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senshincenter
01-13-2006, 05:22 PM
Hi All,

I was wondering what your kids program is like...

What do you hope to accomplish with such a program and how do you go about doing that?

many thanks,
dmv

aikidoc
01-13-2006, 05:37 PM
We are just starting ours so it is a work in process.

Our Goals:
1. Establish a solid set of values (respect, etiquette, etc.)
2. Teach aikido basics

We accomplish this through a combination of structured teaching and games. Go to the web and type in children or kids aikido programs and a lot of good stuff comes up. Aikidokids.com, I believe, is a good link.

markwalsh
01-13-2006, 06:41 PM
This is new re aikido and kids:

http://www.aikidoinn.com/gashuku/kenshukai.htm

senshincenter
01-13-2006, 08:27 PM
I'm thinking on this now - wondering how we teach values through Aikido techniques and/or through games (aikido games or otherwise). Take the value of honor or honesty - what game does one play to cultivate honor? What technique teaches honesty? This is not targeted at anyone in particular - certainly not those that have posted thus far. However, when I find myself thinking on this matter, these questions come easily to the forefront of what we are doing or trying to do. Another example - you see it all over the place: "Learn confidence." Question: How? What does one do in a dojo that helps a student learn confidence? Can confidence be learned? If so, how? If so, what gets in the way of learning it? Etc. Does joining "little ninjas," having some sleep overs in the dojo, getting the next rank, being able to by the next gi color, scoring some points in kumite, passing some tests before a board that would never dare fail you, etc. - does all of that really cultivate confidence, or does it merely cultivate the delusion of grandeur that has one acting as if he/she is deserving of more than he/she already has? Etc.

Take a virtue - any virtue - what does one do in a kids program to cultivate that virtue? Can we be specific on this matter? Does this kind of question have a single answer? If not, what makes up the multi-relational "thing" that supposedly works to cultvate a given virtue.

Alternately, can kids learn Aikido? Or are they only restricted, because of their tendency to be spiritually immature, to the most superficial of technical aspects (i.e. they have to suck) only?

thinking out loud here. thanks for the links - i'll see if i can pull some of what is there here - for more discussion.

dmv

giriasis
01-13-2006, 08:34 PM
Alternately, can kids learn Aikido? Or are they only restricted, because of their tendency to be spiritually immature, to the most superficial of technical aspects (i.e. they have to suck) only?

Yes, they can learn Aikido, although, yes, the philosophical part is a bit beyond them -- at least at the younger ages. Technically, by the time our kids have gone through our kids program and tested for their adult ranks, they have a solid underpinning of principles. They don't articulate them verballly so much as when you train with them you can FEEL it. Good centers and movement. By they time they are teens (we have about 6-8 teens) they start exploring the other aspects.

Mark Uttech
01-13-2006, 09:52 PM
I have been teaching kids since 1989... There's is a different kind of aikido. A true dojo becomes a refuge that gives kids a safe place to grow up and practice self defense.

MaryKaye
01-14-2006, 01:24 AM
I was working with our senior kid student, a twelve year old blue belt. We were taking turns at ryote tori tenchinage and he mentioned the no-touch version of this throw. I said, "It's on my next test but I can't do it yet."

He promptly insisted that I teach it to him, and managed, from my mangled demonstration, to feel how it ought to go and show it to me. He was only succeeding about half the time, but that's better than I have ever been able to do. This is a really devilishly hard throw, all timing.

After this experience I am certainly not going to judge his aikido as shallow. Clearly there is a principle here which he understands significantly better than I do.

I don't have time for a long post, but a couple of quick points:

"Honesty"--The most strenuous training I've seen for this in the dojo is the game "Red Light/Green Light." If the person who is "it" calls out other students only when they have really made a mistake, and they do not argue when genuinely caught, the game flows well and is fun. If either the caller or the others try to cheat or argue debatable cases, the game collapses and we have to stop playing. The older ones are beginning to understand how this works, and--without our saying anything--their approach has changed. (The younger ones, alas, don't get it yet.)

Another place I think they grasp honesty is that we try hard, as adults on the mat, to admit our mistakes, apologize when we hurt our partners accidentally, and accept corrections when they are well-founded. This gives the kids a model for how to behave--they may take it or leave it alone, but it's something they can learn from if they choose. I think many adults never admit they are wrong when dealing with kids, which certainly does not model honesty.

Our previous seniormost kid is now assistant kids' instructor. It is fascinating watching this teenager realize that if he does what he pleases, the little kids will copy him leading to chaos: if he disciplines his behavior, they will tend to follow suit. I don't think he gets this in school because his classmates are pretty much the same age he is.

I think it's worthwhile, though not for kids who are only there under duress--I haven't seen that work out well yet.

Mary Kaye

senshincenter
01-14-2006, 10:20 AM
Yes, they can learn Aikido, although, yes, the philosophical part is a bit beyond them -- at least at the younger ages. Technically, by the time our kids have gone through our kids program and tested for their adult ranks, they have a solid underpinning of principles. They don't articulate them verbally so much as when you train with them you can FEEL it. Good centers and movement. By they time they are teens (we have about 6-8 teens) they start exploring the other aspects.

