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Thread: Aikido and Children

  1. #1
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    Default Aikido and Children

    Bah... where are all the posts?!! lol

    Please forgive me for asking this as I'm sure it's been asked tons of times before... but I'm at the library right now and they time how much time you are allowed on the 'net.

    At what age do you think it's appropriate to introduce young children to Aikido? For instance, I have a son... and while he's not anywhere near an age where he's able to train (ie, he's only 5 weeks old), I would eventually like him to train in Aikido.

    Thanks in advance!!
    Sita.
    Sita Nanthavong
    "Emptiness of the mind will lead to many great things" -Sita.

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    Quote Originally Posted by avehnor View Post
    Bah... where are all the posts?!! lol

    Please forgive me for asking this as I'm sure it's been asked tons of times before... but I'm at the library right now and they time how much time you are allowed on the 'net.

    At what age do you think it's appropriate to introduce young children to Aikido? For instance, I have a son... and while he's not anywhere near an age where he's able to train (ie, he's only 5 weeks old), I would eventually like him to train in Aikido.

    Thanks in advance!!
    Sita.
    While in the home, any age is appropriate. I'm assuming you are currently training, so why not teach him what you learn at home. If he's interested he will ask to go to the dojo. If he doesn't, just think of the valuable bonding time that was spent. Personally, I have conscripted two of my children into service as resident uke's.
    One must train.
    Ricky Wood

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    I was thinking about the various martial arts that I'd want my (possible) child to learn, and concluded that judo is the way to go.
    -John Nguyen

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    I have wondered the same things about my two year old, for I would like to see her train in something if she enjoys it. Aikido would be my preference, at least to start out, and if she decides something else suites her better then so be it.
    I agree with the bonding/teaching at home once they are moving about and walking. Basic rolls, falling and footwork can be shown at home. If nothing else it might make falling on the playground less painfull. Some dojos around my area that teach children start taking at 6 years old, with a disclaimer of maturity and understanding level. 6-7 years sounds like a good time to me though, because they have started school and been exposed to the concept of listening, paying attention and following instruction from school at that point.

  5. #5
    Mark Murray Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gyan G. View Post
    I have wondered the same things about my two year old, for I would like to see her train in something if she enjoys it. Aikido would be my preference, at least to start out, and if she decides something else suites her better then so be it.
    I agree with the bonding/teaching at home once they are moving about and walking. Basic rolls, falling and footwork can be shown at home. If nothing else it might make falling on the playground less painfull. Some dojos around my area that teach children start taking at 6 years old, with a disclaimer of maturity and understanding level. 6-7 years sounds like a good time to me though, because they have started school and been exposed to the concept of listening, paying attention and following instruction from school at that point.
    Please post your full name in each post. It's a rule here on E-Budo. You can edit your signature to have this done automatically. Just go to the "User CP" link.

    Thanks,
    Mark

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    Aikido of Northern Virginia does not teach children under the age of 14.

    I do not believe aikido is appropriate for young children, for two reasons. First, aikido techniques, even applied gently, put stress on the joints. As many former gymnasts and ballet dancers can testify, too much stress on the joints at an early age leads to trouble later on in life. Second, aikido is a complex art. Even disciplined, motivated adults find it quite challenging to learn. In my experience, children do not yet have the ability or the motivation to concentrate at the level necessary to gain anything from the average one-hour aikido class.

    Then there is the question of teaching martial arts to children. Study of the martial arts, like study of any other art or discipline, can produce wonderful effects on the student's character. But I believe that teaching young children martial arts is like teaching them to drive: it puts them in possession of power before they are mature enough to use it responsibly.

    Rather than martial arts, I suggest that parents introduce their children to disciplined physical activity through more conventional sports and arts (such as ballet, soccer or tumbling), in which there is a well-established tradition of teaching children. If the child continues to show interest in the martial arts, I would hold that out as a future reward for good behavior and a helpful attitude around the house, as well as good behavior with other children and adults --- in short, the child should earn the right to train in the arts.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Jim Sorrentino

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    I agree with Jim in general, with the exception of judo. I think judo is an excellent martial art for young kids...if I had young kids, I'd point them toward judo or wrestling first, then aikido from 14 or so.

    Best,
    Ron

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    Hi there.

    In general i have a few issues here. First of all, I think it is great to have ambitions and goals for your children, but I really think it should be down to them showing an interest in an art form that is more important than their atual participation. If a child wants to do karate-do why make them do aikido? Amd what if your child doesn't want to do a martial art? But that aside, I know that here in the UK there is an age restriction of 6 or 7 for people to be insureed, that is obviously a good standard starting point. Teaching in the home is a nice idea, but I really think that it should be the child showing an interest and asking questions that leads to this practice.

    So far as judo being a good art for a child to study, well that is where I started out and there is no complaint from me! Just don't let them compete in any open competitions or they may well get serriously damaged. Judo can be particularly dangerous. So far as teaching them aikido I think that the attitude and phylosophy behind the system is perfect, the complexities that adults find with it are less than children, and so long as they are persistant then it should work out to be good.

