View Full Version : Kids' Classes - Challenging AND Fun?

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04-05-2005, 12:54 AM
My Sensei has tasked me to teach the children's class in our dojo.

Basically, I've been told we can't teach them any techniques that put undue stress on the joints for fear of injury.

We had fallen into the practice of doing repetitive bokken techniques and some basic techniques such as: Ikkyo; Kokyu-ho; Irimi Nage; Tenchi Nage; and Shi-ho Nage.

The kids are getting bored and attendance has waned somewhat. Sensei asked me to add some things to spice it up a little.

For variety, I've had them do things that aren't necessarily Aikido techniques, but good for conditioning and having a little fun.

Things such as:

leopard crawling (on elbows & knees);
wheel-barrow racing;
modified randori (everyone takes a turn in the centre with everyone else acting as uke - the tori in the middle can use any technique they know);
a form of randori where they all attempt to catch me - they haven't yet;

Does anyone else have drills or techniques that they like to use for kids' classes that either teach them something or help with basic conditioning while keeping practice fun?

04-05-2005, 01:42 AM

Try here: http://www.aikidokids.com

I have only been through it a little bit since we are thinking of starting a kids class, but it has lots of different activities.



04-05-2005, 01:43 AM
Excellent. Thanks!

Jill N
04-05-2005, 07:20 AM
Games games games:
any game that has to do with dodging, connecting, following, balance, concentration, using different senses. Tag from shikko, or rolling tag. dodgeball, guess where your friends are ("it" is blindfolded, others run until "it" says stop, he then tries to throw a big soft ball and hit someone), Balloon carrying between two people without touching it with hands, as a race, etc. do the techniques they know blindfolded. I have a list of kids games somewhere, but can't seem to find it right now. doh.
e ya later

Jill N
04-05-2005, 07:21 AM
I also would read stories illustrating some of the values of aikido to my kids when I had a kids class, and lead a discussion about it, when it is time to slow things down.
e ya later.

Jorge Garcia
04-05-2005, 08:39 AM
Our program has about 30 kids in it. I have 15 kids ages 6-9 and I have about 15 kids ages 10-13. We do these in two separate classes. I also have two teens that are 14 training with the adults. I am a teacher by trade and I have about 90 students running from 1st to 5th grades so I know a little about teaching kids.
I personally don't play games with the kids. I started teaching kids 10 years ago in my first dojo and I tried the games but I found that they didn't last long enough, the kids got bored with that after a few sessions, the games riled some of them up and they became harder to control and the games did not meet the expectations of neither the parents nor the kids themselves. When I moved to Houston, I was asked to teach a small group of kids at my new dojo and I tried to turn it down because I frankly didn't like the experience I had previously. I told my instructor that I wasn't a "game player" and that I felt like it would become a baby sitting job and that wasn't why I was in Aikido. He said to me, "Why don't you just teach them Aikido like you do the adults." That was a really radical idea! Teach kids aikido in an aikido class!!!!

That is where I first experimented doing what I am doing now and it has been all the difference in the world. What we do is this. I run the class just like the adults,. We line up, bow in, warm up, practice ukemi and shikko, then we start techniques, We do that for an hour switching partners, we do kokyuho last, bow out and leave.
Here are the modifications I did find had to be made. I created a curriculum of techniques that exclude nikyo ura, sankyo, and yonkyo. Everything else is on the table. We don't do shihonage until the higher levels and we do it in a modified way without any twisting or torking. In the higher levels, we do kotegaeshi but we do it gently and in a modified way so as to put no pressure. The main idea is to learn those movements. The techniques I have excluded can be taught to them when they are in the adult class.
I also teach by levels like in Karate. This is my most radical departure from regular aikido. The early levels have four techniques each. When a student joins, he practices only those four techniques for 20 days and then is tested. Level two has four more techniques but after 20 days, when the student is tested, he must do the first eight and it progressively rises. My entire curriculum spans 5 years and has about 60 techniques. I have been doing this for a year and 3 months now. I have a group of kids at the fourth level, some at the third level, some at the second and some at the first. They all practice their own level. I use the older kids to rotate helping the lower levels to help them not to forget those techniques. We do things gently and teach the kids to take care of each other.
At the end of every class, we have a "freestyle practice " or what some call randori. The kids love this and if they don't behave during class, they may not participate. That usually motivates them to behave. I modified it to where the attacker runs at the person striking with a shomenuchi strike but they aren't allowed to hit the person. They run to where the person is and when the child moves, they run past them. This is a training where they learn that in an attack of multiple persons, it is more important to move than to try and do techniques to people. The nage is not allowed to do techniques but only to move. Everyone starts off with three attackers and the number goes up. My highest ranking students as young as 6 years old do from 4 to 6 attackers. They are actually getting very good at it. I teach them the same principles of movement we teach the adults. Circle and triangle, over and over. We have not had any injuries other than the occasional thing that happens in any class. I have now started teaching my 9 to 13 year old weapons. They have learned more than my adults! When the adults come in and see the kids swinging the jo's and doing our exercises, they are intimidated!