I think what will follow in this thread are some very hard questions. Sometimes in these discussions, we don't want to hear them, let alone ask them of ourselves. For me, this is training, or at least a huge part of training - and then especially of teaching: we need to be able to ask some hard questions of ourselves. People are raising some very good points, and the questions I'm about to ask are not aimed at anyone in particular. They are just the questions that need to be asked - in my opinion.

In the end, I think we will see how our answers reflect something of our own adult training - which means that folks that don't teach children can and should feel free to jump in anytime.

I can understand the division we may want to draw between technical aspects and philosophical aspects. However, I can also understand that such division - whenever it does work - tends to only function under the most artificial of conditions (e.g. kihon waza training/dojo-contained interpersonal relationships). In essence then, there is a kind of "falseness" to such things that are "born" of these divisions - the way a tropical plant can grow in a greenhouse in Antarctica. It's real, but it's not real. At this point,when one is measuring artificially existing things, verbalization is not so much the issue, so too then is not a capacity to feel things. This is because what one is feeling is present only under false/high-manufactured conditions. In other words, and again this is not aimed at Ann Marie, what can the solid underpinnings be of something that can only exist under false conditions? That's a question for all aikidoka - not just the teachers of children.

If on the other hand, one never seeks to draw the division between body and mind, theory and practice, martial viability and spiritual maturity, etc., this falseness never becomes an issue - the greenhouse is seen for the greenhouse that it is. Training thus takes on a different appearance as it takes on a different meaning. This could occur not only at the level of practice but also at the level of the institution. As an example of differences appearing at the level of the institution: When a division is made between the above-mentioned things, rank, and more importantly the climbing in rank, becomes possible since one measures the reception of technical information and the portrayal of information under controlled/false conditions. When a division is not made, technical information is always seen as being doomed to being incomplete (since a child - say under the age of 18/19 - cannot be grounded enough in the moral and spiritual aspects of understanding the training within more spontaneous/less artificial conditions). As it is incomplete from the get-go, there is no point to measure it and thus no point in recognizing what cannot be anything but short - hence no rank, no testing - just training.

Question: Do you rank your children? How? Why? Under what premise? How is your cultivation of virtues affected by the pursuance of rank? etc.

I'll write more later,
dmv

senshincenter
01-14-2006, 01:01 PM
I have been teaching kids since 1989... There's is a different kind of aikido. A true dojo becomes a refuge that gives kids a safe place to grow up and practice self defense.


More questions - again, not aimed at anyone in particular - but using posts to raise issues in more detail...

At what age can a child apply self-defense skills? Against whom? Is children's self-defense aimed at children defending off an adult attacker? What kind? What goes in to self-defense skills for children when it comes to fending off an adult attacker? Aren't awareness issues more reliable here and if so how are they to be taught in a dojo to children - through what means? Are they being taught? Do our programs go into making distinctions between strangers/don't knows, kind-of-knows, and/or don't knows/kind-of-knows when their parents are around, etc.?

Are self-defense skills for children being aimed at them defending off other children? Is that a skill they should know? A skill they should use? Do, for example, schools condone such behavior in third graders (8 year olds)? "He attacked me first so I did Irimi Nage on him - he forgot not to hit his head on the pavement." I don't think so - right?

How does this all work in terms of virtue development? How does an 8 year old gain a sense of community, centeredness, compassion, fearlessness, etc., if they are subtly given the message via their training that there are folks - both adult and children - out there that want to attack them and that will hurt them if they are not able to hurt them first or hurt them worse? What if the dojo is the first messenger that brings this reality to their existence - "folks will attack you against your will." Should a dojo do that or should parents? If a dojo does it, what stops paranoia from setting in? What stops a delusional attraction and glorification of violence from setting in?

Again, I think all of these questions apply to our own adult training as well.

more later,
dmv

Mark Uttech
01-14-2006, 03:05 PM
Calm down Dave, aikido is not about fighting... Even self defense is not always about fighting.

Faith Hansen
01-14-2006, 05:01 PM
Dave,

It feels like you are really over-thinking this kids class thing. We all just try to do the best we can with our kids class. My Sensei and I started our kids program a couple of years ago and it has changed quite a bit in that time. We are learning as we go. As far as instilling all the honor/honesty/rectitude and so forth: Lead by example. If you work with these kids right, if you command respect and respect them, they will absorb the tenants of budo through you. You are not teaching them a pseudo-Aikido either...it is just one more suited for little ones. It still can be mind/body unification, you can still teach them to be centered and relaxed. You can teach them to be good little kids, and since applying Aikido to yourself (True Victory is Self Victory) is a pillar of Aikido, then its all golden right?

A note of the "good little kid part": Give them this homework assignment for every class---they must do something nice for someone without being asked (parents, siblings, teachers, friends). It works great.

ElizabethCastor
01-14-2006, 05:24 PM
O wow Dave, you really weren't kidding--- you've got a lot of questions! :D :p :D I think its really cool, though.