    I am not certain that I agree with the sentiments of Jim. I understand the point being made, however, so long as both parents and teachers are in good communication I can see nothing but benefit for a child starting to learn budo. Budo is a life path afterall, so the sooner one is on it the further down it they can go.

    If a child wants to practice a martial art then I would suggest looking around the local area and generally vetting the different clubs to see what the attitude of the instrucot is around the children. Then all you can do is encourage your child in what ever system it is they want to train in and at what time as I am sure their chilce wil change as the months go by.

    Take care,

    Lawrence Fisher.

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    I teach Aikido to children from first grade on up. I RESPECTFULLY disagree with the other two Aikidokas about teaching children Aikido. I do not play games with the children but teach them in a slightly modified version of the way in which I teach adults.

    First: children have significantly less fears associated with going to the ground than adults typically have. Because of this, children typically learn how to roll easier than adults (who first have to "unlearn" the body fears and tensions associated with going to the ground.

    Second: The majority of the class is spent focusing on hamni, ashi sabaki and movement exercises designed to work on body integration and ki development. These and other skills-based exercises lead to the application of certain basic techniques. Class is ended with core strength and body integration exercises.

    Third:Techniques that are taught are carefully chosen. Joint manipulation techniques are added in later and the focus is on using the point of contact so that the movement maintains the kazushi and results in the uke having to take a fall. Torquing on the joint with force and speed are simply not allowed.

    Fourth: Many martial arts programs focus on "building self-esteem" by teaching systematic violence. My Aikido instruction helps children to learn how to remain relaxed and focused when tensions/conflicts emerge. It teaches them to learn to learn to be safe without being violent.

    Fifth: Aikido is intimately related to interpersonal connectedness. The children in the Aikido classes learn how to connect with others in more pro-social manner than they would in other martial arts.


    As an example, for the children's first test, I do a shomen strike with a real bokken at the child's head and the child has to do a tenkan. The strike is done silently and then with a kia. People would be amazed at how easy it is to teach a child to remain centered, relaxed and focused under those conditions. Their tenkan's are smooth and based on centripedal rotation. It is impressive to watch these children do that move. It is a lot harder for adults to learn to move that smoothly.

    Marc Abrams
    Dr. Marc Abrams
    www.aasbk.com

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    I can see the point of view regarding the dangers of joint manipulation with kids, and that is a valid concern. This is where the responsibility of the parents comes in, to research and watch a potential instructor. Regardless of the art, parents should watch a class or two of a potential instructor for their kids, and talk with them.
    I also agree that a child should not be forced into doing something they do not like. On the other hand, unless they are exposed to it how will they ever have the chance to show an interest. Things like baseball, football, dance etc is seen all over, school, TV, sporting events etc. But there are things like martial arts that kids are not normally exposed to, and unless a parent is learning themselves and practicing at home, a kid may never realize it's something they want to try. Exposing them to different things and encouraging them to stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, I think is key.

    Marc makes some very good points about teaching the martial arts to kids. My personal preferance is none violence, thus my attraction to Aikido, but I believe even some of the other arts can be taught in a positive way to kids. It is about teaching them self control, respect of others and themselves, confidence, and limits of the body and mind. This goes back to my first point about researching and finding an instructor for your child. For myself, I would like to pass along the beliefs and principles of Aikido and it's founder to my child. And I think a good instructor who approaches it how Marc does can do wonders for a child and their development into a functioning adult in our society. That's what it all comes down to in regards to our kids. We do the best we can, and encourage them in the things we feel will better them.
    Gyan Gearon
    Mesa, AZ

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    Thumbs up Children in Aikido

    At the risk of opening up a can of worms, I must say that I have been teaching children Aikido for over 20 years. I must respectfully dis agree with the others and totally agree with Mark A. on this. I began teaching my son at 6 years old. For the first two year he trained on taisabaki and little else. Movement is the basis of aikido and I strongly feel that it should be emphasized. My son is now 27 years of age and has no problems with his joints.

    When I began my aikido training in 1974 only 14 years and above was allowed. I did not understand this at that time and when I recieved shodan I started to develop a program for children. In 1986 I opened my own dojo and started with my son. The program exploded because of the careful nature of the class.

    I was once expelled from one instructor's guidance because I taught children. At that time I realized that instructor's not willing to evaluate their teching methods and re construct their programs (and I say this with respect) are living in the dark ages. I have taught thousands of children over the years and not one ever complained and neither did their parents, but on the contrary, each one praised what I had done for their child.

    Giving a person greater self esteem, and confidence and a way to resolve conflict is what martial arts is really all about.

