Re: Structuring Youth Aikido Programs
Currently my sensei has his program set up as open for ages 5-17. We have classes Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Monday and Wednesdays are primarily for newer and younger students. We try to group children of the same age and if possible similar rank together. Thursday is an advanced/ teen class. If a child is not a teen but reaches an advanced rank then they usually take the Thursday class. Saturday is a mixed class -- all ranks and all ages. But we still sort according to age then level. What helps is to have at least two other adults in addition to the instructor on the mat to help out -- especially with the younger ones.
As far as ranking goes we start the children out at 10th kyu (yellow belt) and they work their way up to 6th kyu (brown belt) once they pass their 5th kyu test they are permitted to join the adult class. About a year ago we had about 9 teens test for their 5th kyu, but they didn't seem to keen on joining the adults classes as they still were too intense for their taste and well training with someone their parents ages just isn't "cool". So sensei made the Thursday class more teen focused and encourages them to take the adults basics and beginner classes. If a younger child reaches their blue belt (8th kyu) sensei will start deciding to allow them to enter the teen/ advanced class. This decision is based on maturity level. He plans on adding an additional teens class as we have still maitained a large number of our teens and they are approaching their 4th kyu.
The way sensei has the program structured is that by the time a child in the kids program reaches their 5th kyu they have a solid grounding in the basics of aikido -- more so than most adults at a 5th kyu level, which is about 6 months of practice for an adult where some of these teens at 5th kyu have been training for 5-9 years some even more.