I will start with the last question on the latest list...What if the dojo is the first messenger that brings this (atacker) reality to their existence - "folks will attack you against your will." Should a dojo do that or should parents? If a dojo does it, what stops paranoia from setting in? What stops a delusional attraction and glorification of violence from setting in?

Kids should be hearing this long before they show up on the mat from primarily from parents and secondarily from schools. I work at public schools and we talk to the kids about safety from about the age of 5-6 (kindergarten). It begins as a gentle message, granted and we talk about "noticing" and being aware (maybe think: lessons for musubi). What looks right, wrong, safe and not safe; plus, stuff on strangers and I guess its called right touch/wrong touch. Schools and kids are often dealing with the traditional bullies, pushing, shoving, scraping/fighting, and name calling. The kids should all know what that looks and feels like. They should also know some rudimentary ways to deflect these kinds of "attacks."

To me this is where you can begin a tiny bit of the philisophical underpinnings: the concepts of being the bigger person and not raising to the teasing and engaging in conflict. The concept of not engaging the enemy is in many of the dokas... you just have to talk about it from children's daily experiences. (And trust me schools don't want kids to use MA on the playground. Especially in the "he attacked me scenario" you explained. Most often, at public schools, when fighting is involved the approach is that both parties involved have consequences.)

Also, consider this, one of the joys of being a kid is that playful innocence. For younger kiddos (5-10) aikido is really a cool exercise. They are learning how to take cool somersaults, they can lift a friend by the elbows, they can find their center and balance... some of it is a pure love of learning and growing your-own-self. Kids LOVE it when they see themselves improving. Think on some of your proudest/greatest achievements as a kid/young adult... I'll bet at least half if not all of them are moments when you realized you could do it on your own, right? (think: tying my own shoes, riding my bike, maybe even paying your first set of bills all on your own.) This is where "an 8 year old [can] gain a sense of community, centeredness, compassion, fearlessness, etc." The dojo's the community, the waza develops centeredness and (hopefully healthy) fearlessness and with the principles of aiki and understanding of compassion is expanded from the preexisting innocence.

As far a kiddie self-defense... well... you may have that kind of a discussion but I would wait until the kids are teenagers. I believe you could train a kid to take down a grown-up but I wonder if that's what its all about. Saftey is nice, but how would it affect the kid if the attacker really got hurt taking a bad fall, or worse if the child takes on an attacker and finds out s/he didn't learn enough (or isn't strong enough)? I'd rather teach the kids musubi and how to keep out / get away from possibly dangerous people and situations.

I hope that helps the discussion!

Elizabeth

SteveTrinkle
01-14-2006, 07:58 PM
Aikido Kenkyukai in Santa Barbara has a nice kids' class. They seem to enjoy themselves and have a lot of interesting things to say about why they train.

SteveTrinkle
01-14-2006, 08:18 PM
Sorry, meant to mention this in last post - One of the interesting things that AKI Santa Barbara is doing is kind of an international exchange program with kids in AKI dojo in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

http://www.akisb.com/gallery.asp

senshincenter
01-14-2006, 09:31 PM
Calm down Dave, aikido is not about fighting... Even self defense is not always about fighting.


Perhaps a person might think that asking questions of oneself and/or participating in exercises of reflection is a sign of panic - but that would not be me. Mark, if you meant, "shut up," you should just say it - but then you'd have to explain why you are even reading this thread since no one is making you. Right? Or maybe you meant something else by "calm down" - if so, I don't get it. Explain.

The fact that self-defense is not all about fighting is a point I made in my own post. You are second in making that point and you are now making it to the person that made it in the first place. This however does not explain how one goes about teaching children self-defense skills via Aikido training and/or if one should even do so. Those questions still remain - and they still remain for anyone claiming to be teaching self-defense to children.

My own opinion - the first one I've directly offered here in this thread - is that "self-defense for children" is a money-making gimmick that works solely off the fear of parents - the fear that runs rampant in our modern culture. It's actually an act that an instructor should be ashamed of participating in - my opinion. I say that in complete calmness. Children should not study Aikido, or any other martial art, for self-defense reasons.

In my opinion, Stephen has it right on the money - a good reason, one that is consistent with itself and with the needs of children: The children train because they enjoy it. Perfect.

dmv

senshincenter
01-14-2006, 09:48 PM
Dave,

It feels like you are really over-thinking this kids class thing.

Come on, when you say this, don't you really mean, "We all don't like to think about this stuff - we'd rather not think about it at all." I think I could respect that more. It's truthful and it's talking about something you must know - your own person. Why comment on me and assume that a few questions on the topic are all that I may have to reflect upon?

Look, you get all these issues on this forum about what one can or should expect from their training and how one goes about getting "x" or "y," etc. Now, when it comes to children, you got all these claims, sometimes the claims are even grander when it comes to children - confidence, body/mind unification, the tenets of Budo, virtue, self-defense skills, etc. Yet, the programs are often less directed, more ambiguous, etc. - often done with less thought, for example. Where's the outcry? Where's the call to have folks think things through a bit more? It's nowhere to be seen or heard. People freak when some Joe is claiming some lineage back to Takeda, or when some guy is claiming this rank or this teacher or this skill - "Oh my, we must guard the door of Aikido or we will risk losing it forever!" "Rally the troops!" "Get the torches and the sharp farming equipment!" And yet folks all over are making even more outlandish claims when it comes to children and their training in Aikido - and nothing from no one is to be heard.

