Please note: In 2013, Aikido Harmony was an Aikido Yuishinkai dojo. As this entity, it no longer runs classes. The following publication is from that time.
– A Parent’s Guide –
Welcome to Aikido Harmony.
It is our sincere hope that your child can discover and explore the art of aikido with us as we share it with them. Of course, we understand that they are young, and their motivations are different from adults, and what they draw from aikido will also be different.
You’ve probably enrolled your child in aikido because you want to encourage in them some values regarding interacting with others respectfully, and non-aggressive approaches to conflict resolution. You want them to develop confidence and be able to deal with difficult situations with calmness.
This process doesn’t happen overnight, but aikido can train your child in these sometimes subtle aspects of personality, temperament and spirit. I encourage you to stay with aikido and allow these qualities to become absorbed into their character.
I put together this ‘Parent’s Guide’ to assist you in understanding our approach and what we are trying to achieve with your child, and perhaps to help you to reinforce their lessons and contribute to their aikido development at home.
We really look forward to a long association with you and your child. We draw great satisfaction from their development with us, and again when we see your child graduate into our general classes in the future.
WHAT IS AIKIDO ABOUT
So Why Is Aikido A Good Idea For Children?
Aikido is a martial art which adults practice. So why is Aikido a good idea for children?
Aikido helps children at school. Through training, children develop calm, clear minds. As a result, they absorb knowledge easier, and think with greater clarity. Aikido also teaches children practical self-defence. They learn self-discipline and learn to think about their actions and the value of conflict resolution through non-aggressive means. Aikido does not require athletic talent. In fact, athletic prowess can sometimes get in the way. Aikido works for little people, since it does not rely on size, or speed, or weight.
You will probably be grateful that aikido is completely self-defensive. It involves dealing with punching and kicking and aggression from others, not actually applying (and making kids better at) kicking and punching. Over time, children learn to sense aggression in others and develop a range of skills in diffusing aggression and conflict, which are not necessarily physical.
The key to making progress in aikido is simply persevering and having a positive attitude. What better lesson can we teach our children? Aikido Harmony believes the training of aikido should firstly be safe, as well as fun. As parents, this is what we want for our children from any activity. For a child, any environment that promotes learning through laughter, imagery and games becomes a safe environment.
This safe environment can enhance a child’s ability to learn and thus begin studying the more serious side of martial arts. Having fun, playing games, and using one’s imagination are part of growing up. Opportunities and permission to do all of these things allow children to take risks in a safe way.
What Is Aikido for Children About?
Aikido for children is about:
- FUN – aikido is fun, and ‘Aikikids’ is designed especially for children to have fun
- Safety – safety is the most important principle in the dojo – risk is absolutely minimised
- Activity – aikido is great for cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.
- Anti-bullying – aikido teaches self-defence techniques to deal with aggression
- Confidence – develops confidence and independence, including difficult situations
- Respect – aikido teaches respect for self and others
- Behaviour – children learn to relax and focus, and be calm
- Schoolwork – children learn to relax and focus, and be calm
- Working towards an achievement – children learn the value of perseverance and positiveness, and experience achievement through grading and being awarded coloured belts
- Cooperation – the dojo is a cooperative environment where progress relies on others
- Non-competitive – aikido does not have competitions, ability is assessed individually
- Progress – small child to adult ratio so children have close attention and progress quickly
- Treating children as individuals – children progress at their own pace
- Aikido is definitely not about children hurting others. Aikido is about safety and cooperation with other children in the dojo. It also means there is a strong message to children about responsible use of this knowledge. Hurting siblings or school-mates is definitely not what aikido is for. It’s about respecting others, developing calmness and relaxation in difficult situations, as well as dealing with the aggression of others in a controlled way.
What Aikido Isn’t About
Aikido is definitely not about children hurting others. Aikido is about safety and cooperation with other children in the dojo. It also means there is a strong message to children about responsible use of this knowledge. Hurting siblings or school-mates is definitely not what aikido is for. It’s about respecting others, developing calmness and relaxation in difficult situations, as well as dealing with the aggression of others in a controlled way.
Is Aikido The Best Martial Art For Children?
