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Old 01-13-2006, 04:22 PM   #1
senshincenter
 
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Kids Program - What's yours like?

Hi All,

I was wondering what your kids program is like...

What do you hope to accomplish with such a program and how do you go about doing that?

many thanks,
dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 01-13-2006, 04:37 PM   #2
aikidoc
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

We are just starting ours so it is a work in process.

Our Goals:
1. Establish a solid set of values (respect, etiquette, etc.)
2. Teach aikido basics

We accomplish this through a combination of structured teaching and games. Go to the web and type in children or kids aikido programs and a lot of good stuff comes up. Aikidokids.com, I believe, is a good link.
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Old 01-13-2006, 05:41 PM   #3
markwalsh
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

This is new re aikido and kids:

http://www.aikidoinn.com/gashuku/kenshukai.htm
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Old 01-13-2006, 07:27 PM   #4
senshincenter
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I'm thinking on this now - wondering how we teach values through Aikido techniques and/or through games (aikido games or otherwise). Take the value of honor or honesty - what game does one play to cultivate honor? What technique teaches honesty? This is not targeted at anyone in particular - certainly not those that have posted thus far. However, when I find myself thinking on this matter, these questions come easily to the forefront of what we are doing or trying to do. Another example - you see it all over the place: "Learn confidence." Question: How? What does one do in a dojo that helps a student learn confidence? Can confidence be learned? If so, how? If so, what gets in the way of learning it? Etc. Does joining "little ninjas," having some sleep overs in the dojo, getting the next rank, being able to by the next gi color, scoring some points in kumite, passing some tests before a board that would never dare fail you, etc. - does all of that really cultivate confidence, or does it merely cultivate the delusion of grandeur that has one acting as if he/she is deserving of more than he/she already has? Etc.

Take a virtue - any virtue - what does one do in a kids program to cultivate that virtue? Can we be specific on this matter? Does this kind of question have a single answer? If not, what makes up the multi-relational "thing" that supposedly works to cultvate a given virtue.

Alternately, can kids learn Aikido? Or are they only restricted, because of their tendency to be spiritually immature, to the most superficial of technical aspects (i.e. they have to suck) only?

thinking out loud here. thanks for the links - i'll see if i can pull some of what is there here - for more discussion.

dmv

Last edited by senshincenter : 01-13-2006 at 07:30 PM.

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-13-2006, 07:34 PM   #5
giriasis
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Alternately, can kids learn Aikido? Or are they only restricted, because of their tendency to be spiritually immature, to the most superficial of technical aspects (i.e. they have to suck) only?
Yes, they can learn Aikido, although, yes, the philosophical part is a bit beyond them -- at least at the younger ages. Technically, by the time our kids have gone through our kids program and tested for their adult ranks, they have a solid underpinning of principles. They don't articulate them verballly so much as when you train with them you can FEEL it. Good centers and movement. By they time they are teens (we have about 6-8 teens) they start exploring the other aspects.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 01-13-2006, 08:52 PM   #6
Mark Uttech
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I have been teaching kids since 1989... There's is a different kind of aikido. A true dojo becomes a refuge that gives kids a safe place to grow up and practice self defense.
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Old 01-14-2006, 12:24 AM   #7
MaryKaye
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I was working with our senior kid student, a twelve year old blue belt. We were taking turns at ryote tori tenchinage and he mentioned the no-touch version of this throw. I said, "It's on my next test but I can't do it yet."

He promptly insisted that I teach it to him, and managed, from my mangled demonstration, to feel how it ought to go and show it to me. He was only succeeding about half the time, but that's better than I have ever been able to do. This is a really devilishly hard throw, all timing.

After this experience I am certainly not going to judge his aikido as shallow. Clearly there is a principle here which he understands significantly better than I do.

I don't have time for a long post, but a couple of quick points:

"Honesty"--The most strenuous training I've seen for this in the dojo is the game "Red Light/Green Light." If the person who is "it" calls out other students only when they have really made a mistake, and they do not argue when genuinely caught, the game flows well and is fun. If either the caller or the others try to cheat or argue debatable cases, the game collapses and we have to stop playing. The older ones are beginning to understand how this works, and--without our saying anything--their approach has changed. (The younger ones, alas, don't get it yet.)