What's the deal? Does one really think it's just because we are dealing with children? (though that is plenty bad enough) In my opinion, we don't like to think about what we are offering children - the how and why of it. We don't like to think about how full of crap our claims may be. Maybe some of us do - like Stephen. However, I'm learning it is not most of us. Why? Because if we do, we may very well see how full of crap our claims may be for our own adult practice.

This is the third topic I've brought up for volunteer reflection - the first two being the one on Shame and the second one being on Rank Aikido. Some folks can figure these discussions out, others see questions they'd rather not hear because they'd rather believe they already answered them (though they never asked them).

Elizabeth got this just fine. So should others - my opinion. Reflect, ask some questions, raise some issues, think out loud, keep the discussion going, etc. That's the point here. If you'd rather not - fair enough - but why join a thread just to tell others to not do what you don't want to do?
:freaky:

RebeccaM
01-15-2006, 01:11 AM
I started training when I was 11. My dad wanted me to study a martial art for various reasons. He himself was curious about aikido so he scouted out a dojo, trained for a bit, scouted out their children's program, and then showed my brother and I a class. It was love at first sight. My bro was 7, and we both started training shortly after seeing that one class. That was about 13 years ago. All three of us are still training.

So what did I gain from a children's aikido class? Well, I have always struggled with being an alien in my own body. Aikido helped enormously. I have always been a bit anxious, and the breathing drills we did in the kids classes gave me a valuable relaxation tool I still use when I need to. I could, when I switched into the adult classes, do randori better than anyone else because the games we played in the kids' classes taught me how to evade (this is not true anymore, but that's due to choices I've made as an adult). It improved my posture. It's given me confidence. It's affected my relationship with teachers in a positive way. Learning ukemi has saved me much pain and suffering in all the inevitable wipe-outs that are involved in things like skating, biking, climbing, snowboarding and being a klutz in general.

Could I have learned these lessons elsewhere? Yes. Most likely. But I'm not sure I would have. I liked doing aikido. I looked forward to the classes. So I put in the time and effort to learn the things I learned, and that might not have happened elsewhere.

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 01:43 AM
So what did I gain from a children's aikido class? Well, I have always struggled with being an alien in my own body. Aikido helped enormously. I have always been a bit anxious, and the breathing drills we did in the kids classes gave me a valuable relaxation tool I still use when I need to.

This too I find to be very consistent and very realistic. Perfect - in my opinion.

dmv

Jorge Garcia
01-15-2006, 01:52 AM
I have taught kids since 1995 in every dojo I have been a long term member of. I have been currently teaching an average of between 25 to 35 kids for the last two years. We teach ages 5-9 and 10-13 in two separate classes. I think David has a lot of good questions so I will share a few things honestly and maybe it will cover a few issues he mentioned.
I have never enjoyed playing games with kids because that tends to make them wilder and harder to control, especially with the numbers we have. I decided just to have classes like the adults do with a few exceptions. I created a curriculum of techniques based on what I have discovered what the kids could and couldn't do comfortably and without a lot of supervision.
The list is at http://www.shudokanaikido.com/documents/JuniorTestRequirements.pdf
I have learned through trail and error that kids had trouble with ura so I selected simple techniques for the beginning levels with only omote and I introduce ura in the advanced levels. (Also, I do teach the kids ura for the earlier techniques as their motor skills in Aikido improve but I do that during any lag time.)

The class is structured like this.
1) Warm up exercises and ukemi practice- 10-15 minutes
2) Divide class by belt levels
3) White belts do orange belt level twice (30 minutes)
One group of upper level teams up with the white belts for the 1st cycle. Instructor helps upper levels (15 minutes)
4) White belts do the second cycle with instructor while upper levels work on their own level. (15 minutes)
5) Freestyle practice- An exercise where each student faced 3-5 "attackers". These run at the defender with a simulated attack while the defender practices defensive movement doing limited techniques based on the level. (15 minutes)
5) Class discussion where each student is either praised for good behavior and or technique or where improvements are suggested. (2 to 5 minutes)
6) Class ends

In the second and older kids class, we use the second cycle of 15 minutes to work on weapons for the orange belt level and up.

As for morals and virtues, I have found that everyones personality is revealed as they spend time on the mat. I don't put morals to the techniques except in this way. I urge all students to be careful and not to hurt their partner. I let advanced students help the newer ones. I let students take leadership roles and "teach" the various belt levels that they have already learned when the class divides into groups.

The main thing I do in terms of ethics and morals is to discuss with the kids how they treat each other and I discuss disputes that they have and how to solve them. 90 percent of the time, they complain about training with certain students who are uncooperative or who argue with them. This gives fertile ground for putting philosophical Aikido in terms they can understand. When we do the freestyle, most students that are having too much fun strike way too hard at the person doing the exercise. That's when I stop the class and talk about it. I ask them in the presence of all a series of questions. Was that kind? Did that kind of action violate our rule of how we take care of each other? Was the student involved in self gratification and forgetting what the exercise is about?

