View Full Version : Assisting in childrens classes

Julian Gerhart
28th April 2003, 08:34
For the past few months I have been assisting the instructor of a childrens class at my Aikido dojo. This class is for the youngest of the children, age 6-8. Most of what I do is take ukemi for the instructor when he is demonstrating a technique and helping keep the kids under control in general. However I am ocaisonally asked to asist a struggling 1st grader with his or her rolls or give minor instuction to a child who can't seem to turn the right direction, mostly stuff to the effect of "put your hand there then do a tenkan turn to the outside". My expierince is very limited (2 years) and I feel uncomfortable telling anyone how to do a technique. especialy because my instruction never seems to help. Any advice would be appreciated.

28th April 2003, 08:48
simply ask your instructor if you are approaching the instruction of the children in the correct manner. Usually with small children it is not that you are teaching it incorrect but you have to show it 5000 times before they do it right.

perseverance is the key...

28th April 2003, 14:57
You bring back memories Julian. I used to teach swimming and believe me, every lesson was like what you described. As Rogier said, sometimes some kids pick up things quickly, and some will need to be shown 500 times before they get it right. Think about it, as an adult it is hard enough to learn martial arts, and you have a fully functional brain that can understand what you are being shown, you just have to train your body to do it. Kids on the other hand, obviously haven't got to the full stage of intellectual development, so odds are, they don't understand what they're being shown, making it infinitely more difficult to make their body do it.
The best advice I can give is to use simple terms for everything, and to actually take a hands on approach(talk to your sensei first to make sure this is appropriate), because one thing I found when teaching swimming was when you actually move their body for them, they remember it alot better rather than just telling them. Hope that helps.

28th April 2003, 15:04
The best way to learn anything is to teach it. Learn it as a student, then teach it to someone less knowledgable. Personally, I'm very glad my instructor and my chosen style espouse that belief. It made me a better martial artist, AND helps reinforce the concept of giving back to the dojo instead of only receiving from the dojo.

It'll get easier with time and practice. When in doubt, refer students to sensei or help them get sensei's attention and help the student to focus their question. There are many times I haven't been able to help a student, but I HAVE been able to get sensei's attention for them, ask the right question on their behalf, and then step back as sensei diagnoses/assists with the issue. It makes it easier for sensei to address the issue and then leave us to practice while giving that kind of focused attention to others. Kind of like a triage, if you want to think of it that way.


29th April 2003, 19:54

Here are a couple of suggestions in no particular order:

1) Take the cues from your instructor; make the corrections you see, but don't hope to fix everything at once. Generally, more seasoned instructors will pick 1 thing to emphasize with each student at a time.
2) Don't be frustrated by the lack of response to your suggested changes, I can tell you from experience that young children often hear/feel what you mean, but aren't able to implement them right away (heck, in some cases it may take 15 years +/- :)).
3) Those 2 years of experience can be applied to help them to work on basics. One of the neatest things about training kihon w/children is that they can offer insights into basic gestures that wouldn't even occur to an adult (or even teenager).

Having the opportunity to share Aikido with children under the watchful eye of one's teacher while is pretty special, enjoy it!

Be well,

29th April 2003, 20:39
Hi Julian, welcome to the board!

First, realize that a large part of what you offer kids classes is "just taking ukemi for the instructor..." Don't underestimate the value of that offering. Espescially in a kids program it's really helpful for the instructor to have someone of comparable size to demonstrate with. It's also good for them to see how the ukemi should look, that's half of class after all.

Second, espescially with kids, backleading can be really helpful. I think this is a skill in itself. Understanding a technique well enough to 'push' nage into the correct form can be difficult to do, but also can help them learn with their body instead of their head. It will also help your own study, because you get a better sense of where the line should go (in an ideal sense). I try to use as many visualizations as possible. For rolls you can imagine you are rolling over a beach ball for example.

As for not feeling qualified to teach somebody something, get that right out of your head. This is how everybody makes the transition from student to teacher. At my first Aikido school, when I was 3rd kyu, ALL of the senior students left (most moved, just happened at the same time). So as 3rd kyus, Lenny and I were kind of left as the "senior students". It was really difficult to act as an authority when I really felt I didn't know very much. But it was something that the junior students needed. What to do? You make it up, when you offer something, do so with authority, but don't be afraid to be wrong at times. It's a difficult thing to do, but again that's also part of the learning process. Taking on that kind of responsability however will really accelerate your own practice.

Hope some of this helps. Feel free to take advice that works for you, and junk the rest.

2nd May 2003, 10:13
Julian, try three year olds. That is when our Little Dragons Program starts. My son is three and a half and my daughter is six. They both take Judo and I help out with both of their classes. As far as not being ready to teach, that is BS. My daughter is getting ready to test for her orange belt and she has been at it for a year and a half. She is her brother's best teacher. Like someone else said the Ukme is very important. One bad fall will scare some kids away. Keep up the good work and good job giving back to your art.

7th May 2003, 16:55
Truly, teaching will teach you a lot about what you still don't really know. You will find that you do some things, but can't really explain why (not often a requirement with kids, but it does happen), and sometimes aren't really sure whether it's right or not - you just do it. As you teach and have to diagnose and explain, you will find that you learn more than your students (I understand this remains the case for quite a while : ), and that your own skills and understanding grow quickly.

My art requires student teaching before testing for shodan, and my instructor requires that at least half of that must be teaching kids. I certainly learned quite a lot in the process!

And I often rope other adults (regardless of rank) into assisting with the kids' classes. I have never found that an adult couldn't provide useful instruction to a child, even the 6th kyu (white belts), with the proper supervision. We all have something to teach each other, regardless of rank or experience. It's just that we have more to teach as we learn more.

7th May 2003, 23:43
I agree with Mr. Moses. Practice makes perfect. At the dojo where i study there was one Gokyu who made it to class when i started. At my belt test Sensei awarded me and four others with Gokyu and the Gokyu achived Nikkyu. The next semester there was just the 5 of us and no other senior studnets. That left us a bit bewildered we agusted by the end of the second month. I hope you take every ones advise to heart they are all much smarter then I. Also Two years in some dojos means you are Nikkyu and able to teach when ever sensei isn't there.

8th May 2003, 01:37
I was on the mat tonight with my son's Little Dragons Class (3-5) and my daughters Judo class. We need to give back to the art so it is there for our grandchildren.