Another place I think they grasp honesty is that we try hard, as adults on the mat, to admit our mistakes, apologize when we hurt our partners accidentally, and accept corrections when they are well-founded. This gives the kids a model for how to behave--they may take it or leave it alone, but it's something they can learn from if they choose. I think many adults never admit they are wrong when dealing with kids, which certainly does not model honesty.

Our previous seniormost kid is now assistant kids' instructor. It is fascinating watching this teenager realize that if he does what he pleases, the little kids will copy him leading to chaos: if he disciplines his behavior, they will tend to follow suit. I don't think he gets this in school because his classmates are pretty much the same age he is.

I think it's worthwhile, though not for kids who are only there under duress--I haven't seen that work out well yet.

Mary Kaye
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Old 01-14-2006, 09:20 AM   #8
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Anne Marie Giri wrote:
Yes, they can learn Aikido, although, yes, the philosophical part is a bit beyond them -- at least at the younger ages. Technically, by the time our kids have gone through our kids program and tested for their adult ranks, they have a solid underpinning of principles. They don't articulate them verbally so much as when you train with them you can FEEL it. Good centers and movement. By they time they are teens (we have about 6-8 teens) they start exploring the other aspects.
I think what will follow in this thread are some very hard questions. Sometimes in these discussions, we don't want to hear them, let alone ask them of ourselves. For me, this is training, or at least a huge part of training - and then especially of teaching: we need to be able to ask some hard questions of ourselves. People are raising some very good points, and the questions I'm about to ask are not aimed at anyone in particular. They are just the questions that need to be asked - in my opinion.

In the end, I think we will see how our answers reflect something of our own adult training - which means that folks that don't teach children can and should feel free to jump in anytime.

I can understand the division we may want to draw between technical aspects and philosophical aspects. However, I can also understand that such division - whenever it does work - tends to only function under the most artificial of conditions (e.g. kihon waza training/dojo-contained interpersonal relationships). In essence then, there is a kind of "falseness" to such things that are "born" of these divisions - the way a tropical plant can grow in a greenhouse in Antarctica. It's real, but it's not real. At this point,when one is measuring artificially existing things, verbalization is not so much the issue, so too then is not a capacity to feel things. This is because what one is feeling is present only under false/high-manufactured conditions. In other words, and again this is not aimed at Ann Marie, what can the solid underpinnings be of something that can only exist under false conditions? That's a question for all aikidoka - not just the teachers of children.

If on the other hand, one never seeks to draw the division between body and mind, theory and practice, martial viability and spiritual maturity, etc., this falseness never becomes an issue - the greenhouse is seen for the greenhouse that it is. Training thus takes on a different appearance as it takes on a different meaning. This could occur not only at the level of practice but also at the level of the institution. As an example of differences appearing at the level of the institution: When a division is made between the above-mentioned things, rank, and more importantly the climbing in rank, becomes possible since one measures the reception of technical information and the portrayal of information under controlled/false conditions. When a division is not made, technical information is always seen as being doomed to being incomplete (since a child - say under the age of 18/19 - cannot be grounded enough in the moral and spiritual aspects of understanding the training within more spontaneous/less artificial conditions). As it is incomplete from the get-go, there is no point to measure it and thus no point in recognizing what cannot be anything but short - hence no rank, no testing - just training.

Question: Do you rank your children? How? Why? Under what premise? How is your cultivation of virtues affected by the pursuance of rank? etc.

I'll write more later,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-14-2006, 12:01 PM   #9
senshincenter
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
I have been teaching kids since 1989... There's is a different kind of aikido. A true dojo becomes a refuge that gives kids a safe place to grow up and practice self defense.

More questions - again, not aimed at anyone in particular - but using posts to raise issues in more detail...

At what age can a child apply self-defense skills? Against whom? Is children's self-defense aimed at children defending off an adult attacker? What kind? What goes in to self-defense skills for children when it comes to fending off an adult attacker? Aren't awareness issues more reliable here and if so how are they to be taught in a dojo to children - through what means? Are they being taught? Do our programs go into making distinctions between strangers/don't knows, kind-of-knows, and/or don't knows/kind-of-knows when their parents are around, etc.?

Are self-defense skills for children being aimed at them defending off other children? Is that a skill they should know? A skill they should use? Do, for example, schools condone such behavior in third graders (8 year olds)? "He attacked me first so I did Irimi Nage on him - he forgot not to hit his head on the pavement." I don't think so - right?