That's what we do in a nutshell. The students are very motivated to reach the next belt level but we don't make it too easy. In order to go through our complete program, the must train 400 hours and it takes from 3 1/2 to 4 years. At the two year mark, my most advanced students are at the green belt level. I may have to make adjustments to some techniques as we continue to chart new territory.
Best wishes,

Charles Hill
01-15-2006, 02:26 AM
This thread is particularly appropriate for me as I am thinking of starting a kids` program at my dojo this year. Sorry if the following is a bit disjointed as I am just going to throw out the various concerns and considerations I have. I do think they are related to Dave`s questions and ideas.

1. My whole goal is to help children become stronger, physically, socially, and emotionally. I define strength as a balance of power (ability to change things) and flexibility (ability to flow with things one cannot change.) I believe that all values come naturally when one is "strong."

2. I have an issue with "controlling" a kids` class. It may be more of an issue here in Japan, but I feel that external discipline makes a person weaker, not stronger. There has been a streak of child murders by strangers here recently. I cannot help but feel that the tendency in this culture to encourage children not to think for themselves and to follow along with what others are doing is a major factor in crimes against kids.

With these two things in mind, I am leaning toward the idea of not teaching "Aikido." My plan is to focus on non-competitive games and activities. I have to admit here that what I want to do is heavily influenced by my practice of Systema along with Aikido. This does run directly contrary to what Jorge and many others have indicated.

Charles

Mark Uttech
01-15-2006, 06:05 AM
Happy New Year Charles! Games, competitive or noncompetitive are certainly not my cup of tea when teaching kids. Your study of Systema can certainly help. I think the thing to focus on with teaching children is teaching them body movement, how to fall, how to free themselves from grabs, how to dodge shinai, etc. A lot of children suffer from not actually being in their bodies, and the thing is to lead them in being in their bodies with their hands open. As far as controlling a class of children, Aikido has the saving grace of suwari waza, and I find that children can rarely get distracted or run around when they are on their knees. I usually teach a technique first in suwari waza and then teach the same technique standing, and they flow right into it. Good luck. In gassho

Mary Eastland
01-15-2006, 08:55 AM
I taught childrens aikido for 12 years. It was good until it wasn't. They taught me a lot.

I also taught a self-defense program called Aikikids because I believe kids can learn SD techniques and atitudes. Aikido did not lend itself to the kind of issues I wanted to address so I developed another format.

As Gavin De Becker says in his book Protecting the gift...people are not strange, behavior is strange.

Children can learn to listen to their inner voices, to use their own voice as a strategy, to make themselves hard to hold onto and what parts of the human boddy hurt the most when they must use a strike.

And another way to look at games is to watch animals..They teach their young how to defend themsleves by playing with them. Tag and other games are natural ways to learn to accomplish goals and to get away.

Learning about a serious subject can be fun.

Just some random thoughts.

Mary

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 11:41 AM
As for morals and virtues, I have found that everyones personality is revealed as they spend time on the mat. I don't put morals to the techniques except in this way. I urge all students to be careful and not to hurt their partner. I let advanced students help the newer ones. I let students take leadership roles and "teach" the various belt levels that they have already learned when the class divides into groups.

The main thing I do in terms of ethics and morals is to discuss with the kids how they treat each other and I discuss disputes that they have and how to solve them. 90 percent of the time, they complain about training with certain students who are uncooperative or who argue with them. This gives fertile ground for putting philosophical Aikido in terms they can understand. When we do the freestyle, most students that are having too much fun strike way too hard at the person doing the exercise. That's when I stop the class and talk about it. I ask them in the presence of all a series of questions. Was that kind? Did that kind of action violate our rule of how we take care of each other? Was the student involved in self gratification and forgetting what the exercise is about?


Jorge, if you will allow me to say, this was a great post. It shows you have taken your kids program seriously enough to understand and thus tackle the issues involved - in my opinion. I particularly liked how you understand where the cultivation of virtues comes to play. I think this is exactly the way it is for adults as well, or at least the way it should be, only for some reason most adult programs either don't understand how our personalities or character is revealed on the mat and/or if we do we don't do anything about it outside of technical matters. For example:

You always see senpai that make use of or even abuse their kohai in the adult program. I remember one time at a summer camp I was attending, I was going with this one kohai and we were going gentle, etc., (in line with his ukemi skill), and right next to my partner and I there was another partnership where the senpai was just throwing the crap out this kohai - throwing him way beyond his ukemi skill (no, they did not know each other). At first I thought the senpai was just a really intense practitioner - you know, really into hard practice. I'm like that too, so when it was time to change partners I quickly and eagerly bowed to him - all ready to have the crap thrown out of me and to throw the crap out of him. He goes, he's nage, he did okay. I go, two reps, he says, "Hey, let's go easy, ok?" Yet, no instructor ever came by and spoke to him on the virtues of compassion and integrity. No instructor stopped the class to tell him he should be taking care of his kohai and/or that he should show more honor through the consistency of what he is willing to give and what he is willing to receive (i.e. basic golden rule stuff).