Is aikido the best martial art for kids? We think so. And we encourage you to try aikido for your child, and we believe you will agree with us!!! Let’s look at some of our reasons for believing aikido is great for our youngsters:
Aikido is a great deal of fun for children. Training occurs in a friendly and fun atmosphere which is also safe and respectful of everyone. Everyone is valued and beginners and children are highly valued, as they have much to contribute and even teach those who have been training for a while. There’s a strong social aspect when members are all doing something they enjoy, and like any club, they get to know each other quite well and friendships are made and developed. There’s learning useful skills which should help them at home and at school, to give them confidence and help them remain calm and relaxed in difficult situations.
Aikido develops fitness and flexibility and promotes health and well-being. It values a relaxed body and focussed mind as well as a strong mind-body coordination which the techniques help children to achieve. Aikido includes ki training (for experiencing and understanding the use of our body’s energy system and how it applies to aikido and aikido technique), breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques within its teaching, as achieving a relaxed and meditative mind significantly enhances the practice and effectiveness of aikido and aikido techniques. Children are slowly introduced to these concepts. All these aspects of aikido can be applied positively to everyday life. Of course, self-defence can enhance our lives and learning open-hand and weapons techniques are central to aikido teaching. Aikido is very special in offering self-defence as well as other positive aspects to really enhance our lives.
At the same time, if you or your child is interested in self-defence, then aikido delivers true self-defence. Controlling an attack and immobilising an attacker without having to inflict injury in return, is a self-defence which is clearly focussed on defence of self and not on any form of direct conflict. After all, resolving conflict with further conflict, or resolving it with greater force, aren’t exactly the best lessons to be teaching children.
While aikido is a true self-defence, it is very effective, even though it does not include attacks in its repertoire. Aikido sometimes looks a little like dancing with very circular movements a lot of the time. It doesn’t look like fighting (because it isn’t), but it is deceptive in that it uses an attacker’s apparent advantages of strength and speed and momentum against them. It’s why it’s an ideal self-defence for children. The techniques employed are all defensive and children deal with aggression without being aggressive. In a bullying situation, children are less likely to react with force and end up with the same punishment as their tormentor. It must also be very frustrating for a bully to be denied the responses they are expecting and to have all their strength and aggression redirected to the point where they end up pinned with no idea how they arrived in their predicament and with a strong suspicion that they somehow caused it to happen.
Aikido is not a martial art which attracts aggressive or confrontational children. They find other martial arts. We have found that children who do aikido tend to appreciate the lessons about calmness and relaxation, and gain confidence over time that they can retain control in difficult situations.
We take the safety of children that train with us very seriously. We strongly support the work of the Queensland Government in its efforts to increase child safety in clubs and associations. The government requires associations such as ours to comply with government regulations in respect of children.
OUR BIG THREE AIKIKIDS PRINCIPLES
Safety is our absolute first priority, and must come before fun, as fun can sometimes be unsafe. Any actions which breach safety will be addressed immediately. While children may think coloured belts are a badge of achievement and something to wear with pride, which they most definitely are, the coloured belts are also a way for instructors and children to gauge the relative experience of the wearer. This common colour-coded approach to individual ability in martial arts enhances safety.
An aikido class on the mat is a rather undemocratic place. Some say you’re stepping into feudal Japan when you step onto the mat. It’s not really like that, but you get the picture. It’s about respect, and the instructor is in charge. This is for safety, as well as traditional reasons. We’re learning a martial art, after all. It’s also a classroom, so there’s a strong expectation during class that students will listen quietly and ask any questions after the instructor stops talking.
The formality we practice may seem a little misplaced in our Western society, but it contributes to safety by building an awareness of and respect for others. Over time, children begin to understand that the formality, etiquette and bowing brings order to the activities on the mat which means there are less opportunities for them to injure themselves. They also begin to appreciate the respect shown to them and respond in kind, realising that the dojo is a cooperative environment and their fun is actually enhanced by formality and respect.
We train on mats which soften the ground surface, we wear uniforms which protect knees and elbows, we supervise the children closely, make them aware of dangerous situations and practices, and expect children to behave responsibly. These measures are all aimed at enhancing safety.
