Aikido for Children

Children classes at “Kishintai” centre are taught by the manager of the centre, as well as by instructor and category C sport instructor Inta Burlajeva (4th Dan Aikido Aikikai, 4th Dan Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iai Heiho, 3rd Dan Mugen Ryu Heiho). She has graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Department of the University of Latvia. In 1993 she started practising Aikido under Vladimir Jusupzanov. In addition to classes in “Kishintai” centre she regularly (as of 1995) attends Aikido seminars taught by Sensei Yasunari Kitaura and Aikido instructors from Hombu Dojo, and has been studying Iaido and Kobujutsu under Sensei Yuji Matsuoi since 2002. As of 2006, she has practised Aikido in Hombu Dojo Aikido Aikikai (Tokyo) and Iaido in the dojo of Sensei Mutsuyoshi Ishigaki (Sapporo). Has been teaching children’s Aikido classes since 2001.

Aikido is considered to be one of the most popular martial arts. Aikido classes help to develop one’s body and self-sufficiency, as well as shape a particular worldview. Given that Aikido is not aggressive and violent parents often find it an attractive option for their children. The age of 12-13 is often seen as the best time to start attending classes as children of that age are able to cope with complex Aikido techniques and fundamental principles. Many parents, however, prefer to bring their kids to classes when they are 5-7 years old. At this age classes are devoted to improving physical fitness, developing muscles and joints, practising safe falling techniques (ukemi), as well as to learning basic Aikido techniques and  theories. Older kids start studying fundamental principles and techniques in classes that are physically more intense. A child who practises Aikido has better endurance, coordination, balance and movements. During classes children not only learn self-defence techniques, but also other abilities that could benefit them later in life: control over their body, situational awareness and safe-falling skills. Classes teach children discipline, respect for instructors and an understanding that strength should not be abused and conflicts should be avoided. There are no competitions in Aikido, and the word “opponent” is replaced by “partner”, which helps not to provoke aggression in children. Despite the supple and sophisticated movements Aikido is a veritable martial art and practising it requires significant physical effort. Therefore, before attending classes it is advisable to consult with a doctor receive their recommendations, although Aikido can help with alleviating certain health issues.

There are currently a lot of Aikido clubs available, and parents usually take their children to the closest and cheapest one, though this rarely delivers the expected result. When picking a club, it is necessary to pay attention to the club’s history, the number of senior students and, of course, the level of the instructor. Parents should primarily look for a club and an instructor who is not indifferent towards their children.

When a specific club is found, it is important to speak with the instructor and other parents, whose children are students at the club. Not every instructor and their teaching methods will fit your child. If possible, ask to be present at a training session. Usually an instructor will not object to parents being there for the first classes so that the child feels comfortable. A continuous presence of parents, however, will inevitably distract the kid from the class, therefore later classes will be held by the instructor without parents. During a class, pay attention to what the discipline is like. Do students bow to each other and the instructor in a sign of respect and appreciation at the start, during, and after the class; do students leave the tatami without permission? How is the instructor acting, does he participate actively in the class or is indifferent towards it?

When you take you children to class, you expect, of course, that they will learn the appropriate skills. What determines whether it happens are the skills and willingness on part of the instructor and diligence and effort on part of the children. Another important aspect of training is how demanding the instructor is towards children as they perform techniques and exercises. It is regular practice to hold belt examinations in children groups, but they should not become the main reason for studying Aikido. A determined and diligent child will achieve levels and belts in a natural and timely manner, without reducing their value. And most importantly — a child should enjoy not only learning Aikido, but also the classes themselves.