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Peter Wong 08-06-2011 01:05 PM

Teaching Children Aikido
 
Sensei is thinking of starting a children's Aikido class to help with the rent. But does not feel comfortable teaching children joint locks nor does he want to be a babysitter. So... for those who teach children or have children classes at their school,what do ya teach?

Michael Hackett 08-06-2011 01:42 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Peter,
We teach our kids' classes aikido. That sounds pretty simplistic, but it is accurate. We don't teach joint locks as we have strong concerns about growth plates and injuries - and admittedly we could be wrong, but want to err on the side of caution. We try to teach segments of technique in such a way they can relate to what they've already learned. For example we will concentrate on one specific attack and teach several techniques for a period of time and then move on to something similar in nature.

We focus a lot on basic material such as ukemi and shikko, move into technique, and then try to finish up a class with something fun to send them home with. We aren't big on games as such, and if we do any, they will be directly related to aikido and might be something like shikko tag.

Classes start and finish with a formal bowing and we do appropriate warm-up exercises and stretching and then introduce the aiki taiso exercise (s) that most closely relates to the techniques being taught. If sokomen iriminage is on the agenda, we might do saya undo and show how it relates.

As for babysitting, I know where your sensei is coming from. ONLY our Dojo Cho can approve a youngster joining the dojo and that is after an interview with the child and parent. If the prospective student seems mature enough, he will be invited to join in the warm-ups for a few sessions to see if he can pay attention and listen to instructions. Sometimes we suggest bringing the child back in a few months, and sometimes they actually do. Most little kids are butterfly chasers and we try to keep them constantly moving and working so they have little time for distractions and classes are one hour, period.

We are really big in having the parents involved and strongly encourage them to stay and watch classes. Periodically we will invite the parents to join us on the mat and actually participate with the kids. The parents get an idea of how hard their children are working and the kids get a big kick out of it too.

Safety issues are non-negotiable! Most other conduct can be controlled with a stern look and at the end of every class we try to send the student home on a positive note by finding something they did well that day. Nothing breeds success like success.

Overall we neither treat them like children, nor do we treat them as if they were just short adults, but try to find a happy median in between the two.

Carol Shifflet Sensei has a pretty good book out called "Aikido Exercises" that you might find of use. Her use of analogy is excellent and she has some really valuable tricks to offer.

Good luck with your project.

mathewjgano 08-06-2011 02:15 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Quote:

Peter Wong wrote: (Post 289657)
Sensei is thinking of starting a children's Aikido class to help with the rent. But does not feel comfortable teaching children joint locks nor does he want to be a babysitter. So... for those who teach children or have children classes at their school,what do ya teach?

When I taught I focused more on balance and good posture principles, so we did a lot of irimi tenkan and simple push-tests to get the kids used to being strong in multiple directions (or at least to start thinking about it). We did a lot of rolls and warm-ups as well as breathing exercises.
A "game" I often employed was to use a shinai with simple shomen, kesa and tsuki attacks (I also did an empty hand version) slowed down and having them practice simple evasions to focus on maai and irimi tenkan. I told them to "count coup" by tapping my koshi ita if they could...It was probably better practice for me than for them:D.
I also focused a lot on ukemi with the idea in mind of teaching them ways to avoid getting hurt by going with the flow rather than fighting against it and always trying to keep slack in the areas where slack is being taken out.
I think quite a lot can be covered just with simple grabs, irimi tenkan, and tai sabaki. I was always very quick to point out that I wasn't trying to teach them how to "fight" but rather to get them to practice some of the important parts involved, namely balance and awareness of some of the ways the body can potentially move. At the end of class I would have them attack me so I could do a kind of "free-form" ukemi practice (since it wasn't clear exactly how I was going to move them), giving pointers where I could. I found this was a good way to guage their ukemi in a safe way. I would say my classes could've been described as "beginning ukemi," more than Aikido.
...Just saw Michael's post. He'd certainly be a better source than me. I'll only add that I had a 6 year old in my class, but he was only allowed to stay because he was exceptionally well-focused. Another student was allowed to attend one class, but wasn't able to focus. I told the parent she wasn't quite ready yet and they seemed to understand completely.

Peter Wong 08-06-2011 02:27 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Thanks for theadvice Michael. You're from MacBeth Sensei dojo, met him a couple of time nice guy. One of your fellow instructors
Ron is from Mass. and use to practice with me, he knows my Sensei well.

Aviv 08-06-2011 03:38 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Teaching Aikido to Children is very rewarding. Once you decide to do it in your dojo, subscribe to the Aikido Kids Google Group where experienced teachers of Aikido to Children have shared many great ideas and insights.

Michael Hackett 08-06-2011 06:37 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Hi Peter,

Yes, Ken MacBeth Sensei is my teacher and "Boston Ron" is one of my training buddies - only now he's "Niron" to me since his nidan exam a couple of years ago. Feel free to PM me if I can be of assistance or if you would like to discuss your program directly with MacBeth Sensei. I will say hello to both for you.

Anita Dacanay 08-06-2011 07:11 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
As a mother and an Aikido practitioner, I am a little sensitive when I hear people talking about starting a kids program to help pay the rent, and concerns about not wanting to be a "babysitter." While a kid's program certainly can be a wise business decision, you are dealing with small and vulnerable human beings.

In my opinion: Whomever decides to teach children's Aikido classes (at any dojo) should:

1) actually like children and be able to relate to them well;

2) be excited about, committed to, and capable of constructing meaningful Aikido classes for children;

If there is such a person or persons at a dojo, then I think a kid's program can be a great thing on many levels. But it requires a sincere commitment to the children to make it work well.