How does this all work in terms of virtue development? How does an 8 year old gain a sense of community, centeredness, compassion, fearlessness, etc., if they are subtly given the message via their training that there are folks - both adult and children - out there that want to attack them and that will hurt them if they are not able to hurt them first or hurt them worse? What if the dojo is the first messenger that brings this reality to their existence - "folks will attack you against your will." Should a dojo do that or should parents? If a dojo does it, what stops paranoia from setting in? What stops a delusional attraction and glorification of violence from setting in?

Again, I think all of these questions apply to our own adult training as well.

more later,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-14-2006, 02:05 PM   #10
Mark Uttech
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Calm down Dave, aikido is not about fighting... Even self defense is not always about fighting.
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Old 01-14-2006, 04:01 PM   #11
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Dave,

It feels like you are really over-thinking this kids class thing. We all just try to do the best we can with our kids class. My Sensei and I started our kids program a couple of years ago and it has changed quite a bit in that time. We are learning as we go. As far as instilling all the honor/honesty/rectitude and so forth: Lead by example. If you work with these kids right, if you command respect and respect them, they will absorb the tenants of budo through you. You are not teaching them a pseudo-Aikido either...it is just one more suited for little ones. It still can be mind/body unification, you can still teach them to be centered and relaxed. You can teach them to be good little kids, and since applying Aikido to yourself (True Victory is Self Victory) is a pillar of Aikido, then its all golden right?

A note of the "good little kid part": Give them this homework assignment for every class---they must do something nice for someone without being asked (parents, siblings, teachers, friends). It works great.
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Old 01-14-2006, 04:24 PM   #12
ElizabethCastor
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

O wow Dave, you really weren't kidding--- you've got a lot of questions! I think its really cool, though.

I will start with the last question on the latest list...
Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
What if the dojo is the first messenger that brings this (atacker) reality to their existence - "folks will attack you against your will." Should a dojo do that or should parents? If a dojo does it, what stops paranoia from setting in? What stops a delusional attraction and glorification of violence from setting in?
Kids should be hearing this long before they show up on the mat from primarily from parents and secondarily from schools. I work at public schools and we talk to the kids about safety from about the age of 5-6 (kindergarten). It begins as a gentle message, granted and we talk about "noticing" and being aware (maybe think: lessons for musubi). What looks right, wrong, safe and not safe; plus, stuff on strangers and I guess its called right touch/wrong touch. Schools and kids are often dealing with the traditional bullies, pushing, shoving, scraping/fighting, and name calling. The kids should all know what that looks and feels like. They should also know some rudimentary ways to deflect these kinds of "attacks."

To me this is where you can begin a tiny bit of the philisophical underpinnings: the concepts of being the bigger person and not raising to the teasing and engaging in conflict. The concept of not engaging the enemy is in many of the dokas... you just have to talk about it from children's daily experiences. (And trust me schools don't want kids to use MA on the playground. Especially in the "he attacked me scenario" you explained. Most often, at public schools, when fighting is involved the approach is that both parties involved have consequences.)

Also, consider this, one of the joys of being a kid is that playful innocence. For younger kiddos (5-10) aikido is really a cool exercise. They are learning how to take cool somersaults, they can lift a friend by the elbows, they can find their center and balance... some of it is a pure love of learning and growing your-own-self. Kids LOVE it when they see themselves improving. Think on some of your proudest/greatest achievements as a kid/young adult... I'll bet at least half if not all of them are moments when you realized you could do it on your own, right? (think: tying my own shoes, riding my bike, maybe even paying your first set of bills all on your own.) This is where "an 8 year old [can] gain a sense of community, centeredness, compassion, fearlessness, etc." The dojo's the community, the waza develops centeredness and (hopefully healthy) fearlessness and with the principles of aiki and understanding of compassion is expanded from the preexisting innocence.

As far a kiddie self-defense... well... you may have that kind of a discussion but I would wait until the kids are teenagers. I believe you could train a kid to take down a grown-up but I wonder if that's what its all about. Saftey is nice, but how would it affect the kid if the attacker really got hurt taking a bad fall, or worse if the child takes on an attacker and finds out s/he didn't learn enough (or isn't strong enough)? I'd rather teach the kids musubi and how to keep out / get away from possibly dangerous people and situations.

I hope that helps the discussion!

