Through the hard work and discipline of Aikido practice and the study of its philosophy, juniors build qualities of character such as self-esteem, self-control, confidence, awareness, discipline, humility, honesty, and compassion.
Adults may practice Aikido for inner peace, relaxation, or self-defense. But these are concepts that most children don't even think about. So why is Aikido a good idea for kids? What can it contribute to their lives?
- Aikido is a non-aggressive martial art. What does this mean? Basically, that you can't really start a fight with Aikido - you can only finish one. Aikido doesn't encourage kids to have Power Rangers Syndrome, in which they go around punching and kicking their friends, siblings, dogs, and cats. Aikido technique starts when someone else "breaks the rules", i.e. attacks.
- Aikido teaches kids to be calm. Of course, kids shouldn't be calm all the time. But Aikido gives them the choice. If they need to sit still at school, or concentrate on homework, or focus during sports, Aikido shows them exactly how to do that. The techniques and ki testing we do teach them correct calmness. This is entirely different from keeping their emotions bottled up. Aikido calmness feels good.
- Aikido teaches kids practical self-defense. With all the violence that our children are exposed to on TV, movies, video games, etc., the practice and philosophy of Aikido is essential to teaching children alternatives to conflict. Children learn Aikido techniques and practice them with each other in a non-competitive environment. Children learn how to cooperate and help each other learn Aikido. By learning techniques to avoid conflict your child learns that there are alternatives to fighting.
- Aikido gives kids a positive world view. It teaches that in order to create something worthwhile, you must work in harmony with your environment. It teaches that if you make trouble, you will lose. But if your mind is correct, calm, and positive, you can make something good out of whatever the universe hands you.
- Aikido teaches kids a lighter approach to life. A plodding, serious approach to life doesn't feel good. And it usually doesn't yield the best possible results. Our Aikido works best when you relax and feel light. By learning this in practice, our children can't help but apply this to their lives.
- Aikido helps kids at school. By training in Aikido, kids develop calm, clear minds. As a result, they absorb knowledge easier, and think with greater clarity. Aikido is about developing the full human potential, and school is one of the most important places for this potential to be realized.
- Aikido helps kids in sports. Sadaharu Oh, the Japanese homerun king, started out as a mediocre player. He attributed much of his success to his training in Aikido. The calmness Aikido gave him enabled him to learn to wait for the ball. The balance Aikido gave him enabled him to develop a one-legged stance that allowed him to swing with great power.
- Anyone can be good at Aikido. Aikido does not require athletic talent. In fact, athletic prowess can sometimes get in the way. The key to making progress in Aikido is simply persevering and having a positive attitude. What better lesson can we teach our kids?
- Aikido works for little people. Since Aikido does not rely on size, or speed, or weight, or reach, it is actually applicable by children on adults. In fact, it can be quite surprising how much power our children can muster when throwing adults! It is important to remember, the founder of Aikido was only 5'3", yet he threw with more power than anyone.
What is covered in the Program?
Aikido is perfect for children because it teaches that there are alternatives to violence. Instead of learning how to kick and punch, children learn to redirect an attacker's energy and resolve conflict while minimizing injury to the attacker. Because Aikido is not a sport there is no competition. In competitions there is always a winner and a loser. Competition in sports is healthy for children if the emphasis is not placed so much on winning but rather on effort, sportsmanship, etc.
In a martial sport, however, when a child fights another child, one must "win" and the other must "lose." Aikido is built on the premise of not-fighting. Winning by defeating another human-being is not winning at all. Consequently, defeating another person through competition is against the philosophy of Aikido. Instead we teach children to learn to protect themselves while not hurting others.
Promotions and Testing
Testing opportunities are offered every two to three months. You and your child will be notified ahead of time when your child will test. Testing is an opportunity for the child to demonstrate his/her understanding of Aikido to the instructors and to their parents. Children are promoted at the time of testing and receive a colored belt, reflecting their rank.
When the student in the junior's program transition to practice Aikido training later in our adult program, they will have already learned the rewards of continuing practice. All of the students will have learned how to fall and roll and protect their bodies. All of them will have learned how to turn aside from an attack instead of running headlong into it or, conversely, headlong away from it. And, all of them will have learned how to turn confusion and frustration and "I don't have any idea of how to do this!" into "Ahh, yes, that's it!".