Adults may practice Aikido for stress reduction, relaxation, self-defense, its many cardio vascular benefits, or a host of other reasons. But these are concepts that most children don’t even think about or care about. So why is Aikido a good idea for kids? What can it contribute to their lives and yours? (assuming you’re a parent)
Below are 10 of the reasons to give Aikido a try if your son or daughter has shown any interest in physical activity and specifically, martial arts training or if your child has exhibited signs of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD.
1) Aikido is a “non-aggressive” martial art. What does this mean? Basically that the main principles of Aikido don’t encourage self defense at all costs. Generally speaking, Aikido classes aren’t taught with a mindset of kicking and punching your way out of conflict. In essence, you don’t really start a fight with Aikido – but you can certainly finish one. Aikido doesn’t encourage kids to emulate the Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles punching and kicking their friends, siblings, dogs, and cats. Aikido technique starts when someone else “breaks the rules”, i.e. attacks. More importantly, Aikido teaches kids that fighting is a last resort for dealing with conflicts.
2) Aikido emphasizes remaining calm, relaxed balanced. Of course, kids can’t, and shouldn’t, be calm all the time. But Aikido teaches them that they have a choice. If they need to sit still at school or concentrate on homework or focus during sports, Aikido teaches them the fundamentals of “going within” and gives them tools to help when being calm is necessary. This is entirely different from keeping their emotions bottled up. On the contrary, Aikido calmness feels good and, in fact, the study of Aikido is the study of communication.
3) Aikido teaches kids “practical” self-defense. I put quotation marks around “practical” to indicate that practical for a child is completely different from practical for an adult. Striking arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do, although very good for health and well being, give children one primary tool for dealing with conflict: aggression. If your child only knows how to kick and punch their way out of a conflict they will have a lot of difficulty dealing with the more prevalent “attacks” life deals out: stress, bullying, verbal abuse, and disappointment. You see, if the real attacks in life don’t look like or behave anything the attacker in dojo or dojang, your child will not have the proper tools to identify and then most effectively deal with the situation.
4) Aikido gives kids a positive world view. It teaches that in order to create something worthwhile you have to have goals, a clear picture of the intended outcome and then practice, practice, practice. Aikido teaches the law of reciprocity or, what goes around comes around. If you start trouble, you’ve lost. But if your mind is correct, calm, and positive, you can make something good out of whatever life hands you. In fact, Aikido training for kids teaches that its each persons responsibility to actively look for ways to make something good out of every situation.
5) Aikido teaches to enjoy every experience in life. Children have it difficult enough with increased homework, peer pressure, demanding standards and increased dangers all around. A serious approach to life doesn’t always feel good and it usually doesn’t yield the best possible results. Aikido works best when you relax and feel light and having an outlet for your child to “let go” and be a kid while learning valuable life skills can be a tremendous character building experience.
6) Aikido helps kids in, and at, school. By training in Aikido kids develop a calm, clear, and balanced mind. As a result, they absorb knowledge easier and can think and focus with greater clarity. Aikido emphasizes developing the full human potential and since children spend the bulk of their formative years in school, it is one of the most important places for this potential to be realized.
7) Aikido for kids helps with sports. Aikido classes focus on the very things almost every sport requires: stamina, sport specific strength and skill, relaxation, focused mind, proper breathing, centering, and being able to visualize the outcome. Unfortunately, most youth sports only emphasize the narrow sport aspect of whatever game is being played. While most youth athletics encourage having fun and team work, very few amateur coaches (typically dads and moms) have the proper educational training to teach children the other, more important, fundamentals mentioned above. Almost all of the parents of the youth that train weekly at the Aikido Grand Rapids/ Toyoda Center facility remark at some point of the amazing transformations that occur over time in their sons and daughters that they directly attribute to the Aikido for kids program.
8. Aikido is for everyone. Aikido does not require specific athletic talent or skill. In fact, athletic prowess can sometimes be a hindrance to understanding and executing Aikido techniques. The key to making progress in Aikido is simply relaxing, effortlessly moving, helping others and cultivating positive mind. Is there a better message for children?
9) Aikido works for people of all shapes and sizes. Since Aikido does not rely on size, strength, speed, weight, or reach, it can be effectively applied by children on adults. In fact, it can be quite surprising how much power your children can muster when throwing adults! Some of the most effective and powerful Aikido practitioners have been the slightest of individuals. Aikido utilizes an understanding of basic universal principles and emphasizes non-contention of force. Aikido teaches that there will always be somebody bigger, faster and stronger and not every “attack” will come in the form of a bad person. Aikido for kids gives them a large tool box of skills to draw on in a variety of situations for the rest of their lives
10) Aikido class for kids is good physical activity! Plain and simple, we tire them out! Children that have ADD and ADHD show surprising results when they leave an Aikido class tired.