Elizabeth
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Old 01-14-2006, 06:58 PM   #13
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Aikido Kenkyukai in Santa Barbara has a nice kids' class. They seem to enjoy themselves and have a lot of interesting things to say about why they train.
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Old 01-14-2006, 07:18 PM   #14
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Sorry, meant to mention this in last post - One of the interesting things that AKI Santa Barbara is doing is kind of an international exchange program with kids in AKI dojo in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

http://www.akisb.com/gallery.asp
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Old 01-14-2006, 08:31 PM   #15
senshincenter
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
Calm down Dave, aikido is not about fighting... Even self defense is not always about fighting.

Perhaps a person might think that asking questions of oneself and/or participating in exercises of reflection is a sign of panic - but that would not be me. Mark, if you meant, "shut up," you should just say it - but then you'd have to explain why you are even reading this thread since no one is making you. Right? Or maybe you meant something else by "calm down" - if so, I don't get it. Explain.

The fact that self-defense is not all about fighting is a point I made in my own post. You are second in making that point and you are now making it to the person that made it in the first place. This however does not explain how one goes about teaching children self-defense skills via Aikido training and/or if one should even do so. Those questions still remain - and they still remain for anyone claiming to be teaching self-defense to children.

My own opinion - the first one I've directly offered here in this thread - is that "self-defense for children" is a money-making gimmick that works solely off the fear of parents - the fear that runs rampant in our modern culture. It's actually an act that an instructor should be ashamed of participating in - my opinion. I say that in complete calmness. Children should not study Aikido, or any other martial art, for self-defense reasons.

In my opinion, Stephen has it right on the money - a good reason, one that is consistent with itself and with the needs of children: The children train because they enjoy it. Perfect.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-14-2006, 08:48 PM   #16
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Faith Eisentrager wrote:
Dave,

It feels like you are really over-thinking this kids class thing.
Come on, when you say this, don't you really mean, "We all don't like to think about this stuff - we'd rather not think about it at all." I think I could respect that more. It's truthful and it's talking about something you must know - your own person. Why comment on me and assume that a few questions on the topic are all that I may have to reflect upon?

Look, you get all these issues on this forum about what one can or should expect from their training and how one goes about getting "x" or "y," etc. Now, when it comes to children, you got all these claims, sometimes the claims are even grander when it comes to children - confidence, body/mind unification, the tenets of Budo, virtue, self-defense skills, etc. Yet, the programs are often less directed, more ambiguous, etc. - often done with less thought, for example. Where's the outcry? Where's the call to have folks think things through a bit more? It's nowhere to be seen or heard. People freak when some Joe is claiming some lineage back to Takeda, or when some guy is claiming this rank or this teacher or this skill - "Oh my, we must guard the door of Aikido or we will risk losing it forever!" "Rally the troops!" "Get the torches and the sharp farming equipment!" And yet folks all over are making even more outlandish claims when it comes to children and their training in Aikido - and nothing from no one is to be heard.

What's the deal? Does one really think it's just because we are dealing with children? (though that is plenty bad enough) In my opinion, we don't like to think about what we are offering children - the how and why of it. We don't like to think about how full of crap our claims may be. Maybe some of us do - like Stephen. However, I'm learning it is not most of us. Why? Because if we do, we may very well see how full of crap our claims may be for our own adult practice.

This is the third topic I've brought up for volunteer reflection - the first two being the one on Shame and the second one being on Rank Aikido. Some folks can figure these discussions out, others see questions they'd rather not hear because they'd rather believe they already answered them (though they never asked them).

Elizabeth got this just fine. So should others - my opinion. Reflect, ask some questions, raise some issues, think out loud, keep the discussion going, etc. That's the point here. If you'd rather not - fair enough - but why join a thread just to tell others to not do what you don't want to do?

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-15-2006, 12:11 AM   #17
RebeccaM
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I started training when I was 11. My dad wanted me to study a martial art for various reasons. He himself was curious about aikido so he scouted out a dojo, trained for a bit, scouted out their children's program, and then showed my brother and I a class. It was love at first sight. My bro was 7, and we both started training shortly after seeing that one class. That was about 13 years ago. All three of us are still training.

So what did I gain from a children's aikido class? Well, I have always struggled with being an alien in my own body. Aikido helped enormously. I have always been a bit anxious, and the breathing drills we did in the kids classes gave me a valuable relaxation tool I still use when I need to. I could, when I switched into the adult classes, do randori better than anyone else because the games we played in the kids' classes taught me how to evade (this is not true anymore, but that's due to choices I've made as an adult). It improved my posture. It's given me confidence. It's affected my relationship with teachers in a positive way. Learning ukemi has saved me much pain and suffering in all the inevitable wipe-outs that are involved in things like skating, biking, climbing, snowboarding and being a klutz in general.