Another example, at two different times, involving two different people, with two different instructors (both shihan), I saw two senior practitioners throwing yokomenuchi way to hard at their partner. In one case, the kohai partner was pretty brand new and his senpai partner was probably close to a very fit 280 pounds. Though they were the aggressors, eventually the senpai felt they were in a fight - go figure, that's how the insecure ego works. In one case the whole mat had to grab the two practitioners and pull them apart. In the other case, the huge senpai against the small newbie, the senpai threw him into the wall, pinned him against the wall, and punched him in the eye while in a total rage. Again, the class was not stopped but for these interruptions themselves and no talk was given by these shihan on the virtues of Aikido, etc. We just went on training - though some of the folks with more integrity than others left the mat.

Take this back to the kids program... It was like these instructors, folks that do talk about Aikido philosophy, Osensei's vision, Aiki being Love, etc., felt it was either not part of their role as teacher to address (to address the moral character of those on the mat) or they felt that virtues were in the techniques (since that is all they returned to after the events). We see this in a lot of kids programs when we look around. All these claims at virtue, etc., but all they do is techniques. Sure, folks dress them up with a few tiny rituals to make the techniques look like they are more than just exercises, but they are for the most part claiming to quench one's thirst with a cup of sand (i.e. wrong tool for the job). It would be great if parents could be more informed and ask of these instructors, for example, "Hey, you say that your program cultivates confidence... How exactly does it do this?" What should be our answers: "Calm down please." "I think you are thinking this over way too much." "It just sort of happens by being on the mat." "By doing Ikkyo." What parent would take these answers? I wouldn't as a parent - no parent should, just as no instructor that cares about his/her students should. On the other hand, we as adults take them all the time when it comes to our own training - like when we say, "Just train, don't think about it, you'll see in the end, keep doing Ikkyo." In the same way, we shouldn't take these answers, just as no instructor should offer them - not if he/she really cares about the art and/about his or her deshi.

The strange part about all of this, is that we adult practitioners would want something like this for our children, some kind of mentoring that takes place across the body/mind, yet we are way too insecure when it comes to our own person to subject ourselves to such mentoring. We are more satisfied by claiming to be safer by keeping our sensei more like (superficial) coaches than anything else. "No mentors please, just teach me Aikido." What an odd statement.

dmv

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 11:53 AM
With these two things in mind, I am leaning toward the idea of not teaching "Aikido." My plan is to focus on non-competitive games and activities. I have to admit here that what I want to do is heavily influenced by my practice of Systema along with Aikido. This does run directly contrary to what Jorge and many others have indicated.
Charles

Another program showing awareness of the larger issue - in my opinion. Great post Charles.

We do something similar. We have two programs, one for younger children, one for older. In the younger program, we use games to cultivate the body/mind elements (e.g. cross-lateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, balance, environmental awareness, etc.) that underly all adult martial training. This programs curriculum probably centers itself 90% on these types of games. If we do any "Aikido" it is minimal at best and it is always in relation to some game. For example, we might have a game where the child seeks to not let me "hit" (from a toss) them with the ball. From there, after we teach them how to have the ball barely miss, how to stay focused on what is happening, how to be aware of the total environment, etc., we might have the ball replaced by me doing shomenuchi. In a very natural fashion, the children are able to clear the line of attack in the same way they were when they were doing it in the ball toss game (i.e. with timing, with awareness, with coordination, etc.). In essence then, we make the "Aikido" part of the game - not the game part of Aikido. The older kids program is like this as well - making Aikido part of the games we do in the younger program (which kids of all ages are allowed to participate in). As for the virtues, we handle them like Jorge does - the self is revealed on the mat; when it is strayed from the path, we use physical lesson and talk (plus a whole lot of other practices involved in our programs - e.g. being involved with parents and teachers in the consistent developing of character) to bring it back and to allow it to move forward in the art at this level of cultivation (something we do in the adult program as well).

dmv

James Smithe
01-15-2006, 12:08 PM
I think it's important to make sure you train their minds. For example knowing not to use martial art moves thoughtlessely. Oh and teach them not to brag, that will cause problems. They could end up in fights at school because of it. Kids might do things like you're kung fu or whatever the @#$% it's called won't work on me and gonna beat you up. Or Judo/Karate is better than Aikido let me show you.
I know you guys like to teach Aikido as a game but you should teach them to have fun with it and take it seriosly too. You should talk to them about death. Tell them what it means to die I would say and teach them what it means to live but that will proabably intefere with their parents religous values. Aikido decides life and death in a single strike make them understand this.

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 12:21 PM
I also taught a self-defense program called Aikikids because I believe kids can learn SD techniques..to use their own voice as a strategy, to make themselves hard to hold onto and what parts of the human boddy hurt the most when they must use a strike.