As children improve their aikido and gain experience, we increase our expectations of children and allow them to take on more difficult activities as they display that they are competent in an activity. This is common sense, of course, and allows children to develop their skills in a safe environment but also allows them to take risks in a safe way.
Ultimately, however, aikido is a martial art with some inherent risks. There is a small risk of injury involved due to the nature of the activity, and it is unrealistic to expect that your child will not have occasional scrapes and bruises. We will, however, be ensuring that risks of injury are absolutely minimised. We trust that children and parents will balance any bruises against the fun and skills they gain from aikido, and continue to see aikido as worth the occasional scrape.
What do children mostly want from aikido? The answer is straightforward – FUN! There is no point teaching children aikido in the same way we teach aikido to adults. Kids want fun, and become bored very quickly and lose focus when FUN is absent. Therefore, naturally, we have built our Aikikids (what we call our young aikidoists) program around fun.
That doesn’t mean they won’t learn aikido. They will. We aren’t sacrificing good aikido so the children can have fun. Both the principles of aikido and its techniques are easily able to be communicated to children in an atmosphere of fun.
Aikikids instructors are experienced in dealing with, and getting the best from children. Our Aikikids instructors teach aikido to children in a respectful manner. This will usually be friendly, may occasionally be firm, but will always be polite. It is expected that in return, children will also interact with the instructor and other children with respect, politeness and control. If a child’s interaction with the instructor and/or other children becomes disruptive, then this shows a lack of respect and starts to become disruptive behaviour. Disruptive behaviour needs to be addressed as it represents a safety problem. Furthermore, it is simply unfair on the other children in the class who are trying to do the right thing.
We are always aware that we are dealing with children, who can behave like children – perhaps a little unpredictable, sometimes emotional, sometimes overexcited, maybe overtired, grumpy, disrespectful, etc. Aikikids instructors will do their very best to continue including your child in the class by attempting to redirect and refocus them, and by making them aware that aikido is cooperative and disrupting the class affects the learning of their classmates.
If a child deliberately acts unsafely, refuses to respond to reasonable requests, shows a deliberate lack of respect to the instructor and/or their fellow students, they will be politely asked to leave the mat. If this is then ignored, the instructor will ask a parent or guardian to remove the child from the mat. This will only be done as a last resort, but must be an option for the instructor, in order to be fair to the other children on the mat.
No Equipment Required
No equipment is necessary to begin with. There is no need to buy a martial arts uniform for your child straight away. However, when they have made a commitment to aikido, they may pester you for an acknowledgement from you that they have committed to aikido through your purchase of a uniform. Our association has negotiated a discount with RMR Martial Arts Supplies, who are conveniently located at Mt Gravatt. Please ask at the dojo for a discount card and location details.
What Parents Need To Do
We ask you to fill out an insurance waiver on behalf of your child when you enrol them in an Aikikids class. We cannot allow your child onto the mat and undertake a class without this waiver.
As an association, we also ask you to fill in a membership form. There is also a medical history form which helps us with ensuring your child’s safety in the dojo. Beyond that, the various legislative requirements that address the safety of children means we must ask you to fill out other forms. While we understand this is tedious, it is very important that we ask you to do so, and that you make the effort to complete them.
Also, a parent or guardian needs to be available in the dojo to take their children to the toilet and ensure their safety off the mat. Unsupervised children off the mats have a habit of occasionally running onto the mats, which is very dangerous when adults or larger children are around if they don’t know a child is on the mat. If you intend to leave the dojo for a short time to e.g. pick up another child, then you need to let us know that you will be leaving your child with us, and you also need to know that we may decline to accept this responsibility, particularly if safety is compromised by doing so.
Also, please have your child wear footwear to the dojo. We are proud of our exceptional mats, which are a very significant investment for us, as well as rather expensive to clean. Dirty feet are very unfriendly to the health and appearance of our mats, and we’d very much appreciate your assistance in helping us avoid inadvertent grit and dirt in our mats.
Children Should Expect Some Confusion
The Aikikids instructors are experienced in teaching aikido to children. However, all children are different, and aikido is also a brand new activity, often quite different from other activities in their lives. It is very common for children to feel somewhat confused about what they are learning, and feeling that they are not making any progress.
