Drawings by Koretoshi Maruyama sensei
Although adults might practise Aikido to develop inner peace, relaxation, or self-defence, most children don’t even think about these concepts. So why is Aikido a good idea for kids? Aikido teaches kids calmness. Of course, kids shouldn’t be calm all the time. Aikido gives them the choice. If they need to sit still at school, or concentrate on homework, or focus during sport, 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 helps kids at school. By training, 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 realised. Aikido teaches kids practical self-defence. 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.
The key to making progress in Aikido is simply persevering and having a positive attitude. What better lesson can we teach our kids? Some martial art instructors feel that “fun” does not belong in the dojo, because to study martial arts one must be dedicated and serious. However, 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. By exploring their limits, kids can open new realms of understanding about themselves and the world in which they live.
Kids have the ability to learn basic Aikido principles through exercises, games and techniques. Kids can become absorbed in an activity because it is fun and then receive additional benefits, such as an increased awareness of their surroundings and a better perception of the strengths and limitations of themselves and others. They have the opportunity to push themselves further, to explore their abilities, to assert themselves, to focus their attention, to push themselves physically, emotionally and mentally beyond what they think they are capable of. Aikido teaches kids “how to be strong” and how learning to stay calm and relaxed can be much stronger than things like anger, force and aggression. They learn about responsibility, doing the right thing, even without reward, about treating each other with respect and kindness. They also learn about things like bullying, or how to respond to verbal insults.
Aikido is training for the mind and body. Aikido is training for life. 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. 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 gives kids a positive worldview. It teaches that in order to create something worthwhile, you must work in harmony with your environment and others. If your mind is correct, calm, and positive, you can make something good out of whatever the universe hands you.
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