Mary,

Thanks for the post. Have you seen that new DVD put out by the creator of "Baby Einstein" (Julie Clark) and by John Walsh?

https://www.thesafeside.com/

The DVD was based on the expertise of several people in the field of child crime, child safety, law enforcement, etc. Anyway, at the beginning of the DVD, they have this black belt kid kicking butt in his karate class - against his instructor, against bags and shields, against boards, etc., and then they have him face off against what they call a "don't know" (a person the child doesn't know). As one, or at least some, can imagine, the "don't know" just picked him up like he was nothing. The kid was probably about 8 years old - sorry if I'm not clearly remembering this, it has been a while since I have seen the DVD. The point of this demo was to show parents what experts in the field already know, but what goes counter to a lot of the claims of child martial arts industry: Children cannot fight off an adult attacker.

I understand the logic of vulnerable targets, but so too does any predator (in this case, children being the prey). Thus, for example, it's not that kicks to the groin do not hurt, nor is it that pokes to the eyes do not hurt, it's that this is next to impossible for a child to strike in a combative situation (let's say I'm thinking about 3 to 12 or 14 year olds here). This is the claim of the DVD and of all of the experts in the field that were used to put out this production. (This is also in line with my own position.) Hence, the DVD goes on to instruct more on prevention, awareness, and the gaining of assistance - such that children do not end up having to fend off an attacker in a one on one situation. I find this to be a very responsible take on the issue of keeping children safe from adult predators. For me, if one wants to keep the term "self-defense" when it comes to children, it should mean only this (i.e. involving no "techniques" for fighting, defending oneself physically, combat, etc.). However, it is better to just drop the word and keep these other terms: prevention, awareness, assistance.

Anyway, I take it that you have some other sources that are saying something different. I'd like to be able to read or see those so that I can understand other positions that are also out there. Would you mind letting me know where I can find these other sources that adopt the position that children can fend off an adult attacker, should learn to, and that "x" is how you do it. I would be very grateful.

Thanks in advance,
dmv

Also - isn't it the case that the tiger cubs play is the adult tiger's hunt? Not so much that the tiger cub is expected or even attemps to fend of an attacker? Don't tiger cubs try and do the same thing as prevention, awareness, and assistance (by the mother)? Doesn't nature reach the same conclusion, outside of prevention, awareness, and assistance, should the cub be attacked by a predator, the cub is lost?
:(

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 12:56 PM
I did a quick search on the Net - this stuff is out there but I can't separate the supposed stuff from the junk.

Here's one place - and one example:

http://www.greatwarriorpak.com/selfdefense.htm

As I said earlier, I think this industry caters to the fear of parents - which is part of the fear that marks our overall spiritual poverty. Please take note of the following words - they read:

"Self-Defense for Kids - Learn Practical and Effective techniques to help you defend yourself
Produced by Grand Master Ho Sik Pak and Written by Ursula Escher

A life-saving book written FOR children that CHILDREN understand!

Inspired by all the tragic events shown on the news: Innocent children who get abducted and murdered by strangers. It's a fear that all parents feel, and that affects everyone.
Grand Master Ho Sik Pak and Ursula Escher have come to the rescue with a life-saving book that is easy for children to understand. The writing is short, simple and direct. The pages are very colorful and kids will learn by reading or by simply looking at the pictures."

Next go to this link:

http://www.greatwarriorpak.com/sd/samplepages.htm

Check out the pictures - see any realistic techniques for fending off an adult attacker? The reverse punches to the solar plexus and the top of the groin? The back-knuckle strikes to the head? What about that elbow to the jaw? Or how about that double-block to the inside of the roundhouse punch?

I don't mean to pull this guy out as THE example, but generally, it has been my experience that this is what you see. And I find it ironic that you get all this outcry against fake Aikido or fake martial arts, etc., and here you have an entire industry, one that keeps most adult programs financed, being more fake than anything anyone has ever seen in any adult program and there is barely a whisper of protest and/or concern. Aren't children supposed to be our most vital assets? Don't we care that they are being shoveled such delusions? What about just as consumers - aren't we upset that we aren't getting what we are paying for? Or how about as aikidoka - don't we care that in a lot of cases our own training is being supported by what can only be described as mere fraud? Where is the ethics in that?

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 01:18 PM
Here's another one:

http://www.abcsofselfdefense.com/Safety_Awareness_&_Self_Defense_Programs_For_Children.htm

It reads, "For some situations, Self Defense may be the only way out. This Program instructs children on the best ways to handle an attacker. Most adult attacks on children involve the adult overpowering the child. Children need to know good Self Defense and Escape Techniques that will work in these situations. The Techniques in this program work!"

Then click on the hyperlink "Self Defense Sample" to download a pdf file of how a child is supposed to escape (yeah, right!) from an adult two hand wrist grab.

Oh, and here's the usual "fear" pitch:

"In the past few years, there have been many tragic events involving our young children. As a parent, I can only imagine how it must feel receiving such tragic news that my child has been hurt, abused, abducted or worse. We, as adults, must remember that all children are our responsibility. It is up to us to provide them with all of the information they need to survive when they are out on their own. And that is what the ABC’s of Self Defense is all about: “HOW TO SURVIVE”."

Mary Eastland
01-15-2006, 01:26 PM
Most child predators know the child...and don't physically harm them. The creep gains trust and then exploits the child. I am sure you know this.

