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Old 08-22-2013, 04:22 AM   #1
David Norton
Dojo: Pax River Aikikai / Hollywood, MD
Location: Lexington Park, MD
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Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Hey all,

I am considering starting a children's class, but there are some things I'd like to know beforehand. First, what is the youngest age I should accept students? In talking to my Dad (who has been coaching kid's sports for more than 50 years), seven years old seems to be the point where kids have the attention span and emotional maturity to participate in sports. This varies, of course. But generally, younger than seven seems to be too young. What is your experience?

Also, I am very concerned about safety for kids. I've heard that growth plate injuries are a big concern for kids in sports. But are growth plate injuries common in the martial arts, or aikido specifically? And what about joint techniques (kotegaeshi, nikkyo, sankyo, etc.)? How safe are these for children? I would think they'd be slightly more dangerous than for adults. But I have only just started to look into it. Does anyone have any solid evidence (e.g. info from medical journals) related to children practicing aikido?

By the way... I've done a bit of searching in the forum here, and have seen some great ideas on running a children's class (games, exercises, etc.). So thanks to everyone who's posted on that subject! I plan on borrow liberally from these posts.

Thanks!!
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Old 08-22-2013, 05:06 AM   #2
PaulF
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Hi David

I've seen great kids classes with students younger than that (5 and up), sometimes with 20+ students, but I think having a firm and confident teaching style is critical to making them work well, as is a lot of energy! As you've said there's lots of good stuff on here about that aspect from folks with loads of direct experience.

I believe there was a large study in Japan about the effects of joint techniques on children which has informed the policy of the Aikikai affiliated societies in the UK but I haven't been able to dig it up. The BAB (umbrella body) has a whole suite of policy and guidance documentation on safeguarding, child protection, privacy, etc. but obviously these are in the context of UK rather than US law. They might be a useful starting point though.

We're very cautious about joint techniques in our society, using things like pressure inside the elbow instead of applying kote gaeshi at the wrist, and allowing uke to come onto techniques in order to manage the level of its application themselves. IME safety issues can often play out the other way around in mixed groups, with kids loving to pile on nikyo etc. whilst seeing adults as essentially bullet proof, (my youngest is a nightmare for this). I know a godan who was off the mat for 3 months through a 12 y.old girl putting sankyo on him and taking out all his soft tissue from wrist to shoulder, by his own admission his own fault for not respecting her and the technique sufficiently to be ready to respond.

Another key issue in mixed groups is managing mat space of course, with all adults needing to be especially conscious of where the children are and trying to keep them to the edge of the mat as much as possible since the really serious injuries all seem to come from people landing on each other.

Standard caveat: Please take all this with a fair pinch of salt as I'm a complete novice and someone better informed will be along shortly.

Cheers,

Paul
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Old 08-22-2013, 05:50 AM   #3
Susan Dalton
Dojo: Greensboro Kodokan
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

HI David,
I would make sure you have enough adult help. I taught kids 5 and up. My class was fairly small, 6 - 8 children most of the time, but 3 of those kids were older children who had done aikido for quite some time. The person at my dojo who teaches the children's class now has a much larger group, but she will often have 5 adults on the mat. Have fun!
Susan
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Old 08-22-2013, 06:46 AM   #4
ChrisMikk
 
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

We have a kids class here in Kyoto with kids 5 and up. It works fine. Of course, it is Yoshinkan, so there is a lot of kihon dosa and ukemi practice rather than just techniques. However, the kids seem to be fine with joint locks and throws. Little people actually fall much more lightly and safely than us big bruisers.

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Old 08-22-2013, 08:59 AM   #5
lbb
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Depending on what kind of interest you're getting, think about breaking classes by age. If you're teaching a class that will work for kids as young as 5 (or even younger), there's a good chance it won't work well for pre-teens.
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Old 08-22-2013, 09:33 AM   #6
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Susan Dalton has a wonderful column this month on a class of real little ones
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22878

I think it's wonderful, but I'm not really into kids that much and was happiest some years ago assisting with a class of 7 to 11 year olds - they can focus and learn. Ikkyo, iriminage, kotegaishe, etc all are fine as long as they aren't cranking...and since adults shouldn't be cranking for pain compliance, makes sense to me to start teaching it from an early age!

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 08-22-2013, 10:51 AM   #7
jonreading
 
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Potty-trained...solidly - 4-5 years. The attention span will limit your curriculum. I actually recommend judo for younger kids to stay away from joint locks and sophisticated techniques. I help teach ashi sabaki, te sabaki, tai saki and kuzushi movements in our kids judo class.

