What do people think about teaching aikido to children? Although I've seen many people supporting children's classes, I have also heard arguments that children do not have the discpline to properly learn aikido or any other budo in a very serious manner.
What do you think?
From my experience, I have dealt with children who are serious and those who aren't. I guess it really depends on the child's discipline and interest in the art. But what I've noticed is that majority of the disciplined children are girls? Not to sound sexist, but I guess that's one proof that girls are more mature than boys.
On Teaching Children...
My son and I began taking aikido about six weeks ago. At six years old, I feel that he has held an exceptional amount of interest in aikido.
I directed his interest toward aikido after he asked if he could take karate lessons. Other children at his (then new) school had been taking karate for some time and he wanted to be included in this way.
I must say that I agree with Adrian. I'm not sure that my son would have held his interest so had he been taking lessons on his own. That I am part of it has helped him to regard the teaching with more respect. Toward that end, this experience has been exceedingly rewarding for us both, and has brought us closer as father and son.
children surprise me
It has been a long time since I have felt that helpless! I discovered something new, which is that children intimidate me. I try to talk to them like I would another rational adult... and they are neither. I haven't learned yet how to talk with them and understand their needs.
The instructor for the class happens to be a junior high teacher, with three sons of his own, and HE has it entirely figured out. He has their attention, senses when it starts to wander, knows when to discipline and when to overlook misbehaviours.
I wanted to mention this because I have come to think that the ability to teach children is special. While I think everyone likely can learn how to teach children, I think it IS something you need to learn, it is not automatic.
Second, Adrian is so right about the boy versus girl issue. It is not in your head -- it is all too real! The boys, especially between 7 and 12, can be highly erratic.
All that said, last night I was in new found awe of the children's class instructor. He has been teaching them of all things a jo kata... and they are exceptionally attentive -- no wiggles or wanderings, but solidly fixed attention. When I first heard he was going to do this, I thought it was nuts... they would end up bonking each other. Not the case at all. It reminded me of Kensho Furuya pointing out that training with a live blade heightens your awareness of life/death, and provided a better training. Maybe even in the 8 year old, the fact that you could really bonk yourself or someone else makes a big difference.
Time for me to pull out my jo...
Yes, I have 4 boys. Ages 9,7,5, and soon to be 4years old. When I called up Sensei he said that he would teach 5years old and up. This surprised me. Thier very first class had them all hooked. By the 3rd class, I was hooked too. I asked if I could start in the next class myself. Now we are a very small dojo, and sometimes, though not often, we are the only 4 students in a class. Because I am a single parent, my soon to be 4 year old comes along too. He usually sits patiently and watches during class. I have even witnessed him doing some of the motions at home when he thought no one was watching. No of us had a gi and I didn't want to sink money into 4 gies(sp) if it was only going to be a short term fad, so I came up with the idea of the boys paying for 1/2 the price. They were always asking for extra jobs around the house and farm, so that they could buy thier gi. They were all able to buy thier gi within two months. I got one too, and we have been in classes for a little over 4 months. Not only are they in an activity that they love, but I got a lot of help that continued even after they were able to raise half the cost.
The sesei is wonderful with each of them, and though I know they are not comprehending the essence of aikido beyond the physical, it has all been introduced. We always have a partner to practice with at home, and most of our dinner conversation is on aikido. (It beets being Pokemoned to death.) And instead of settling for being mom on the side lines, I am involved too. I have found it fasinating, though I would never have tried it without seeing a few classes first. I never had an itch for any martial arts.
Sorry so long, but I really wanted you to know, at least in our case with a fantastic sesei, that children, even young boys, can start to grasp the fundamentals of Aikido.
Since I am only a teenager, I think the most important thing is that parents don't force children, or teens, to train. I am only 14 and I train 3 days a week and a least a min. of 2 hours a training day. My parents don't force me to train 2 hours a training day. I actually decided to do that. Don't force it. If children don't want to learn, don't force them.