I now enjoy coming to class with the kids. I look forward to it and some amazing things have happened along the way. In the beginning, the kids were routy and hard to control. As time went on, they started getting into the aikido. The rhythm of the class was pleasing to them. They enjoyed the discipline and structure of the class. Kids like to test boundaries and they tested mine but I held the line. I require them to train and keep talking to a minimum. At the end of class, we gather in circle and they can say what they want to me or to each other. One day after a year, I noticed that I had 20 kids on the mat from ages 5 to 9 and as we were warming up, no one was talking. they were following my movements and were focusing and concentrating. The silence sounded like an orchestra!. It was an awesome feeling.

The group has grown and the kids love the classes. The parents see their children learning martial arts and everyone is happy. I don't suggest that what we do is for everyone. Programs don't work, people do. It takes a lot more than a method to make something work. It takes giftedness and freedom. When a teacher can adapt to their situation, something good can happen. I believe what works in one place may not work in another. Each person must find their own way.
Best wishes,

04-05-2005, 10:46 AM
Hi folks,

I'd like to chime in here and encourage people to add to the "Ideas on Teaching Kids/Children" section in the AikiWiki:


Right now, it's unfortunetely blank. Your contributions to the AikiWiki would be greatly appreciated!

More information and discussion on the AikiWiki may be found here (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7459)


-- Jun

Melissa Fischer
04-05-2005, 10:49 PM
Hi all,
Peter Bernath has a site which is also interesting.
Also, my sensei, Bruce Bookman, has a video on teaching kids.
My two cents as a children's teacher is enjoy them, don't be afraid of them and never forget we teach to learn.


Joezer M.
04-06-2005, 12:28 AM
I remember several games sensei Joe Thambu showed us during his visit here:
1) Shikko soccer
2) Shikko soccer where you can tackle your opponent with kokyu-ho
3) You toss the ball to a partner, and the partner has to jump forward, catch the ball in mid air, and finish with a mae ukemi

And adults love them too... :D


04-06-2005, 03:05 AM
I've always been a fan of ukemi tag. It's a normal game of tag but you can only move by doing forward or backward ukemi (from kneeling), or shikko. Fun and tiring :D


Jill N
04-06-2005, 08:08 PM
Hi Jun:
>>I'd like to chime in here and encourage people to add to the "Ideas on Teaching Kids/Children" section in the AikiWiki:
Right now, it's unfortunetely blank. Your contributions to the AikiWiki would be greatly appreciated!<<<

I found some of my notes about games. It isn't blank anymore.

e ya later

04-06-2005, 09:29 PM
Hi Jill,

Thanks so much for your contribution!

-- Jun

04-07-2005, 12:11 PM
The thing about kids, and I believe everyone that has been around them would tell you this, is that they have short attention spans.

Keeping that in mind, when one is trying to teach kids aikido, one must hold their attention by doing fun techniques. Mix up the forms of the techniques you are by practicing variations and give them games to do (I also like to let the kids try and catch me in a form of randori) that they would like. Try shikko soccer (I'm going to pass that on to sensei and see if we can do it :D ) and stuff like that. Just remember, have fun.


05-06-2005, 07:30 AM
Does anyone have any thoughts on ages younger than six? My girlfriend has a 4, 5, and a 6 year old (boys), that do everything together. We were looking for something to do while they are home with us. I'm thinking Aikido may be too "advanced" for them, as they have no real "structured training" in many things. T-Ball and etc, but that's about it.

Of course, I'm totally new to this "kids" thing. ;)

Should I look for a Karate dojo with a family package? There are no Aikido dojos around here that have those, that I know of; my dojo doesn't, for instance.