Could I have learned these lessons elsewhere? Yes. Most likely. But I'm not sure I would have. I liked doing aikido. I looked forward to the classes. So I put in the time and effort to learn the things I learned, and that might not have happened elsewhere.
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Old 01-15-2006, 12:43 AM   #18
senshincenter
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Rebecca Montange wrote:
So what did I gain from a children's aikido class? Well, I have always struggled with being an alien in my own body. Aikido helped enormously. I have always been a bit anxious, and the breathing drills we did in the kids classes gave me a valuable relaxation tool I still use when I need to.
This too I find to be very consistent and very realistic. Perfect - in my opinion.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-15-2006, 12:52 AM   #19
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I have taught kids since 1995 in every dojo I have been a long term member of. I have been currently teaching an average of between 25 to 35 kids for the last two years. We teach ages 5-9 and 10-13 in two separate classes. I think David has a lot of good questions so I will share a few things honestly and maybe it will cover a few issues he mentioned.
I have never enjoyed playing games with kids because that tends to make them wilder and harder to control, especially with the numbers we have. I decided just to have classes like the adults do with a few exceptions. I created a curriculum of techniques based on what I have discovered what the kids could and couldn't do comfortably and without a lot of supervision.
The list is at http://www.shudokanaikido.com/docume...quirements.pdf
I have learned through trail and error that kids had trouble with ura so I selected simple techniques for the beginning levels with only omote and I introduce ura in the advanced levels. (Also, I do teach the kids ura for the earlier techniques as their motor skills in Aikido improve but I do that during any lag time.)

The class is structured like this.
1) Warm up exercises and ukemi practice- 10-15 minutes
2) Divide class by belt levels
3) White belts do orange belt level twice (30 minutes)
One group of upper level teams up with the white belts for the 1st cycle. Instructor helps upper levels (15 minutes)
4) White belts do the second cycle with instructor while upper levels work on their own level. (15 minutes)
5) Freestyle practice- An exercise where each student faced 3-5 "attackers". These run at the defender with a simulated attack while the defender practices defensive movement doing limited techniques based on the level. (15 minutes)
5) Class discussion where each student is either praised for good behavior and or technique or where improvements are suggested. (2 to 5 minutes)
6) Class ends

In the second and older kids class, we use the second cycle of 15 minutes to work on weapons for the orange belt level and up.

As for morals and virtues, I have found that everyones personality is revealed as they spend time on the mat. I don't put morals to the techniques except in this way. I urge all students to be careful and not to hurt their partner. I let advanced students help the newer ones. I let students take leadership roles and "teach" the various belt levels that they have already learned when the class divides into groups.

The main thing I do in terms of ethics and morals is to discuss with the kids how they treat each other and I discuss disputes that they have and how to solve them. 90 percent of the time, they complain about training with certain students who are uncooperative or who argue with them. This gives fertile ground for putting philosophical Aikido in terms they can understand. When we do the freestyle, most students that are having too much fun strike way too hard at the person doing the exercise. That's when I stop the class and talk about it. I ask them in the presence of all a series of questions. Was that kind? Did that kind of action violate our rule of how we take care of each other? Was the student involved in self gratification and forgetting what the exercise is about?

That's what we do in a nutshell. The students are very motivated to reach the next belt level but we don't make it too easy. In order to go through our complete program, the must train 400 hours and it takes from 3 1/2 to 4 years. At the two year mark, my most advanced students are at the green belt level. I may have to make adjustments to some techniques as we continue to chart new territory.
Best wishes,

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 01-15-2006 at 12:57 AM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 01-15-2006, 01:26 AM   #20
Charles Hill
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

This thread is particularly appropriate for me as I am thinking of starting a kids` program at my dojo this year. Sorry if the following is a bit disjointed as I am just going to throw out the various concerns and considerations I have. I do think they are related to Dave`s questions and ideas.

1. My whole goal is to help children become stronger, physically, socially, and emotionally. I define strength as a balance of power (ability to change things) and flexibility (ability to flow with things one cannot change.) I believe that all values come naturally when one is "strong."

2. I have an issue with "controlling" a kids` class. It may be more of an issue here in Japan, but I feel that external discipline makes a person weaker, not stronger. There has been a streak of child murders by strangers here recently. I cannot help but feel that the tendency in this culture to encourage children not to think for themselves and to follow along with what others are doing is a major factor in crimes against kids.