    Pete Nappier
    Godan
    Tomiki Aikido

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    Hello,
    I am not an aikidoka but would like to join in this discussion.
    For many years I taught Shorinji Kempo to children aged from 7 years up, depending on how quickly they grew they would filter into the adult class at about 14 years. I do not recall one incident of severe injury and obviously the content and emphasis of the class was different from that of the adults. The class is still running very successfully under a friend. Furthermore one of those little seven year olds returned to Japan, continued his training, and has now totally surpassed me (DarthVader like) to become a Yondan.
    My sons both practice Aikido, Tomiki with occasional reference to Daito ryu. The eldest, now 12, started at 9 and absolutely loves the training, the younger one is 10 and recently started.
    An important fact is that niether of my sons is athletically gifted, they'll take part in football (soccer to you) cricket, rugby, basketball etc happily enough at school but they won't get enough out of it to want to do it of their own volition. Budo allows them to partake in an intense (ie; sweaty) physical activity in which they can measure their own progress, (last week couldn't throw him, this week can, next week make it easier), relate it to history and popular culture (hey dad, James Bond's kotegaeshi's a bit sloppy!) and hopefully build participation in an activity that will continue and positively influence their whole life. Another positive area is that they are learning that there are degrees of what is considered 'good'. A technique that was praised as good last month is considered mediocre this month because it isn't 'one month better'. They've learned to accept this without feeling crushed (that took a while) a valuable life lesson.
    I hope this isn't too rambling.
    regards
    Paul

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    Neighbors,

    An interesting discussion to say the least. I do think that both sides are right. (How about that, I should run for office)

    I think that in many ways it depends on the child. Some children are not ready for a martial art at nine or ten while others have an attitude that makes them likely candidates at seven or eight. As far as undo pressure on joints that is a valid concern and as has been stated a parent needs to watch for that in a program and monitor it. We should always question what we don't understand. Sometimes the best intentioned sensei gets a bit carried away on a particular day and teaches a technique to a youngster that they are not physically ready for - that's why kids have parents, to watch and keep them safe.

    I think that children should be in a children's class and not mixed in with adults. I hear it over and over again that they need to train with folks of different sizes, that they need to know how to defend themselves against predatory grown-ups, etc. That's an adult speaking adult thoughts. Kids need to train with kids. Simple and end of discussion.

    I do think that there needs to be an age limit on weapons classes just because of the nature of the beast but that might be another discussion, though I think its one we've had before.

    Take care,
    Dan Keding
    Storyteller - Author - Musician
    Iaidoka MJER

  14. #14

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    I practice aikido and am a fan, although I am a late comer to the art. However, I grew up practicing, and am primarily, a judoka.

    I think martial arts for kids are great - under certain conditions. I agree with the line of thinking that aikido, at least as I have mostly seen practiced, is just too hard on the joints for most kids below age 16ish. Perhaps occasionally younger for a few well developed teens and if practiced with care. I would think that the most productive aikido for kids would look a lot like Tomiki aikido. This is in no way to disparage Tomiki aikido, his technique organization and development is a valuable methodology for developing skill in an active and "safe" way - much like judo's methodology . Which I think is also extremely effective martially, but that's a different discussion.

    I am partial to judo for kids for a lot of reasons - a very active art, and it develops real skill and physical attributes in a safe way that can be an invaluable base for any desired future training later in life, whether that be martial or otherwise. Most importantly however, I think judo for kids is the most inclined to teach healthy attitudes about close physical contact and calmly facing and dealing with agression in a relatively non-agressive way. And I know I may regret writing this, but I think it is more than partly due to the "sporting" perception of judo than enables this. In my experience at least, most young martial artists of other styles have a tendency to think of themselves as martial - they often think of the world in terms of attack and defense. While I think this is just fine for adults who can better understand this in context, I am not a fan of this for kids. Judo, however, encourages you to see close physical activity in terms of "play". I think this creates a much healthier attitude as young people, especially, go about leading their daily lives. It gives them a healthy confidence, etc...; and as many judoka have experienced, they still have the skills required to effectively and morally deal with physical agression should it become necessary. Most have been surprised by how how easy it was.

    I think Dan makes an interesting point about training with adults. I am of two minds on this as I have seen it not work at all, and I have seen it work very well. At the dojo I grew up in it worked very well. We practiced during the week in a kids class, and then on Saturdays adults and children trained together. This was a very good experience for both the kids and the adults. It forced the adults to train appropriately and truely focus on technique and control, and the adults forced the kids to really work hard and clean against much larger and stronger opponents; they also generally forced the kids to be more strategic in their judo - an invaluable skill. Naturally, the adults had to allow the technique for all but the best young teens. And adult attitudes in general needed to be healthy, but as they were mostly dads or other young adults who grew up in the same dojo, this was rarely an issue.

    Having said that, regardless of the art and especially so for kids, I think it is the instructor, his attitude, and the environment of the dojo that really matter. While I am obviously a fan of judo for kids, I have observed several judo dojo that, while they have technically good programs, I would not let my children train there due to the attitude of the instructor or senior students.
    Elliot

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    I think Dan makes an interesting point about training with adults. I am of two minds on this as I have seen it not work at all, and I have seen it work very well.
    Ditto...I've seen kids (brothers) who were just not ready for it, and I've seen (esp. females, 4 or 5 at least) who ate up being in class with adults, and benefitted greatly. Not only that, but what they brought to the keiko and the experience of working with them benefitted ME greatly as an adult training partner.

    Best,
    Ron

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