View Full Version : Is aikido suitable for children.

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big old smiler
12-27-2004, 12:43 PM
Hello all, my first time at this, but it is quite nice to have somwhere to thrash a few ideas out. :)
I'm looking for advice and experiences on teaching aikido to children and basically what people think of this. Is it a good idea, is it not? has anyone taught a mixed class before, how did it go? Did they have to make any special allowances or anything esle that might be relevant. Any opinions welcome.

thanks for reading this. :)


12-27-2004, 01:35 PM
I'm looking for advice and experiences on teaching aikido to children and basically what people think of this.


There are many threads already addressing this topic, see below. To find these threads, go to "Search" in the menu bar (inside the browser window) and select "Advanced Search". When the window opens, pull down the menu under "Search by Key Word" and choose "Search Titles Only". Then do searches on "kids" and "children". You'll get about 30 hits. Lots of opinions and techniques. Enjoy.

Is aikido suitable for children.
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How do you teach?

12-30-2004, 04:09 AM
I've taught children's classes a bit. They are quite fun and VERY good for the children. in my kid's classes, we practice only basic techniques, repeatedly. I try to make it fun and interesting by playing a lot of games relating to aikido and aikido movement.

Aikido can teach children things like discipline and body/spacial awareness. It can really help kids with attention problems (such as ADD & ADHD), by giving them activity and then requiring them to be calm and pay attention for a little while.

I began Aikido at age 5 (I'm now 19). I am so glad that I did. When I was a kid, aikido afftected the way I thought, moved and made observations; it still does.
Children will often see things in Aikido that adults will not. (It's that whole young, fresh, innocent, open mind concept.)

As for mixed classes, they can be great, if done correctly. Generally beginners should not work with children, because they do not usually have enough control over their own bodies and strength. Advanced students are usually quite capable of practicing with kids, and can even learn from them.

In my dojo, we used to have something we called "family class." This was a class where parents could practice with their children, siblings could practice together, etc. This is the only time we let beginners practice with children. My dojo has many families who practice together, and it's great.

12-30-2004, 06:01 AM
Hi Neil,

Nothing wrong with junior classes, I teach one myself. I think they are very worthwhile, can be challenging, and can be very trying at times, but ultimately rewarding:). My class has been running for a year now with 14 kids ageing between 7 and 14. By mixed classes I take it you mean junior and adult? I would not reccomend that you do this, at least not on the same mat/ training area at the same time. This is more from a safety aspect, you can imagine the damage to a child if an adult tumbles into them or a heel catches them in the face/ head during ukemi!

I notice that you`re in the UK, is your organisation part of the BAB? the BAB have guidelines and recommendations for teaching kids, you should look into these, basically give a lot of information on best practice etc. as it can be quite a minefield here in the UK. There`s a lot of info to consider, the BAB childrens coaching course is very worthwhile, if only to make you aware. A couple of clubs on my course decided to not teach children as a result of the info they got. Personally, I think that`s a bit too much, the kids are the future of aikido but you do need to ensure that all precautions are taken to protect both the kids and the club/ sensei.



12-30-2004, 03:19 PM

Lyle Laizure
01-05-2005, 06:54 AM
I have taught children ages 5 and up at my sensei's dojo and now in my own. It is very rewarding and eye opening. Age is really a good indicator as each child is an individual and will respond differently. I have had children start that I didn't think would make it but have done fabulously and vise versa. As a rule I tell parents to have the child try a couple of classes before paying for classes. If the child likes it at this point then I allow parents to pay the monthly dues etc. I don't however push a uniform until the child has been in class for a couple of months or at the very latest before the child tests for their first belt.

I also insist, and I think this is the most important thing, that parents sit in on at least one class to see what we do and how we do it. Obviously everything won't be covered in one class but the parent can determine to a small degree how classes are run and will lessen the likelyhood of a parent being aggressive with you when "little Johnny" tells mommy or daddy that you whacked them in the head for not paying attention. It also helps the child feel more at ease during the first class but you can't let the child run to mom or dad when things get tough either. You would be surprised how many parents don't have the "time" to sit in on a class.