With these two things in mind, I am leaning toward the idea of not teaching "Aikido." My plan is to focus on non-competitive games and activities. I have to admit here that what I want to do is heavily influenced by my practice of Systema along with Aikido. This does run directly contrary to what Jorge and many others have indicated.

Charles
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Old 01-15-2006, 05:05 AM   #21
Mark Uttech
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Happy New Year Charles! Games, competitive or noncompetitive are certainly not my cup of tea when teaching kids. Your study of Systema can certainly help. I think the thing to focus on with teaching children is teaching them body movement, how to fall, how to free themselves from grabs, how to dodge shinai, etc. A lot of children suffer from not actually being in their bodies, and the thing is to lead them in being in their bodies with their hands open. As far as controlling a class of children, Aikido has the saving grace of suwari waza, and I find that children can rarely get distracted or run around when they are on their knees. I usually teach a technique first in suwari waza and then teach the same technique standing, and they flow right into it. Good luck. In gassho
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Old 01-15-2006, 07:55 AM   #22
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I taught childrens aikido for 12 years. It was good until it wasn't. They taught me a lot.

I also taught a self-defense program called Aikikids because I believe kids can learn SD techniques and atitudes. Aikido did not lend itself to the kind of issues I wanted to address so I developed another format.

As Gavin De Becker says in his book Protecting the gift...people are not strange, behavior is strange.

Children can learn to listen to their inner voices, to use their own voice as a strategy, to make themselves hard to hold onto and what parts of the human boddy hurt the most when they must use a strike.

And another way to look at games is to watch animals..They teach their young how to defend themsleves by playing with them. Tag and other games are natural ways to learn to accomplish goals and to get away.

Learning about a serious subject can be fun.

Just some random thoughts.

Mary
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Old 01-15-2006, 10:41 AM   #23
senshincenter
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Jorge Garcia wrote:
As for morals and virtues, I have found that everyones personality is revealed as they spend time on the mat. I don't put morals to the techniques except in this way. I urge all students to be careful and not to hurt their partner. I let advanced students help the newer ones. I let students take leadership roles and "teach" the various belt levels that they have already learned when the class divides into groups.

The main thing I do in terms of ethics and morals is to discuss with the kids how they treat each other and I discuss disputes that they have and how to solve them. 90 percent of the time, they complain about training with certain students who are uncooperative or who argue with them. This gives fertile ground for putting philosophical Aikido in terms they can understand. When we do the freestyle, most students that are having too much fun strike way too hard at the person doing the exercise. That's when I stop the class and talk about it. I ask them in the presence of all a series of questions. Was that kind? Did that kind of action violate our rule of how we take care of each other? Was the student involved in self gratification and forgetting what the exercise is about?
Jorge, if you will allow me to say, this was a great post. It shows you have taken your kids program seriously enough to understand and thus tackle the issues involved - in my opinion. I particularly liked how you understand where the cultivation of virtues comes to play. I think this is exactly the way it is for adults as well, or at least the way it should be, only for some reason most adult programs either don't understand how our personalities or character is revealed on the mat and/or if we do we don't do anything about it outside of technical matters. For example:

You always see senpai that make use of or even abuse their kohai in the adult program. I remember one time at a summer camp I was attending, I was going with this one kohai and we were going gentle, etc., (in line with his ukemi skill), and right next to my partner and I there was another partnership where the senpai was just throwing the crap out this kohai - throwing him way beyond his ukemi skill (no, they did not know each other). At first I thought the senpai was just a really intense practitioner - you know, really into hard practice. I'm like that too, so when it was time to change partners I quickly and eagerly bowed to him - all ready to have the crap thrown out of me and to throw the crap out of him. He goes, he's nage, he did okay. I go, two reps, he says, "Hey, let's go easy, ok?" Yet, no instructor ever came by and spoke to him on the virtues of compassion and integrity. No instructor stopped the class to tell him he should be taking care of his kohai and/or that he should show more honor through the consistency of what he is willing to give and what he is willing to receive (i.e. basic golden rule stuff).