This is something which adults have to face too, but adults will often patiently wait for understanding to arrive, knowing that confusion will pass as they persist with an activity. Children don’t necessarily know this. The message here is that if children give aikido some time, aikido will make more and more sense, and they will have absorbed understanding and technique without realising it. Children may sometimes think they’re not very good, but the reality is that their instructor, and more senior Aikikids students are admiring their beginnings in aikido and probably quietly thinking that they were more confused and slower to pick everything up when they started.
Part of the whole point of aikido is perseverance and regular practice. Some aspects of aikido just take time to learn more fully. The relaxation and balance and blending and awareness aspects of aikido training need to be absorbed over time and become a part of the body and mind.
Children Can Expect A Little Soreness
Aikido is a new physical activity that your child’s body is probably unprepared for. Again, give it time. You may find they experience a little soreness. The warm-ups and rolling practice will help protect them from injury but not a little initial soreness. Again, giving it time for their body to adapt is the key.
Etiquette is simply the rules of behaviour that apply in the dojo. Children actually like some order and predictability and having some rules in place. Parents will understand that rules need to be in place for safety reasons. Sometimes, however, adherence to rules is directly correlated to the extent of a child’s attention and focus. We understand that.
Basically, the etiquette in the dojo is about safety and respect. Following rules increases predictability and enhances safety. Etiquette is also about respect for self and others, respect for the dojo. Bowing, for example, is about respecting our training partner who is actually doing us a great favour by agreeing to train with us and is thanking them for teaching us. The bow also functions very effectively as a safety signal during training which indicates “I am ready”.
Aikido Harmony takes respect very seriously, and not just for safety reasons. We should all treat each other with respect. It is a great life lesson. However, everyone realises that it takes time to become familiar with expectations. All children have to remember is that if they respect others, bow a lot, and pay attention to the best of their ability, they won’t commit any serious breaches of etiquette.
One of our most important dojo rules is to have FUN! Safety and fun are not mutually exclusive. So the most important rules are to be safe (first), be respectful and have fun. Other etiquette will be absorbed over time.
Payment of Fees
Fees for Aikikids are simple. $5 for a class, or $50 for a 12 class punchcard (cards are punched when the child attends the class) when paid online. If paying online, please bring the transaction record with you to class to pick up your punchcard. The cost of casual classes or punchcards paid for at the dojo will be slightly more expensive. It is good etiquette to keep up-to-date with card purchase and card-punching.
Our training fees are kept to a minimum to encourage as many people as possible to enjoy the art of aikido, but without fees, no association like ours can function. Our instructors work hard to pass on their knowledge and they do so on a voluntary basis. In spite of this there are many significant costs involved in keeping the association functioning, such as purchase of mats and rental of dojo space. Please keep up to date with payment of fees. Chasing fees is time consuming and someone has to do it instead of teaching or training.
If there are any problems with payment of fees, please advise the Aikikids instructor as early as possible, and a solution can be found.
GRADING & PROGRESSION
Grading For Children
The grading system in aikido has been carefully formulated to complement and reinforce the curriculum being taught. It is a very important part of your child’s aikido training. Our club has four gradings per year at Nathan, on the last Saturday of February, May, August and November. Early gradings (yellow and orange tip) are held at the end of each month. Everton Hills doesn’t have a formalised grading program at present, preferring to grade regularly as required.
Your child will progress without realising it, in which case they will be invited to grade at some point. Most children love the grading system. It gives them something to strive for and achieve and their coloured tip gives them a tangible ‘badge’ of accomplishment, as well as evidence they are improving. Children are often very proud of this achievement, as they should be. It provides recognition of their perseverance and improvement in being calm and relaxed, and of their improved technique, awareness and understanding of aikido.
The Coloured Belt System
Aikido Harmony adheres to a coloured belt system to identify ability which enhances safety. It also serves as a series of goals for children to achieve. To establish a difference with adults, children use a very similar colour progression, but have coloured belts with a white stripe instead. However, children who have graded do have that grading recognised in respect of the adult system.
To ensure experience as well as ability, we require children (and adults for that matter) to complete a certain number of classes before they can grade, then another number of classes before grading again.
