Re: Kids' Classes - Challenging AND Fun?
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?