I would also like to respond to Ron's reply about weapons work. I think that weapon work is great for kids. Don't think that children and weapon work are bad. Before a child can set his hands on a jo or bokken, there are rules he\her has to know. Usually things like these weapons can actually hurt someone, or if you goof around you and your partner will have to sit at the side and watch everyone else train. These rules are here so that no one will get hurt and usually everyone follows them. At one point in my training with the children classes, we would start with the bokken at warm up. The whole class would do different types of cuts and stuff. The dojo would also put weapons work on children tests. Stuff like cutting and position of the bokken. I even remember my 5th kyu test. I had to the "Kata" which was a 25 step jo kata. On my yonkyu test, I had to do the kumitachi 1-5, and possibly on my sankyu test I might have to do the Kumijo 1-6.
I've been teaching children for 3 yrs. now, specially on summer classes. Maybe i can share u guys some of the methods that we r using . Hope u can use it too.
We have included games in every session, right after the Randori and if they wont behave during the class ,no games as punishment.Here r some of the games we use , they r all related to AIKIDO in some way.
1.DODGE BALL - This one is their favorite. Where u divide the class into 2 groups . One group stays off the mat staying on both sides and the other group stays inside .The group outside uses a soft rubber ball and try to hit the guys inside the mat . I think u know the rest.
2. CATCH ME IF U CAN - This one is a bit difficult coz u will all be doing samurai walk while on the mat instead of standing and running.U can have some variations like u can roll towards another student or away from the it.
Those r just some , hope it can help.
T U O C S
I helped teaching a kids' class for a while, and we used to play a game we called ukemi-catch. It's simply regular catch except that you cannot be caught if you are performing some sort of ukemi. A lot of fun and VERY good at building stamina.
I also used to help teaching a beginners class in Karate and since we had far to few showers we used to end practice with small contests - each contest resulting in the winner being send to the showers. The contest could be the first person to touch the wall in one end of the dojo, the first one to do 20 push-up's, the first person get down on the back or the first person to stand on his head. I guess you've got the picture by now. It's a great way to end practice because everybody has fun and it exercises the students alertness.
Have fun! :)
I have been teaching children for some time now. I think that it is nearly imposible to expect a child to fully comprehend any martial art he/she studies and take it as serious as would an adult. However, this is no reason to keep them out. In my experience, the children are always looked upon as the future of the art and so alot of effort is put into teaching them.
The most important thing to remember is that they are not adult, so you cannot treat them as you would adult, nor can you hold them to the same expectations as you would an adult.
When I teach kid classes I manage to be stern enough to keep them under control and yet fun and encouraging enough that they, well...they have FUN doing their best. A good balance of these two qualities will make a chidrens class work.
The focus of a childrens class shouldn't be to produce tiny masters. It is to give children coordination, confidence, and a feeling for the basic movements of the art. They may not be that great as kids, but when they start hitting puberty, they will be alot better than someone who started training as an adult.It will be second nature for them. Think about it, how many great baseball players would there be if little league baseball was dismantled because children were not serious enough, and could not comprehend baseball as well as an adult?
Back to the point... I think childrens classes are a good thing and children should be encouraged as much as possible. They are our future.
This said, I think that children can be very self motivated to do martial arts.I don't have any experience of late with other children taking martial arts, but ten I was six, I was pretty interested in them, possibly due to the Ninja Turtles, or some other influence that would get to a six year old. Well, my mom found that at the YMCA, they were teaching some sort of karate(no idea which style...it was japanese, though, and stricking, not grappling). I took it for maybe six months, earning one belt, and becoming rather good before I moved. I don't remember, and neither does my mother, any time when I lost interest in it, or requested to quit. In fact, when we got to our new house several states away, I started taking a sort of tae kwon do at a local dojo chain. At no time was my mom telling me, "YOU HAVE TO DO THIS OR ELSE", or even implying it. It was entirely self motivated, and I think that had my mom tried to get me to play baseball, I would have hated it and quit almost immediately, whereas she couldn't tear me away from martial arts.
So, in my opinion, you should let children be trained, though having a good sensei really helps. Don't try to train them if they'd rather do something else...I've said that about seven times in this message, and its still just as important. And also, when kids are happy, they can be a lot less figety than you'd expect. My other suggestion would be, as has been noted elsewhere in this thread, to play high energy games with the students at the end(preferably) of class as a sort of reward. When I did TKD, the instructor used to let us do a lot of flying kicks before we went home.
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