Working With Children - Aikido Articles

Let me ask a question to those of you Black Belts who have "pushed the boat out" and set up your own children's class. Have you ever had "one of those" nights when nothing is going to plan and everything is going wrong?

For example, during one such lesson of mine, one of the boys had taken a fall, head butted the floor, and put his tooth through his lip. With the front of his uniform covered in blood and resembling an extra from Reservoir Dogs, his mother reassured me that it was only a small cut - nothing serious, although thoughts of visits from Social Services, wondering what on earth I was doing to the children, raced through my mind!

Then, somebody pointed out a puddle of water in the middle of the hall. As I ushered all the children to the side to prevent anyone else slipping over, I informed them that someone had spilt their drink. Meanwhile, another mother came to my aid with a small bundle of paper towels, and as we set about clearing up the puddle, she lowered her voice and whispered: "Someone's wet themselves, haven't they???" "Yep", I replied, and as we carried on in silence until the floor was once again safe to train on, I couldn't help but wonder whether teaching children was such a good idea after all!

When setting up a club, there are numerous obstacles - finding the right location, choosing the right times, getting the right publicity, getting the CRB check completed, etc. But the issue that concerned me the most, was that of teaching children. As someone without their own, after completing the Instructors Course and CRB check, I was shocked just how much the world had changed since I ran out of the school gates for the final time and in to the "big bad world" back in 1984! I suddenly fully understood why some instructors had brought it upon themselves to ban children from their club, more than likely scared stiff of the endless lists of "do not do's", "cannot do's", "should not do's" and "must not do's", when all they want to do is teach Martial Arts.

When setting up my club, I knew that children would have to be my target market, as my girlfriend is an Assistant Head Teacher at an infant school, and had the opportunity to hand each student one of my freshly printed leaflets personally! On the opening night, I had been promised at least half a dozen children who would attend, but was stunned when over 20 came bursting through the doors, and within seconds, the hall was like a playground with me cowering in the corner, wondering how I was going to cope!

As my first ever class progressed, I felt like a rabbit caught in headlights. I was struggling to remember even the simplest of moves and all the parents watching from the back, seemed intimidating - checking my every move. It wasn't until afterwards, when chatting to people, that I realised that the parents were on MY side, and that they actually wanted me to be stricter!

That first night now seems a distant memory, and as my confidence has grown as an instructor, so have my ideas and training techniques when dealing with children. I've also come to realise that to be successful in training children, you have to think like one! (Many who know me think that it's because I have the same mental age, but I prefer to ignore them and go back to my colouring book and crayons!!!)

With each Junior class, I find that starting the lesson with a game is so important. Every game that I use has some relevance to Martial Arts, and it's the perfect start to a training session, as the children are already warming up and they don't even realise it - they're too busy having fun! So much so, that I usually joke with the parents that if we all went to the pub and came back an hour later, they'd still all be playing the game with the same enthusiasm as when we left them! (Please note that this IS only a joke and never been carried out - yet!)

It's also important to remember that many children - particularly the younger ones - have a very short attention span. I therefore tend to try disciplines such as Patterns/Forms and One Step Sparring most weeks, but also keep them brief. Therefore if a child does become bored, he/she knows that it won't be long before the next exercise.

Needless to say, the promise of a game at the end of the lesson is always a powerful way of ensuring that the children remain well behaved throughout the lesson. It doesn't always work though - particularly close to school holidays! (Two of my recent classes ended with press-ups!) But my philosophy is that if the children leave the class "buzzed up" after finishing with a game, they'll want to come back for more the following week. One of the most satisfying sights is seeing the children running as fast as they can down the path that leads to the Dojang, because they cannot wait to get started.

As I mentioned earlier, guidelines in dealing with children are tougher than they've ever been before, some may even say over the top. It's very hard not to put your hand around the shoulder of a child who's taken a knock and come to you in tears for comfort. Instructions such as only doing up a child's belt only in front of another adult, is not only time consuming, but truly frustrating, as we desperately feel the need to show where our hands are at all times.

Unfortunately dear reader, we have to accept that times have now changed, and it's now the world that we live in. If we can live with all the restrictive measures put in place, training children can be both fun and rewarding, especially if you are making a difference in peoples' lives. I felt quiet satisfaction last year, when I learned that one of my students had used a move that I had taught her when being bullied at school and put the aggressor in the medical room for the afternoon. Needless to say, nobody troubled her after that! I don't condone violence, but sometimes it's good when someone gets what they deserve for once, and rewarding to see one of your students grow in confidence, and hopefully you will be able to not just enhance their childhood, but shape their adult life for the better.

Tony Butcher
(4th Dan Black Belt)
Head Instructor
Ickenham Taekwondo Club

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Aikido is a modern Japanese Martial Art and is very different from disciplines such as Karate, Kick Boxing, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, MMA, BJJ, Kempo and Krav Maga where there is emphasis on kicking, punching or wrestling.

Aikido is an extremely efficient self defence (also as Self-Defence Women London) system utilising balance-taking and posture-breaking movements to achieve joint locks, pins and throws. It contains elements of Ju Jitsu, Kendo, Judo and other budo.

Aikido Classes are held every Tuesday and Wednesday evening at our Harrow dojo, and Thursday evening at our Pinner dojo in NW London. Pinner Aikido Club London is a part of the Kai Shin Kai International Traditional Aikido Association (KSK), which is a member of the British Aikido Board (BAB).

Aikido is essentially a non-violent Martial art system that encourages the avoidance of confrontation and harmony with an aggressor. The classes are well attended with Aikido students always on the mat and aimed at all levels, from beginner to advanced but everyone is welcome to come along regardless of fitness or experience.

Our Aikido students work at their own pace during the training sessions and no one is forced into doing anything they are not comfortable with.
Pinner Aikido Club in London can help you achieve self-defense skills, self-esteem, confidence, and fitness. Most of all though, our classes are fun.

You do not have to be competitive or naturally athletic to take part in the Aikido class. Learning Aikido is about self-improvement and self-confidence.

Regardless of your size, body type and current level of physical ability or disability. If you are looking for a healthier, more confident way of life, then the modern art of Aikido may well be for you.

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