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Old 06-25-2004, 12:56 AM   #1
xuzen's Avatar
Dojo: None at the moment - on hiatus
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 965
Children and Aikido

Dear fellow practitioner,

I have a question: My nieces and nephews are aged between 4 -7 years old. Recenty their parents asked me if I could teach them Aikido, since I have been doing it almost a decade now, but I have no formal teaching credentials (read: no instructor cert).

Based on my experience, I started Aikido in my early 20's when I have the mental capabilty to appreciate the cultural, spiritual and martial richness of Aikido. IMHO, Aikido tends to gravitate towards the more mature crowd.

I simply blurted out that it would be better to send them to Judo classes since it is more of a sport orientated and they will have more fun oriented activities suitable for their age.

I hope to solicit fellow practitioner's (especially instructors)views and I welcome further comment.

Thanks a million,
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Old 06-25-2004, 01:50 AM   #2
PeterR's Avatar
Dojo: Shodokan Honbu (Osaka)
Location: Himeji, Japan
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 3,319
Re: Children and Aikido

Hi Boon;

Honbu has kids classes from about 5 - the kids have fun, learn the basics, drive the deshi nuts. We generally don't worry about the cultural, spiritual and martial richness of Aikido even with the adults. They either learn to appriciate it on their own or not.

I wont teach kids - just not interested but if I were to I would not forget that they are kids. I've faced the same question and blurted out the same answer you gave. I think Judo is great for kids. If its available its an easy out for you.

Now if its not and your relatives insist make sure that the class has at least 10 kids before you even start - more is better.. It has to be regular and you have to take into account drop outs. Kids loose their enthusism even faster than adults. This is based on conversations I've had with people who have.

Make sure your relatives appreciate the sacrifice you are making and buy duct tape, lots of it (old joke).

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-25-2004, 10:27 AM   #3
Dojo: Shobu Aikido Cape Cod
Location: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 152
Re: Children and Aikido

I have had some young kids from time to time. What I found is that attention span is the primary issue. Knowing that, design the class to have some aikido study, then a none-aikido activity that will allow the kids to use some of what they have learned. then go back to aikido. This back and forth during class allows the kids to focus better as the activity is constantly changing....

And remember....all kids learn at different rates...and all kids(adults too) hear things differently. So be prepared to explain the same thing many times...and differently each time!!!!!

Good luck!!
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Old 06-25-2004, 12:25 PM   #4
Jack Simpson
Dojo: Western Maryland Aikikai - Frederick, Maryland
Location: hangin' with the tengu in the "mountains" of Maryland
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 91
Re: Children and Aikido

Our dojo doesn't have a separate kid's class which I think is necessary to be fair to both kids and adults. Most kids classes I've seen are mostly centered around games and making the kids comfortable on the mat (with falling, etc). In general, very little real aikido technique is done, especially with the younger kids.

As a rule as well, I think 4 or 5 years old is too young for any martial arts training, and even 6 and ups need to be cautioned repeatedly not to use what they've learned "just for fun". To kids a new technique is like a new toy and they'll want to "share it" with sibs, schoolmates, etc.

That being said, there are some good books on the subject, "Ah, to be a kid", by Michael Friedl, and others have explored various techniques for teaching youngsters. And if you do decide to give it a go, I'll leave you with a quote I heard awhile back: "No time spent with a child is wasted". Not sure who said it, but I think it's true.

Best Regards,
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Old 06-25-2004, 01:58 PM   #5
Dojo: formerly Windward Aikido, formerly at Keewenaw Schools of Aikido (ASU)
Location: Formerly Hawaii Pacific University, formerly at Michigan Technological University
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 71
Re: Children and Aikido

I'm teaching a kids class tomorrow morning. It is amazing sometimes how much they can do, when they're focused. It is a challenging training for me in dealing with the flow of so many short attention spans. There are many things that I do to keep things on track; but if it gets out of hand, some solo breathing meditation usually calms them back down. I've also been impressed by the foundation that some of our kids have ended up with when they become adult. Don't write off the young mind's ability to learn both the physical and philosophical aspects of aikido.

