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Old 08-06-2011, 01:42 PM   #2
Michael Hackett
Dojo: Kenshinkan Dojo (Aikido of North County) Vista, CA
Location: Oceanside, California
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,236
Re: Teaching Children Aikido

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.

"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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