Another example, at two different times, involving two different people, with two different instructors (both shihan), I saw two senior practitioners throwing yokomenuchi way to hard at their partner. In one case, the kohai partner was pretty brand new and his senpai partner was probably close to a very fit 280 pounds. Though they were the aggressors, eventually the senpai felt they were in a fight - go figure, that's how the insecure ego works. In one case the whole mat had to grab the two practitioners and pull them apart. In the other case, the huge senpai against the small newbie, the senpai threw him into the wall, pinned him against the wall, and punched him in the eye while in a total rage. Again, the class was not stopped but for these interruptions themselves and no talk was given by these shihan on the virtues of Aikido, etc. We just went on training - though some of the folks with more integrity than others left the mat.

Take this back to the kids program... It was like these instructors, folks that do talk about Aikido philosophy, Osensei's vision, Aiki being Love, etc., felt it was either not part of their role as teacher to address (to address the moral character of those on the mat) or they felt that virtues were in the techniques (since that is all they returned to after the events). We see this in a lot of kids programs when we look around. All these claims at virtue, etc., but all they do is techniques. Sure, folks dress them up with a few tiny rituals to make the techniques look like they are more than just exercises, but they are for the most part claiming to quench one's thirst with a cup of sand (i.e. wrong tool for the job). It would be great if parents could be more informed and ask of these instructors, for example, "Hey, you say that your program cultivates confidence... How exactly does it do this?" What should be our answers: "Calm down please." "I think you are thinking this over way too much." "It just sort of happens by being on the mat." "By doing Ikkyo." What parent would take these answers? I wouldn't as a parent - no parent should, just as no instructor that cares about his/her students should. On the other hand, we as adults take them all the time when it comes to our own training - like when we say, "Just train, don't think about it, you'll see in the end, keep doing Ikkyo." In the same way, we shouldn't take these answers, just as no instructor should offer them - not if he/she really cares about the art and/about his or her deshi.

The strange part about all of this, is that we adult practitioners would want something like this for our children, some kind of mentoring that takes place across the body/mind, yet we are way too insecure when it comes to our own person to subject ourselves to such mentoring. We are more satisfied by claiming to be safer by keeping our sensei more like (superficial) coaches than anything else. "No mentors please, just teach me Aikido." What an odd statement.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-15-2006, 10:53 AM   #24
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
With these two things in mind, I am leaning toward the idea of not teaching "Aikido." My plan is to focus on non-competitive games and activities. I have to admit here that what I want to do is heavily influenced by my practice of Systema along with Aikido. This does run directly contrary to what Jorge and many others have indicated.
Charles
Another program showing awareness of the larger issue - in my opinion. Great post Charles.

We do something similar. We have two programs, one for younger children, one for older. In the younger program, we use games to cultivate the body/mind elements (e.g. cross-lateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, balance, environmental awareness, etc.) that underly all adult martial training. This programs curriculum probably centers itself 90% on these types of games. If we do any "Aikido" it is minimal at best and it is always in relation to some game. For example, we might have a game where the child seeks to not let me "hit" (from a toss) them with the ball. From there, after we teach them how to have the ball barely miss, how to stay focused on what is happening, how to be aware of the total environment, etc., we might have the ball replaced by me doing shomenuchi. In a very natural fashion, the children are able to clear the line of attack in the same way they were when they were doing it in the ball toss game (i.e. with timing, with awareness, with coordination, etc.). In essence then, we make the "Aikido" part of the game - not the game part of Aikido. The older kids program is like this as well - making Aikido part of the games we do in the younger program (which kids of all ages are allowed to participate in). As for the virtues, we handle them like Jorge does - the self is revealed on the mat; when it is strayed from the path, we use physical lesson and talk (plus a whole lot of other practices involved in our programs - e.g. being involved with parents and teachers in the consistent developing of character) to bring it back and to allow it to move forward in the art at this level of cultivation (something we do in the adult program as well).

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 01-15-2006, 11:08 AM   #25
James Smithe
 
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Re: Kids Program - What's yours like?

I think it's important to make sure you train their minds. For example knowing not to use martial art moves thoughtlessely. Oh and teach them not to brag, that will cause problems. They could end up in fights at school because of it. Kids might do things like you're kung fu or whatever the @#$% it's called won't work on me and gonna beat you up. Or Judo/Karate is better than Aikido let me show you.
I know you guys like to teach Aikido as a game but you should teach them to have fun with it and take it seriosly too. You should talk to them about death. Tell them what it means to die I would say and teach them what it means to live but that will proabably intefere with their parents religous values. Aikido decides life and death in a single strike make them understand this.
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