For a child to know and practice saying no] to an adult and that it is okay to be rude are valuable lessons.

I mostly agree with you...I guess the difference is that I know that some of the things I taught my daughters helped them. Maybe they were too young but the things they knew and the conversations we had helped them in what happened to them and their feeling about it afterward.

You just never know what strategy might work. I think the perspective of keeping oneself open is good. SD can be taught without blaming choices made.

I especially agree with you about the fear factor as a marketing tool. I don't teach SD anymore because of the path that aikido has opened for me. But without my training and teaching of SD I could not be where I am today. I had a lot to heal from.
Mary

Lyle Bogin
01-15-2006, 05:51 PM
In terms of self defense against their peers, I ask my kids what they are afraid of and then teach them how to defend against it with one or two simple counters. The most common requests are the side headlock, the front one handed choke with a push, the two handed shove, the guillotine choke, and how to get up off the floor if someone pushed you and starts to kick or choke you. I have seen all of these things happen and more between kids. I try to be very gentle in my approach...some kids are really sensitive and the idea of "real" self defense is scary or even impossible. Also there's the consideration that the headlocker is an older brother or friend joking around, and not a real "attacker".

I agree with the "prevention, awareness, assistance" approach to defense against adults. You cannot defend yourself with your body too well against someone who can scoop you up with one arm.

Mostly I try to have fun and teach "cool tricks". And rubber suction cup ninja star training is always a good way to have some lighthearted fun.

senshincenter
01-15-2006, 06:12 PM
Most child predators know the child...and don't physically harm them. The creep gains trust and then exploits the child...I mostly agree with you...I guess the difference is that I know that some of the things I taught my daughters helped them. Maybe they were too young but the things they knew and the conversations we had helped them in what happened to them and their feeling about it afterward...I especially agree with you about the fear factor as a marketing tool. I don't teach SD anymore because of the path that aikido has opened for me. But without my training and teaching of SD I could not be where I am today. I had a lot to heal from.
Mary

I can respect your post Mary - thanks for sharing that bit of personal information.

Yeah, for me, that is where those three things (prevention, awareness, assistance) come up - because of how much more common it is for the predator to be known, and hence how much more likely no real combat scenario is actually going to take place - at least not like these fear mongers are trying to sell. For me, outside of those three things, the real self-defense for children, and for women for that matter, is our adult program - where we men use our practice to mature our spirit, to cultivate virtues through which we can end or at least reconcile the abuse of power, the cycles of violence, the fear, the pride, the ignorance, that our own fathers passed on to us and that our culture validates (wrongly) in one way or another.

dmv

Charles Hill
01-15-2006, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the tips Mark. I still have the ATM issue in which your dojo was featured in the kids section.

There are a lot of issues here that pertain to both adult and kids classes, as evidenced by Dave`s story about the seminar. One thing I have been working with is martial movement without emotional content. We are taught from an early age to associate various negative emotions with attacking and being attacked. This was most clearly pointed out to me in my systema training. However it is also clearly part of aikido. Wendy Palmer has talked about Ikeda Sensei`s throws being "content free" for example. This is what I feel must be instilled into kids (and of course adults.) This is what happens when friends mess around with each other, similar to the tiger cubs, as Dave pointed out. When we learn to deal with emotion-less attacks, our confidence can increase. Then we will have the freedom to become and act like the good people we all are. At least I hope so!

Charles

RebeccaM
01-16-2006, 12:19 AM
I think we all need to keep in mind that adults aren't the only people kids need to defend themselves from. In fact, I'd say a child is more likely to end up in a SD situation with another child than with an adult. Of course, it's not marketed that way. Maybe it should be. Self-confidence alone can help fend off bullies, and knowing you can hurt the bully does boost one's confidence.

Self-defense was one of the reasons I got nudged towards MA as a child. I think that it was more out of concern for what might happen when I got older though. Children aren't the only people that get attacked by adults.

The SD angle, realistic or not, is an easy marketing ploy so it gets used. It's not fair to anyone really.

MaryKaye
01-16-2006, 05:29 PM
When we discuss self-defense against adults with our kids, the #1 message is "run." We show some ways to avoid being held, but I think the only thing we teach that will really help them is that they have a right to get away and should do so as soon as they sense something is wrong.

I think the more important lessons are about dealing with other kids. Taking turns being uke and nage is very powerful: it gets across, after a while, a message that there is no top dog and no bottom dog, everyone has to be willing to take whatever they dish out. We actively say to the younger kids, "Don't hurt him! Remember, he will be doing this to you next!" and while that is very basic, even crude, it's also an important lesson.

We also say, "Your uke is trusting you with his body so that you can learn. You have a responsibility to treat him well." The degree to which the kids are trustworthy with each other increases dramatically around yellow belt. It's good to see.

A final point that seems very practical: we talk a lot about "extend ki to partner" and one of the things that can mean is "Don't carry yourself like a bully or a victim." One of the kids' instructors is a great mimic, and makes them laugh by showing exaggerated body language--he has a hangdog way of standing that really makes me, as demo uke, want to hit him. Then he contrasts this with a confident friendly demeanor, and the difference is very clear.

Mary Kaye