Serious aikido... teens, pre-teens maybe. I find it odd that on one hand we explain how aikido is for everyone and on the other, we justify a 30-yr learning curve. I guess we better start 'em early because otherwise they die before they know what they're doing... I also make a point to describe our training for young people as martial movement, not practically a martial art.

In one of my favorite YouTube channel episodes (Enter the Dojo), Master Ken requests of an author who wrote a book about teaching martial arts to a child to appropriately title the book, games children play before they get beat up. While clearly making fun of the "take-yo'-doe" industry, I can appreciate the humor in being honest with what we "teach" kids.

Good luck!

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Old 08-22-2013, 11:34 AM   #8
Keith Larman
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

FWIW we allow kids to start at 5. Being one of the instructors I will comment that many 5-year-olds are perfectly fine with simple classes learning to roll, move, escape, basic stuff like that. However, development rates are on a bell curve themselves so you will have some 5-year-olds (and 6-year-olds) who just aren't ready for a class of any sort. The problems are no focus, no self-control, etc. There are times I have a new student where I'll wish we'd push the age up to 7 or 8, but then again there some amazingly focused and interested kids under that age. So it's a challenge to say the least. And you should always have at least a mature assistant or better yet a second adult in the class for all sorts of reasons. Even with a small number of kids having 2 adults is important for keeping control, being able to deal with issues (Jimmy has developed a spontaneously bloody nose), but also simply for accountability and legal reasons.

So FWIW we let them start at 5 and there are pros and cons there. If I had a do-over on that policy, well, I think I'd go for 7 instead. But it works either way for me.

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Old 08-23-2013, 04:59 AM   #9
David Norton
Dojo: Pax River Aikikai / Hollywood, MD
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback! I appreciate it.
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Old 08-23-2013, 06:28 AM   #10
David Norton
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
In one of my favorite YouTube channel episodes (Enter the Dojo), Master Ken requests of an author who wrote a book about teaching martial arts to a child to appropriately title the book, games children play before they get beat up. While clearly making fun of the "take-yo'-doe" industry, I can appreciate the humor in being honest with what we "teach" kids.
Jon,

Do you have any more information on this video? And the book he references? Thanks!
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Old 08-23-2013, 10:54 AM   #11
jonreading
 
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Quote:
David Norton wrote: View Post
Jon,

Do you have any more information on this video? And the book he references? Thanks!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kCVH...E2chwpoqD4DSTA
As a full disclaimer, Enter The Dojo is not real. Hilariously not real. It is worth watching.

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Old 08-23-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
NagaBaba
 
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

If you don’t have experience, a group of 5-6 kids is max. Set low expectation for yourself and/or for parents.
The most important – is a discipline and respect (+ usual aikido etiquette) – use carrot and stick method. It can take about a year to learn it …Limit your own discourses, talk as little as possible(they are not able to grasp any theoretical sophisticated aikido concepts). Teach 15 minutes weapons every class(wooden weapons LOL). Do a lot of dynamic gymnastic exercises. Kids must run as often as possible(except when they destroy all around them, then put them flat to the ground). Lot of rolling, jumping and again rolling…Let them practice every technique no longer that 2-3 minutes and switch to next. Don’t teach any locks – kids body is not developed enough for it until age of 16 (do you know they are learning how to WALK until age of 8?).Use their competitive spirit to teach (i.e. who can jump over and roll forward above larger and larger obstacle). Develop one play (i.e. dragons fight) and let them play in the end of the class if a discipline was good during the class(again some carrot ). If one of them fall asleep in the middle of tatami simply drag him into the corner and continue teaching.. There will be a blood and minor injuries, prepare a first aid kit and take a first aid certification.

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 08-23-2013, 05:18 PM   #13
Janet Rosen
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Nagababa's post reminds me to post this
http://www.aikidokids.com/games.html

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 08-24-2013, 05:34 AM   #14
David Norton
Dojo: Pax River Aikikai / Hollywood, MD
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

Szczepan - great stuff! Thanks!!

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
Develop one play (i.e. dragons fight) and let them play in the end of the class if a discipline was good during the class(again some carrot ).
What is "dragons fight"? I've read about a few "aikido games", but this one is new to me.
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Old 08-31-2013, 08:53 AM   #15
Susan Dalton
Dojo: Greensboro Kodokan
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Re: Teaching children - age restrictions and safety

As a parent of a 27 year old who began aikido when he was 5, I think the benefits were enormous. No matter how long I stay in the dojo and he stays out, I will never have his ukemi. It is part of him, ingrained into his body for most of his life. The philosophy, too. What I had to work hard to get rid of and replace just wasn't ever put into him. The dojo was a wonderful community that helped me raise my child.
Susan
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