I have taught in both situations, a childrens only class and a mixed class. I think having a childrens only class is nice but having a mixed class has tremendous advantages. PM me if you would like more info.

Getting started is the most difficult aspect of teaching children. Once you have one or two that have a few of the basics down it will become considerably easier as children teach themselves.

Jim Sorrentino
01-05-2005, 10:23 PM
Greetings All,

I realize that there are some very competent aikido instructors out there who are doing good things with children. All the same, I do not think aikido is appropriate for young children, for at least two reasons. First, aikido techniques, even applied gently, put stress on the joints. As many former gymnasts and ballet dancers can tell you, too much stress on the joints at an early age often leads to trouble later on in life. Second, aikido is a complex art. Even disciplined, motivated adults find it quite challenging to learn. In my experience, younger children do not yet have the ability or the motivation to concentrate at the level necessary to gain anything from the average one-hour aikido class.

But more important than the physical impact or the mental challenges, there is the ethical question of teaching martial arts to children. Study of the martial arts, like the study of any other art or discipline, can produce wonderful effects on the student's character. But I believe that teaching young children martial arts is like teaching them to drive: it puts them in possession of power before they are mature enough to use it responsibly. Some teachers will say that they teach the ethical use of martial techniques, but I would not want to depend on the developing moral compass of a child outside the dojo; it's just way too likely that the child will want to try out this new-found knowledge on the other kids!

Rather than martial arts, I recommend introducing children to disciplined physical activity through more conventional sports and arts (such as soccer or tumbling), in which there is a far more well-established tradition of teaching children. If the child continued to show interest in the martial arts, I would hold that out as a future reward for good behavior and a helpful attitude around the house and with other children and adults --- in short, the child would earn the right to train in the arts. It seems to me that is closer to the spirit of Japanese martial traditions: if someone wanted to study at a dojo, it was necessary to present a letter of introduction to the instructor which vouched for the prospective student's dedication and good character. Unfortunately, this tradition never caught on in the USA.

In my own dojo, I set a minimum age of 14, which is just slightly below the age requirement for driver education. The teen and at least one parent must watch class before the teen may join the dojo, and at least one parent must watch the teen's first class. I encourage parents to visit the dojo at any time. The teens practice with the adults, and I and the other yudansha keep a close eye on these interactions.

After 5 1/2 years, my dojo is relatively new. About a dozen teens have come through the doors, and I have noticed that almost all of them have schedules that are far more demanding than I had 30 or so years ago. Very few of them have the time or the will to commit to pursuing proficiency in anything, let alone aikido. I've always looked at aikido as "graduate-level" martial arts practice, though (I know, I know --- that's another thread), so it does not surprise me that junior high school kids are not up to the task.

Jim Sorrentino

01-06-2005, 05:13 AM
Totally agree with Jim regarding joint techniques, I don't teach them either. But there are still quite a few that can be taught safely, tenchinage, iriminage, ikkyo, kaiten nage, tai saki, tai no henka etc. Lots of movement and co-ordination to work on.

I also insist that parents of prospective students come and watch a class with their child first, and also watch a class with their child participating, this helps to give the parent confidence in the teacher.



01-06-2005, 10:28 AM
Sticking to the title of the thread, in my experience aikido can be excellent for young children.

It may be watered down, improvised into games etc to cater for short attention span but from what I,ve seen, in a carefully regulated environment with due consideration to joints and body development then the kids love it.

They learn the positive caring side of martial arts, they learn to work with others where both benefit rather than one wins and one loses, they develop confidence and for some it can be the highlight of their lives. For some it may be the only positive experience they have - not everyone has a perfect childhood and not everyone is a born winner in competitive sport.

Im not saying it should replace sport, or they become martial masters or anything like that.

simply that they can practice, and enjoy it.

I take my hat off to the instructors who invest their time in providing this opportunity for kids.

It seems a hell of a lot harder than teaching adults although I am sure is just as rewarding.

Just my thoughts


big old smiler
01-06-2005, 06:00 PM
Thanks for all the input lads, its all stored up and digested. Though I dont actually plan to start my own class (dont think I'm good enough) the class that I have been asked to help with will benefit from your suggestions. At the very least many of you have confirmed things that I already know. Many tanks again.