Great advice here, by the way. I'm thinking it'll be stuff I use when we're playing outside! :)

05-11-2005, 12:56 AM
I liked irimi-tenkan tag when I was a kid. "It" has a bandana tucked in their belt and can only move to tag people using irimi-tenkan. Everybody else is trying to grab the bandana by any means possible. If you get tagged, you're out. If you get the bandana, you're "it". Ususally there aren't more than three people after "it" unless "it" is very senior and then Sensei would turn the whole class loose. It's fun and it's great for randori.

05-24-2005, 12:54 PM
Tough call. I am going to start with some basic comments:

I personally don't feel that children, especially young children, are ready to learn what we call "aikido." I usually recommend that young children (under 12 or so) first start in a more physical art; karate or judo for example.

When I talk to parents, I explain my recommendation with this analogy:
If you want your child to go to college, do you send them to college when their 12? No, you send them to elementary school, then middle school and finally highschool; you prepare them for college.
Just because you ultimately want a child to practice aikido doesn't mean they have to only train in aikido. Learn skills that will better prepare your child to understand aikido, then let them meet the challenge.

Before all of the karateka and judoka get in a line to kick my ass, let me say that I AM NOT positioning aikido as a higher education and other martial arts as elementary education. Ultimately, I AM saying that there are other martial arts are better suited for elementary education.

Games turn into skill. It happens in nature for most predators, and humans are no different. The skills children learn as a "game" with eventually develop into the skills they posess as an adult.
I think early training should focus on:
1. discipline, respect, and consideration
2. body awareness, control, sensitivity, and coordination
3. basic striking and blocking skills

Some ideas I have heard, seen, or done:
1. bokken egg-whacking - place a raw egg on a stand and strike with bokken. The object is to come as close as possible without breaking egg.
2. quarter jousting - tape a quarter to a suspended string and tsuki with jo. Students that tsuki the quarter keep it.
3. nerf ball punching - throw nerf balls at students. The object is to punch as many balls as possible.
4. ukemi distance rolls - students roll X times. The student that rolls farthest wins.

There are obviously tons of other games: dodgeball, pinata, wheelbarrow race, holding breath. I am a big fan of games that celebrate winners, praise good sportsmanship and respect, and encourage losers to practice and improve. It's not PC anymore, but children need feedback on what is and is not success.

Oh, and don't forget that children have the attention span of a a puppy...

What was I talking about?

06-03-2005, 04:51 PM
Tough call. I am going to start with some basic comments:

I personally don't feel that children, especially young children, are ready to learn what we call "aikido." I usually recommend that young children (under 12 or so) first start in a more physical art; karate or judo for example.

I don't see how karate and judo, which are also excellent arts to study, are more physical than aikido.

Our experience in our dojo is that children from about 6 and up do fine in aikido practice. We tried a program for 4-6 year olds, but it was too challenging.

We currently have numerous students in our teen program who are testing for adult ranks (and doing better than the adults at those ranks) who have been training for 7-8 years.

Oh, and don't forget that children have the attention span of a a puppy...

What was I talking about?



06-03-2005, 06:53 PM
My sensei teaches children. The youngest I've seen is around 5 years old, but the better age seems to be around 6-7 years. And, children from 8-12 years can easily learn aikido. My sensei, too, has teens -- 9th to 12th graders one of our teens is a recent h.s. grad. Most of these teens been practicing 7-9 years and are ranked 5th kyu and approaching 4th kyu. (They'll probably test for it this summer.)

We start the kids at 10th kyu where they get colored belts until they reach the adult ranks of 5th kyu when they start back out at white. We include games as motivation to pay attention in class, testing as motivation to excel in aikido. We just had one youngster at 11 years old test for his 8th kyu (blue belt) in front of all of the adults who were testing at a seminar. Usually, the kids test separately, but he missed the kids testing so sensei tested him with all the adults. He had a fabulous test and was incredibly well composed and demonstrated fine technique. He probably started aikido at 8 years old.

Children are highly capable at learning aikido. They will meet your expectations. If you expect them not have the capacity to pay attention, they won't and they will walk all over you. If you expect them to have the capacity to be attentive, most of the time they will surprise you.

06-07-2005, 01:50 AM
We play a game called "Cutting for kids" which teaches the basic principles of entering.

It's basicaly freeze tag with a padded sword.

They have to try and enter behind the person cutting instead of running away from them. It seems to work really well.