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 06-25-2004, 07:36 PM   #6
Christy S
Location: Florida
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 18
Re: Children and Aikido


I have been training in Aikido since I was seven and continue til this day, I'm 19 and now shodan. My father started training with me in the adult classes and would always take me to the social gatherings. Aikido is now my passion and is a part of who I am. I couldn't of asked for a better gift from my father. The Aikido people are my family and even though I couldn't fully comprehend the whole aspect of Aikido, it allowed the techniques to become ingrained and instinctive to me. Every single Aikidoka I have talked has wished that they started Aikido at a younger age. I say give your children a chance and let them decide, at least you've given them a great opportunity. Take them to classes and included yourself into the kids class. If no kids class ask your sensei if you can train with them on the side (thats what my father did, he is good friends with my sensei). I know this interfered with my father's training and growth but when he watches me train I know he has no regrets. When there are social gatherings, take them! The bond with Aikido people is what helped me continue my training throughout my teens years, without that I probably would have quit for good. If anyone has any questions I would be glad to help if I can. Thanks and happy training!

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Old 06-25-2004, 07:42 PM   #7
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 522
Re: Children and Aikido

We held a kids' seminar last weekend; I was assistant instructor. Both the kids and the teachers had a great time with it--having it be a seminar made it feel particularly "special" so they were, on the whole, particularly focused.

I would have said that teaching aikido to very young children was a bit of a waste until I met one of our students, who is not quite seven yet but extraordinarily focused. He not only picks up technique really well (within his physical limits--he's small and not strong yet) but he thinks hard about what he's doing. Saturday he told us that ikkyo undo done correctly protects your face, but if you pull your hands back as the other kids were doing it only protects your hair. Everyone laughed, and I thought, hey, that was a better explanation than the one I gave....

He and I have been working on jo kata together; he picks it up quite fast. We had to cut down a jo for him, though! This would not have been my skill of choice to teach a six-year-old, but it really caught his imagination. (The older ones like jo too, but like bokken even more, at least till their shoulders start to hurt. But this is a problem for the adults too.)

I think the essential thing with kids is that they need to want to be there; you may have to talk to parents about appropriateness for that particular child. We have one who is not interested anymore, and he is a total drag in class. But when they are interested, they can get (and give) a lot.

I did some kokyu dosa with one of our orange-belt students who is, I think, nine or ten, and was flabbergasted--he was harder to throw than most of my adult classmates. I told him so; he went off and hunted down sensei and asked if this was really true. Sensei threw him a few times and said yes, it was. Aikido is amazing: how is this person who's about 4' and 70 lbs sitting still while being leaned on by a 160 lb adult?

Anyway, my bottom line is that our students seem to get a lot out of it, both the games and the techniques, and I'm really enjoying working with them. I thought it might be a chore but it's not (except for the one kid who doesn't want to be there).

Mary Kaye
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Old 06-30-2004, 10:24 PM   #8
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 824
Re: Children and Aikido

It really does help that they want to be there. It also helps when they are able to sit through and hour class. What age this is depends on the child. We just had two 5 1/2 year old start and they were highly capable of paying attention and following direction. But some at that age wouldn't be able.

Also, it helps that the parents actually care and work towards to the child's development rather than just using it for baby sitting. If they use it for baby sitting the kids don't last very long, but if the parent's care about their child's learning, whether it's in just showing up and sitting in the audience watching them... and correcting them at times or whether in the parent's themselves taking up aikido, it helps the child to progress.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 07-17-2004, 11:18 AM   #9
Lyle Laizure
Lyle Laizure's Avatar
Dojo: Hinode Dojo LLC
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 563
Re: Children and Aikido

Kid's classes are great. They can be more challenging than adults but I think they are much more rewarding.

That said, I would ask how close you are wth your relatives. If you are close and you have a open casual relationship with them you need to be prepared for extra work so to speak. You need to explain to them that the format of your relationship is different when in a class situation opposed to being at home. That is the other thing. You really need to get away from the home environment. I would suggest a park where there isn't a lof of playground equiptment for distraction.

I don't think there is anything wrong with children taking Aikido whether in the adults class or having a special class set aside for them. The key to doing it right it making it interactive so they control their learning, or at least think they do. Relatives though make it more difficult though and I would recdomend having them study at another school in the initial stages so they learn how to behave without thinking you are picking on them.

Lyle Laizure
Deru kugi wa uta reru
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