Q: So the purpose of the warmup relay games is to develop the children's healthy self confidence, without ego?
Ota Sensei : That's right. All these games, including the healthy, regulated warmup games with fair competition, are vital to help the children experience and develop a healthy self confidence without ego; to prepare them for the realities of life as an older child, a teenager, as an adult..
Because of the handicapping systems, the relay games become a primary tool to help the child learn to compete with the child's self. The games encourage them to be the best that they can be.... and not to be better than someone else. When children start to learn that they are the only ones that hurt their own chances... and that each of them are the responsible ones for helping their team........... then we have given them a powerful tool to determine their own destiny! We have given them an experience of competing and winning in a fair and honest manner.
Properly done, these warmup games are especially beneficial to young females: it helps them develop their independent spirits and be able to take care of themselves, to realize their own potential , develop their own self-confidence, to see that their gender does not in any way limit them from achieving their potential.
Children learn leadership, learn to support and interact with their teammates and their friendly competitors in a positive manner. Friendly competition, properly applied, results in children interacting with each other and highly motivating each other in natural ways that cannot be done sole by teachers.
Q: Sensei, please tell me about your highly modified Children's Belt System used for further Motivation?
Ota Sensei: The best motivation for children is when they see other children their own age doing things that are good. In a healthy way, this subtle competition invokes their internal desire to improve.
- One of the strongest motivator for children is accurate recognition. (false recognition is of course recognized by children as exactly that, they themselves know if they deserve the skill level that they're being awarded). To achieve accurate recognition, and to make sure that every child gets recognition no matter how well he does on his tests, we provide many levels of multi-color belts with many levels, so that children always advance in true proportion to their skills, and instructors have many degrees of granularity to help give children accurate feedback on how they're progressing.
- Children are thus always motivated and can see their own progress without ambiguity.
All of these principles could be adult-ized for your regular classes as appropriate.
Q: Finally, what do you see is the true role of Adults and the older child students?
Ota Sensei : We specifically trains adults and upper belts to be very effective as one-on-one teachers to the lower belts. I believe that if you can't teach a technique quickly, kindly, and effectively to a lower belt, then you don't yet know it yourself. Therefore, in all classes, the senior students are charged to go find a lower belt to teach. This raises the overall skill of the dojo as quickly as possible.
If the technique is particularly new or difficult, sometimes I will have the upper belts practice with each other so that they get the technique down and have some good practice among themselves before teaching the lower belts. Or, as a reward to the upper belts, after teaching the lower belts, I have the lower belts sit and put the upper belts together practice between themselves. This is very motivational for all involved and a reward, recognition, and better hard practice for the upper belts.
- Emphasize upper belts finding a lower belt to teach one on one
- This raises the overall level of the dojo's skill as quickly as possible
- The upper belts really learn the techniques only when they can pass it on to someone else!
- Upper belts gain confidence that they are capable, receive recognition for their skill, and are able to enjoy the responsibility of being a leader
- Upper belts are rewarded with extra work, practice time, and this motivates the lower belts
Q: Sensei, certainly some very interesting, entertaining, and unusual ideas. What final thoughts would you like to leave us with concerning teaching Aikido to Children?
Ota Sensei: In summary, I see the role of of all of us as Aikido children teachers and senior children students as being in the most beautiful role of human life: giving back to the younger ones the same gifts and lessons that were given to us. In this way we pass on and improve our human race in the most generous manner possible.
As teachers of Aikido Children, we should keep in mind these final thoughts:
- Always set a lively, interesting, kind tone, pace, and variety for the class
- Give interesting, parental 'lectures' as necessary to pass on the lessons that we ourselves have learned
- Give the children the skills and experiences that Aikido can give them using the technology we've discussed in these articles
- Lovingly, kindly, and with parental guidance, let the children's energy play and learn at the same time, giving them the proper balance between being stern, disciplined, and the fun and wonder of allowing them to be children
- Give them enough safe repetitions, drills, and teachings to develop automatic 'fast twitch' muscle memory, rhythm, timing, relaxed Aikido power for real life
Summary: Aikido for Children
Aikido for Children, specifically tuned through advanced high technology methodology and innovative drilling, is a beautiful tool to teach life skills to children. Children properly taught and highly motivated at this young age will naturally develop great Aikido at the same time.
We hope you have enjoyed this documentary three part series on the unique teaching philsophy and ideas of Ken Ota Sensei for teaching Aikido to Children. Be sure to see Part 1 and Part 2 of this series if you missed them.
We owe it to our children to not only give them Aikido philosophy, but also the true Aikido ability to be able to appropriately, wisely, and powerfully use Aikido for real on the playground or in real life danger situations if they ever need to.
Some of the ideas in this article may seem quite a bit out of the ordinary. However, we suggest that the world our children are growing up in has radically changed, but education and teaching methods haven't necessarily changed with it. Therefore, as parents or as role models, we need to be open to new and bold, effective ideas. In over 35 years of teaching, Ken Ota's methods have graduated over 30,000 students. We offer those ideas and methods here for your enjoyment and use.
Aikido is a powerful tool for all of us is to develop the ATTITUDE of self-confidence with kindness, power with gentleness, speed with grace. To give to our children the ability to see, learn, and do Aikido in both spirit and relationship will be a gift for their lifetimes.