Grading Aikikids level adult equivalent
1st grading – (8 classes min) yellow tip 8th kyu – white belt
2nd grading – (8 classes min) orange tip 8th kyu – white belt
3rd grading – (15 classes min) green tip 7th kyu – white – one yellow stripe
4th grading – (20 classes min) blue tip 6th kyu – white – two yellow stripes
5th grading – (25 classes min) brown tip 5th kyu – yellow belt
6th grading – (25 classes min) Junior Black Belt 4rd kyu – orange belt
Grading is a privilege and is at the sole discretion of the Aikikids instructor. The ‘classes required’ is a minimum to grade and does not necessarily mean a child is ready to grade, as their age when grading will usually have a huge influence on their progression rate and ability. They will be continuously assessed, and when ready, will be invited to grade. Of course, they do not have to grade if they don’t wish to.
Aikikids is a true grounding in aikido techniques and principles, and the belt system reflects this. When children grade to a particular coloured tip, there is an adult level and colour equivalent. For example, if a child grades to a brown tip, they will be recognised within the dojo as an equivalent grade to an adult yellow belt.
Grading is not a pass/fail situation. Children should not be worried that they’ll embarrass themselves. If they have been asked to grade they have been recognised as having already progressed to that level and they can be assured that they are ready. Their instructor is impressed by their progress and advances, not the deficiencies they might think they have. They will be given plenty of time to prepare. However, if they are determined not to grade, their wishes will of course be respected.
The grading itself is not an exam. It is a demonstration to the instructors and fellow students that they are proficient at that level. Children will be given plenty of time to prepare in class for grading. It is preparation for grading which is probably more important than the grading itself. Attitude and application say as much about someone as their ability, and aikido is not simply about self-defence.
The techniques covered in the first grading for children are:
Sumi O’toshi irimi – same side hold
Katatekosadori kokyunage (circle) – cross hand hold
Katatekosadori kokyunage (step-in) – cross hand hold
Kokyu dosa – two-hand hold conducted in a seiza (kneeling with hips on heels) position.
Graduation From Aikikids
Of course, it would be unsafe for children to migrate freely between Aikikids and adults classes. Children come to aikido at different ages and with different abilities and with different persistence. They will progress at different rates. They need to stay in Aikikids till they are ready to move to an adults class. A child starting aikido at 12 may become a little bored with games and it is probably appropriate to graduate to an adults class within a few months. A child starting at 6 may be very experienced by the age of 12 and possibly suitable for inclusion in the adults class immediately they turn twelve. Size may be a factor, however and safety will be a critical consideration. There is no defined point where this transition from Aikikids to adults class occurs. A determination will be made by the Aikikids instructor, in consultation with the head dojo instructor. The child and their parents will also be consulted.
Children beginning at the age of 13 will generally be likely to want to join the adults class. It may well be suitable for them to move straight to the adults class. There is a transition period around this age, however, where there are no absolutes. It may be appropriate to include a child beginning aikido in an Aikikids class to provide a grounding in aikido, before graduation to an adults class after a couple or several months, depending on their progression and ability. Basically, we will carefully consider the wisest course of action in choosing whether Aikikids is the most suitable class and when graduation to adults class should be, if a child begins aikido around the age of 13.
GENERAL DOJO RULES FOR TRAINING – AIKIKIDS
The Aikikids Instructor reserves the right to direct students to cease training and leave the mat. Successful risk management is best achieved when safety issues are paramount. Students and/or parents, should be aware of and agree to adhere to, the following measures:
Dojo Rules – Prior to Training
Please notify the Instructor of any pre-existing medical condition or disability prior to training. For serious conditions a medical clearance must be obtained. After serious injury or illness, students should not return to physical training until the student has fully recovered. If there is any doubt, a medical clearance must be obtained. A student must not participate if they have injuries or conditions such as serious cuts or abrasions, rashes, boils or any other contagious condition. Minor abrasions and cuts must be adequately dressed and covered prior to training.