So says Mom. :)

Lyle Laizure 08-06-2011 08:31 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
I teach children the same as I teach adults and vise versa. For all the thoughts of not teaching joint locks to children because it will harm the joints because they are still developing.....medicine has come a long way, but I'm sure these joint locks have been taught to children for many generations prior to any of us ever having any knowledge of how to blink our eyes and while doctors make guesstimates about what could be harmful I think if done properly there is no reason a child cannot learn how to apply and have applied to them joint locks.

Michael Hackett 08-06-2011 08:51 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Anita, you're right of course. I've been an assistant instructor in our kids' class for about five years now, along with another assistant. Our Sensei is the primary teacher. It is a big commitment to be there for the two classes a week for years on end that we offer and to make sure that my partner will be there if I can't for some reason and vice versa. Any one of the three of us can handle the class alone, but we prefer to have a minimum of two instructors on the mat at all times. Speaking only for myself, there are times I feel like pulling my hair out, but it all balances out when you see the light come on. I learn more from them each class than they do from me. It is a rewarding experience for me and a privilege. A lot of work, but well worth the effort.

crbateman 08-06-2011 11:35 PM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
I'm with Anita on this one... Teaching kids for the wrong reasons is not a good idea. As for "day care", you are bound to have some kids who want to play, as well as some parents who are looking to dump the kids on somebody else for a few minutes. It goes with the territory, so if your instructor hasn't got thick enough skin, he's going to be unhappy, and it will show. Excluding everybody who isn't totally focused on training will probably result in numbers too low to be profitable.

I suggest a compromise. Limit enrollment to kids 10 and up, and make it a program that they will feel proud (and motivated) to participate in earnest.

If you'd like to model your program after a successful one, seek out Auge Sensei of Yoseikan.

Michael Hackett 08-07-2011 12:26 AM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Auge Sensei's kids did an incredible demo at the 2005 AikiExpo. I second Clark's recommendation. Little ones to teenagers were all outstanding!

lbb 08-07-2011 06:34 AM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
Quote:

Clark Bateman wrote: (Post 289691)
I'm with Anita on this one... Teaching kids for the wrong reasons is not a good idea. As for "day care", you are bound to have some kids who want to play, as well as some parents who are looking to dump the kids on somebody else for a few minutes. It goes with the territory, so if your instructor hasn't got thick enough skin, he's going to be unhappy, and it will show. Excluding everybody who isn't totally focused on training will probably result in numbers too low to be profitable.

Yes. Ideally, you'd like to have a mat full of kids who are there because they really want to do aikido. But with any children's activity program, it's just a fact of life, most will be there for other reasons, at least at first. Given that neither they nor their parents really know what aikido is at first, I don't see how it can be otherwise (and I don't think that changes if you make them watch a few classes). The other reasons -- to get the kid off the couch, to get the kid off the parent's hands for an hour, to get their kid doing activities because all the other yuppies' kids have a laundry list of activities, whatever -- aren't something you want to structure your program around, but they're part of the agenda that you need to deal with.

Here are a few suggestions:
  • On the kids' registration/release form, ask, the parents if the kid has any physical issues or learning challenges that the instructor should know about. Give the parents the opportunity to tell you about things that you really should know before you take the child on the mat.
  • Don't let a kid on the mat until a release form is signed, not even for warmups.
  • Keep everybody's expectations in check: the kids', the parents', and especially yours. If a ten-year-old kid is coming once a week to a Saturday morning aikido class (missing some Saturdays when the family has another activity), it will be quite some time before they retain much of anything in the way of skills. If a very achievement-oriented parent wants to bring their kid for as much training as possible and turn them into a little junior black belt, explain that even with regular training, it takes a long time for a kid to develop aikido skills.
  • If parents are bringing a child to aikido to deal with a bullying situation, tell them bluntly that they need to seek other solutions first and foremost.
  • Tell them up front about behaviors that won't be tolerated on the mat. Kids will forget this and need reminding, but if a parent realizes that their kid simply can't comply with rules that are there for safety, it's best if they know right off and don't even get started.
  • Know in advance what you are going to do if a child is disruptive or does something unsafe. Don't make it up on the spot.
  • Keep an eye on the dressing room. If kids are going to tease or harass each other, that's where it's most likely to happen.
  • Don't let kids simply walk out of the dojo and down the street. Parents should be picking them up.
  • Don't be heartbroken when a kid stops training. Most kids have so many other activities in their lives, and many of these activities give them a better opportunity to socialize with their peers from school (think youth sports leagues). It's natural for kids to drift in and out of activities, and to gravitate to activities that their friends are doing.

The program at our dojo does very well, and I think does about as good a job as can be done at retaining kids. One of the best ways to retain kids and strengthen the dojo is to get their parents onto the mat as well. We now have a class that's designated as a "parent-child" class -- it's not exclusively for parents with kids, but the idea is that when a kid gets more advanced and is ready to focus more on technique, they can train in that class with parents or other adults. It's a weekly occasion: go to the dojo, train, then everybody stops at the ice cream stand afterwards. "People from the dojo" become part of the parents' social circles, "kids from the dojo" become who the kids want to invite to their birthday parties, etc.

Don Nordin 08-07-2011 09:55 AM

Re: Teaching Children Aikido
 
I have not taught children, but my son started Tae Kwon Do at a young age. His Sensei was very good and really enjoyed teaching kids. For what it's worth it I would not go into any teaching endeavor with kids if I did not like dealing with kids.


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