive, or control processes. Ritalin is actually a stimulant. If you give it to a "normal" person, they get jumpy and 'hyper'. In ADHD populations, it stimulates the under-active parts that do the regulation of behavior things.

In large part, the process of "growing up" is a process by which we begin to exert more and more control over our impulses. The only way to do this is to train ourselves by repetition. We notice an impulse, and we don't act on it, or delay acting on it, and thus build our ability to do so.

Aikido can be good for a person who has self-control problems, but only if they practice it as an exercise in self control.

11-19-2003, 08:05 AM
just so not to make a fuss on who has ADHD as a child, some info from ADHD sites;

It affects more between 4-6 percent of schoolage children, and between 2-4 percent of adults.

Because everyone shows signs of these behaviors at one time or another, the guidelines for determining whether a person has AD/HD are very specific. In children and teenagers, the symptoms must be more frequent or severe than in other children the same age. In adults, the symptoms must affect the ability to function in daily life and persist from childhood. In addition, the behaviors must create significant difficulty in at least two areas of life, such as home, social settings, school, or work. Symptoms must be present for at least six months.

The Symptoms

Typically, AD/HD symptoms arise in early childhood, unless associated with some type of brain injury later in life. Some symptoms persist into adulthood and may pose life-long challenges. Although the official diagnostic criteria state that the onset of symptoms must occur before age seven, leading researchers in the field of AD/HD argue that criterion should be broadened to include onset anytime during childhood.2 Criteria for the three primary subtypes are summarized as follows:

AD/HD predominately inattentive type: (AD/HD-I)5

-Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.

-Has difficulty sustaining attention.

-Does not appear to listen.

-Struggles to follow through on instructions.

-Has difficulty with organization.

-Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.

-Loses things.

Is easily distracted.

Is forgetful in daily activities.

AD/HD predominately hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI)5

-Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair.

-Has difficulty remaining seated.

-Runs about or climbs excessively.

-Difficulty engaging in activities quietly.

-Acts as if driven by a motor.

-Talks excessively.

-Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.

-Difficulty waiting or taking turns.

-Interrupts or intrudes upon others.

AD/HD combined type: (AD/HD-C)5

-Individual meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.

To be diagnosed with AD/HD, individuals must exhibit six of the nine characteristics in either or both DSM-IV categories listed above.

from http://www.help4adhd.org/ and http://www.chadd.org/

* * *

side note.

my 9 yr old nephew shows some charactericts of the inattentive type (not paying attention, losing focus, etc), but turns out he just needed a pair of glasses.

11-19-2003, 08:52 AM
AD/HD predominately inattentive type: (AD/HD-I)5

-Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.

-Has difficulty sustaining attention.

-Does not appear to listen.

-Struggles to follow through on instructions.

-Has difficulty with organization.

-Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.

-Loses things.

Is easily distracted.

Is forgetful in daily activities.
Hmmm... I got a lot of trouble back in elementary & middle school for these reasons. I still do have some of these traits to this day. These are some of my demons. This is the battle that I have with myself.
AD/HD predominately hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI)5

-Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair.

-Has difficulty remaining seated.

-Runs about or climbs excessively.

-Difficulty engaging in activities quietly.

-Acts as if driven by a motor.

-Talks excessively.

-Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.

-Difficulty waiting or taking turns.

-Interrupts or intrudes upon others.

AD/HD combined type: (AD/HD-C)5

-Individual meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.
I remember having these characteristics during my elementary school years. Not all though. I remember my mom kept telling me to stop fidgeting. I remember knocking down furnitures. I remember that I used to Climb into rooftops. I grab toys from other kids.

Does this mean I had or maybe still have AD/HD?

Like I said, there was no such thing as AD/HD until recently. I look at AD/HD as a classification more than a "disease".

Does this made me less of a child back then?

There was no Ritalin or any fancy medicine back then. What got me back on my feet was some good'ol parental discipline and , yes this is corny, lots of parental love.

Lyle Laizure
07-17-2004, 11:22 AM
I could not reccomend a dojo in Japan but I have had some experience with teaching adhd children. When I taught the youth class at my sensei's school there were about 13 children in the class with about 50% of them supposedly having adhd. In all honesty I didn't notice a difference between them and other children.

07-17-2004, 03:37 PM
We have one child in class who is very distractable (and distracting). I won't venture to say whether this is ADHD or not, but he can be a problem. He's still a white belt despite several years' experience.

Last week sensei taught a rather dramatic enundo throw, and then said to the problem child, "I want you to throw Mary continuously, as many times as you can until she can't get up again." He went at this with considerable enthusiasm and much more skill than I thought he had. I gave him some pointers on taking ma'ai and making me turn to attack him again, and he caught on right away (I guess because they were immediately useful). After about 25-30 throws I was, indeed, not getting up again. He was breathing hard, but not wiped out--good economy of movement.

It was like he was a different child--attentive, focused, fearless, and quite skillfull. I don't know what this means for appropriate teaching techniques--we're still thinking about that--but it was certainly an eye-opening experience.

Mary Kaye

07-17-2004, 03:46 PM
I had ADD when i was younger.

I was totally a kinetic learner and had a talent for balance and knowing where my body was at all times. So my parents had me try gymnastics.

In one month i was on the gymnastics team and in competitions. It was absolutely amazing for me because i had finally found something that i was naturally good at and could concentrate on for hours upon hours.

It was an excellent outlet for me at the time. I don't know how much patience i would have had with aikido. Perhaps judo or karate would have been a better persuit of martial arts.

But i think anything kinetic can be good for kids with these problems.