Cleanliness of both clothing and person is essential. A training gi or other appropriate clothing must be worn and needs to be in good repair. Students need to remove jewellery, watches and other ornaments prior to training, which may cause injury. Long hair must be secured. Fingernails and toenails must be smooth and short. Please ensure that equipment, if any, is in good repair and stored in appropriate manner when not in use.
Dojo Rules – During Training
At all times, students must obey the instructions of the Instructor, including the direction to cease training. Students may opt to decline to participate in any activity they feel uncomfortable with. Students should train at a level they feel comfortable with. Partners should train at the level of the least experienced partner.
Competency at rolling is developed over a long period of time. Partners should agree prior to training whether they are prepared to take a fall (ukemi). Proceed slowly.
Students must take care to avoid collisions on the mat by being aware of the other students training on the mat. Students must train only in the specific technique demonstrated by the Instructor.
All accidents must be reported to the Instructor immediately. Please take normal precautions with any bleeding injury. Please notify the Instructor if any medical condition becomes apparent during training that may affect safety.
Students should pace themselves according to their level of fitness and competency. Students should avoid dehydration and over-exertion.
CHILDRENS POLICY – CODE OF CONDUCT
In addition to the general dojo rules for training at Aikido Harmony, the following will be adhered to specifically when training with children during either dedicated children’s classes or as part of standard classes.
This code impacts on Instructors, students and parents of child students and is to be brought to the attention of all members and parents of child students for their compliance.
- Upon joining the dojo, a medical questionnaire for child students is to be completed (by parents) to ensure that medical & physical issues which may impact upon a safe training environment are known to the Instructor(s).
- Irrespective of parental permission at the time of joining the dojo, to ensure permission is still valid, all children are to be delivered in person to the dojo by an adult or be in possession of an authorising note. A child without either of these is not to be allowed onto the mats.
- Children are not to leave the dojo unless in the company of a parent (or authorised person) or without a written note from a parent.
- Parents will advise the instructor if their child is leaving class early to ensure that the instructor can account for the location of all children under their supervision.
- All Instructors are subject to the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Blue Card vetting process.
- All Instructors should hold a current first aid qualification.
- The Instructor will ensure that a sensible child student to Instructor ratio is maintained. Where there are concerns regarding the ability of the Instructor to safely supervise the number of students, the Instructor will advise the Management Committee who will make arrangements for additional Instructors or class options.
- Any physical contact with children is to be:
– appropriate to the situation;
– started only after all safety considerations have been explored and met; – and necessary and appropriate for the person’s skill development.
- Martial arts training requires actions which, from time to time, are calculated risks in a controlled environment. Instructors will maintain an attitude which demonstrates that their position is one of trust and may require individual support and encouragement beyond that of an adult student. All actions within training…
- Instructors will provide increased vigilance in specifically monitoring children in regards to safe breakfalls and the application of any Aikido techniques which place stress on joints. It is noted that the techniques of Nikkyo and Sankyo are NOT to be applied on children under 16 years.
- Aikido training incorporates weapons training as a tool for reinforcing the fundamental principles of Aikido and extending the techniques of the body. Children will not undertake weapons training unless:
– They have demonstrated some basic ability in Aikido principles and techniques.
– They have demonstrated a level of maturity and self control
– Have had safety principles explained to them
– Are under continual supervision by a person of responsibility as deemed appropriate by the Instructor
-Injuries are to be reported in accordance with the Aikido Yuishinkai Australia insurance policy procedures ensuring that such incident is brought to the attention of the management committee.
- Concerns regarding the behaviour of any persons towards children, or regarding any breaches of this risk management strategy, is to be immediately brought to the attention of the Instructor.
- The Instructor then has the responsibility of undertaking any immediate steps available to resolve the issue, and advising a Member of the Management Committee.
- This does not remove the option of members to report the matter directly to the Management Committee however the Instructor should be keep advised of any incident during a class under his/her supervision.
- This also does not remove the option to report the matter to the Qld Police Service where considered appropriate, however it is preferred that matters are first addressed internally.
About Aikido Harmony
Aikido Harmony started operating in 2012. It is an incorporated non-profit association, with an Executive Committee elected at an Annual General Meeting. It is staffed by experienced volunteer instructors. Our association is affiliated with Aikido Yuishinkai International with student certification issued directly from Japan.