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Old 05-24-2013, 06:13 AM   #5
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Dojo: Vestfyn Aikikai Denmark
Location: Vissenbjerg
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 801
Re: Starting a kids class- seeking advice & wisdom

We started a kids class about a year ago. I've learned a lot, and discovered even more things I don't know how to deal with. It's hard work. I would love to say it is also rewarding, and sometimes it is.. but sometimes it is just hard work.

We have kids between 9 and 13 of age. Some are good kids and some are troublemakers. Not by choice but due to varying circumstances. Either lack of contact to adult role models, social or chemical imbalances that would probably lead to a diagnose if a doctor was involved.

Fact is they create a lot of disturbance and sometime even make it hard to run a good class for the rest. The easy thing would be to ban them from class, but I really really believe that they need it more than the rest and that we should do our best to handle them in a good way.

My point is that I spend a lot of time preparing for the introduction of a childrens class. I made curriculum, decided how long to train for each grading and how to connect grades with adult grading system etc etc. However I did not realize that it is even more difficult to plan for children than for grown ups. Reasoning with them is just different and to a certain extend not possible.

I don't want to discourage you. It is great to have such a class. Both for the children, for the dojo and for your own personal growth, but get ready to have a lot of thoughts about how to motivate, teach and in other ways deal with children - not to mention their parents. Sometimes the kids are just there because their parents tell them they have to. Not the best parameter for motivation

Lately I have tried to share the hour we have in three segments:
1. Warm up with a lot of small competitions (stand in a circle and see who can stay with one leg stretched out the longest etc) about 15 minutes
2. other games and drills (irimi tenkan / balance a jo between two persons - no hands / stand in a circle and change places without being caught by the 'monster in the middle') about 20 minutes. This include slightly advanced ukemi practice for some - forward ukemi ower a jo, break falls ower a crouching person etc
3. Actual aikido techniques. I teach simple versions. 2 maybe 3 techniques pr. class (mostly just 2).

This makes at least one part of the training enjoyable for most.

We also recap the 3 rules every time a new student joins:
1. I am the sensei - so I get to decide ALWAYS
2. When I clap twice everybody got to the line and sit in seiza
3. We all have to take care of each other.

It might seem strange, but the kids really love such simple rules. They compete with show of hands to get to name them when we recap, and they all know them pretty much by heart.

I'm learning to teach kids - but it's really difficult. The hardest part for me is to let go of my ideals and teach kids in stead of teaching Aikido. It takes special skills to be a good child instructor. I don't posses them, but I do my best. I have seen my Japanese sensei and his wife teach 100 children at a seminar in Poland. That was great. They had a great attitude of fun and playfulness that I hope to be able to develop.

Final advice: seek out others that have childrens class and pick up anything you can from them. Besides own experience nothing beats learning from others

God luck. I hope you get a great bunch of good kids.


- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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